Artist Lori Gordon has made a practice of eavesdropping. For her ongoing project Snippets, featured in SOMArts’ exhibition Dial Collect, open April 5–26, she reproduces fragments of overheard conversations as pieces of text and displays them publicly. In this interview, she discusses her practice with SOMArts communications fellow Lex Kosieradzki and lets us know exactly what it takes for parts of everyday conversation to become snippets.
What is your favorite snippet and why?
There are so many, it would be impossible to choose just one! A very early one still tugs at my heart strings a lot, “You’ll never be as shiny as today.” On the one hand it reflects on how amazing you are today, in the moment. On the other it addresses that you are growing older and closer to death. It celebrates you in the now, but also insinuates that you’re never going to be this good again.
When the snippets are displayed publicly, how do you decide where to display them?
The public displays are completed by the audience, so I have nothing to do with that. This is the magic of the project.
Out of all the dialogue you accidentally hear every day, how do you pick what to reproduce? Do you ever overhear something and think, “Now that definitely doesn’t qualify to become a snippet”?
I only ever add something to the archive if it tickles my funny bone or sounds poetic and bold. This collection has grown extensively over the years, which is great when I am making work to show— I have lots to choose from.
Have you noticed any patterns as you’ve collected the snippets?
I never realized how attracted I am to swear words and sarcasm.
Are you always on the lookout for more snippets, or do you go on special missions to find them? Where do you go to collect snippets?
Snippets happen naturally. I never go out to find them. They occur organically through conversation, or eavesdropping.
You can be part of Lori’s Snippets project on Thursday, April 11, 7–9pm if you attend Silent Karaoke & Snippet Interviews, an event that takes you deeper into two interactive pieces in the group exhibition Dial Collect.
What does it mean for you to display the snippets in print as opposed to on the internet?
What is most important for me is the Snippets are seen by people. An added incentive is to provide it in a format that people can physically take. They can place a Snippet out in the world and send me photographs of that. For the latter to occur, there needs to be a physical manifestation. The internet is used more for documentation of the work, and sharing after the fact.
Do you think there’s a connection between your work and social media outlets like facebook, twitter, tumblr, and instagram that allow us to see parts of other people’s everyday lives?
Ironically I started this project around the same time Twitter launched, though I didn’t find this out until years later. I am inherently attracted to these abbreviated moments, in much the same way Twitter forces you to limit the length of your message. However, I have never broadcast a Snippet through any of the services you’ve mentioned. I tend to keep my studio practice and general day-to-day sharing separate. For some reason, I don’t feel comfortable posting Snippets through these means, other than the occasional photo of a painting in-progress or promotion for an exhibition.
About the interviewer:
Lex Kosieradzki is an Oakland-based artist currently pursuing his MFA from the California College of the Arts.
Pictured above: Lori Gordon with “Snippets”, photo by Matthew Schoonmaker