Madeline Zappala

Madeline Zappala is an interdisciplinary artist from Boston, MA. She received her Bachelors of Arts in American Culture Studies from Vassar College in 2012, where she focused on art history and literature. She then went on to get her MFA at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Primarily working in photography, Madeline’s practice is concerned with contemporary practices of self imaging and the intersection of self with the collective conscience. Today we share images from her series, No Man’s Land.

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A selfie is a catalyst for expanding one’s own thinking about identity, and no different from any other photograph, at the same time. From early on in its history, photography has been used as a tool to understand how physical appearance intersections with larger questions of identity. People have pushed the boundaries of what a photograph can depict about a person, but the one thing that a photograph will always do is capture the surface of what is in front of the camera. The banality of selfies, mixed with a larger cultural disdain for acts of vanity, particularly by women and young girls, has brought these issues of surface and the meaning-making of photography to the center of conversations surrounding selfies. What depth of understanding of a person can be gleamed from a glimpse of the surface that is a selfie scrolled over?

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In Madeline Zappala’s no man’s land, the artist relishes in these questions of depth of understanding, surface, identity and image, and how technology can shift cultural consumption of the self. The no man’s land images are native to her iPhone screen, made with a screenshot of the camera application while it transitions in and out of being used, (open up your camera, click on All Photos in the lower left corner, and Done in the upper right to return) blurring the last “seen” image in a split second. The resulting images are vague, fleshy abstractions that give the slightest hint of human form. These screenshots, like photographs, capture the surface. In this case, what is being captured is a direct technological interference on depictions of my physical body. Buried beneath layers, is her surface, her selfie, but the process brings the technological interference to the forefront. If this is a version of herself, which can barely be understood as an image of her how many other technological interferences on herself may exist, now and in the future? In these images, abstracting the self to the point of obliteration is a hyperbolic representation of the meaninglessness of the surface. These images reflect how the normalization of the act of self-imaging (selfie-taking) does not necessarily equate to our abilities to self-conceptualize, self actualize and understand ourselves.

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The nothingness of these images is meant to be a visual pause, a rest from the onslaught of photographic images we encounter on a daily basis, including our own and other’s selfies. The images become a metaphor for a non-tangible, theoretical space, a place where our internal selves meet the technological extensions of our personas. no man’s land has no answers, but is a visual space to ruminate on these questions we have about self-imaging, how it will change in the future, with future technologies.

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To view more of Madeline’s work, please visit her website.