Maggie Dunlap
[Censored]



On the verge of the extreme that is somehow extremely normal comes something [redacted]. What makes the normal not-extreme, and what makes the extreme abnormal? Something lifts from this interaction, an unpardonable exchange that always loses something in the end: its [censored] object. Shock, gore, nudity, fetish. All these are marked as imagery already prescribed for brackets. It is taboo, lying within the social or religious. Prohibiting discussion of a practice or an association with the said thing, this is said to be a prohibition without reason.

What happens when the uncanny is breached and its contents are leaked? Without a trace, no discernable culprit? Whether or not we find this personally deplorable is still an experience mediated by the overwhelming dynamic of online censorship, pattern recognition, predictable behavior, and machine learning moralities. Maggie’s recent LEAKED imagery floats down these currents. What these guidelines push out in order to deter the disgraceful is something of a trick. Losing itself in its own will, sometimes things get lost that weren’t violations in the first place.

Talking with Maggie Dunlap, the post-Truth world struggles with an identity that constantly shifts. Why not make light of the slippage? Media, politics, and morals are claimmable and easily discarded, attentions diverted, aesthetics desirable. The image that is censored has become a seductive entity: something as normal and accessible as a picture but extreme enough to be exclusive and desired. Visual culture can be derived from a basic sense of perversity: the voyuer, the watched. What makes this scene viewable or not? Maggie Dunlap positions the documented, lifting a digital curtain withholding what may have pre-existed the scene. Metadata wiped, Maggie archives photos of makeup, prosthetics to prove of her sleight of hand in case of incrimination. This is not real.

Maggie Dunlap talks to SNUFF about the seductive aura of the community guidelines violation, digital performance, trauma-core, and snuff.


Interview by Jasmine Reiko
Photography by Aidan Zamiri
I was curious as to what brought you to initially exhibit or print. Was it something you always felt or did you break into it?
I’ve always felt the desire to show as an artist, but I’ve found it important to try and detach ego from artwork (which is near impossible in the attention economy!) Most of the work I’ve made in the last two-ish years has been released anonymously and not categorized as art, I’ve chosen to appear to “not be a working artist” for the last couple of years in order to make work I find truly exciting and inspiring. But like the bible says, “It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than to separate the art from the artist.”

Can you speak on your current project, obliquely?
My current projects are happening concurrently online under different monikers, presenting fiction as reality, in non-art contexts. “The goal is to troll,” Brad Phillips said once and it is what I live by. I’m into using the internet as medium and thinking about what it means to make art online in a post-truth world, where viewers define and identify themselves through what media they consume and the politics and morals they claim. It’s an interesting experiment to watch in real-time how censoring the taboo image increases its value and desirability. The seductive aura of the community guidelines violation cannot be denied.

What is your general reception when exhibiting?
I’ve found in my “leaked” work, the audience almost always believes the images and narratives I’ve created to be true. They take it at face value and demand police involvement. Ask for updates, zoom in and dissect the why’s and hows of the validity of the “snuff.” Digital autopsies are performed and they share their findings amongst each other. Thus far, the ethics of looking at pictures of dead naked women are rarely questioned. In work, I’ve shown as capital A-Art that has no clear moral imperative and where my intentions are more obscure, the ethics of looking at pictures of fake-dead women are always questioned.

How do you perform a "digital autopsy?”
I just provide the bodies.

Is there an innocent image?
I don’t know if there’s an innocent image, but I do know there is no such thing as a truthful one.

Do you think there is a possibility of owning full privilege over an image online? Does it matter?
No and no. NFTs are an interesting gesture to me in that they attempt to do this, being  (famously) non-fungible and all. I think the best digital work, nft or otherwise, knows it cannot be owned and that knowledge is encrypted in the work.

Is your work with censorship and banning predictive? Do you see a future in exhibiting and shitposting in a world of manufactured intuitions more or less framed by non-human, almost “more-than-human” devices?
The “banned” work wasn’t intended to be banned. Maybe this is me being naive, but I didn’t expect what I made to be so swiftly censored. I wanted to utilize the internet and its users as actors in this digital performance, but it ended up being a battle to even have the images seen. As for the second question, this is probably for the theorists and critics to discern, they are our best and worst predictive software.















 

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