People on social media usually engage in the act of self-branding.
But what would happen if they were anonymous?
Chilliwack-born artist Krista Bailie calls her latest work, The Anonymous Project.
People are paired up with partners in the Anonymous Project and they start communicating with each other by email for six weeks.
“The goal is to see if it is possible to connect more deeply when we are not able to engage in the social media driven act of self-branding,” she said.
It’s an online global experiment in building community that will eventually lead to a show for the visual artist who is now based in Vancouver.
“Part of the motivation for this project actually came from my experience moving out to Vancouver and feeling isolated compared to the deep community mentality in Chilliwack,” she said.
She just started this spring, but already the project is making waves. About 100 people participated in the first go-round from all over the world from locations like Chilliwack, to Peru, Japan, the U.K. and across North America.
“I think it’s been a success,” Bailie said. “It’s been really fulfilling.”
As an artist, she’s used to her work starting conversations, but in this case the project has led to people making “real emotional” connections.
Part of the rationale for the project is better self-awareness.
“We need to know who we are and whether we’re being authentic in our world,” she says. “And if not, then why not?”
In the process of communicating with a project partner, they can peel away layers of themselves, without revealing their identities. They don’t share their name or any other identifying details.
“They connect more deeply. It seems to happen over and over.”
The topic of self-branding tends to come up between the participants.
“People start the dialogue on branding, which is fantastic.”
Some are very aware of how they brand or identify themselves, and use social media to do it, while others not at all.
“I am hoping to put a show together with the descriptions next to each participant. I’ll include what the partner said about them, and what they said about themselves,” said Bailie.
It may be impossible to be fully anonymous, but most arrive a point where they can step away from a “constructed” identity.
She was hoping that the interactions would be positive and that people could make a meaningful connection. In some cases, the pairing wasn’t quite right.
“But even when they were not successful, the descriptions still matched which is interesting.”
It’s best if the partners never meet in real life or online after the project, she said, and it’s part of the rules.
Baillie doesn’t even know who the participants really are.
Now she is getting ready to open it up again in July to applications for anyone who wants to apply to become a part of the project.
There is a minimum of one email per week required, with no maximum. There are no rules about the content of the communications – whether it’s deep introspection, a digital journal, a poetry exchange, or a quick daily check in – that’s between the participants and their partners.
Bailie said she will not share any of the communications, without their permission, and conducts a short survey at the end of the experience.
She’s an artist who has worked in film, images and new media with a particular interest in the process of identity creation and self-categorization. Baillie has a B.F.A. from Emily Carr University, and her work has been shown across Canada and the United States.
See more at http://theanonymousproject.com or to apply to participate email to firstname.lastname@example.org