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From Facetime to Face Time, an Art Project Bridges the IRL Gap

The "Blind Meeting" suite (all photos courtesy Miao Jiaxin)
The “Blind Meeting” suite (all photos courtesy Miao Jiaxin)

Friendships confined solely to digital interaction are an increasingly common component of contemporary social life. These are precisely the types of relationships that performance artist Miao Jiaxin is looking to activate with his latest Airbnb-based project, “Blind Meeting in Bushwick — A Tribute to Barbara DeGenevieve.”

“I’ve personally noticed that virtual friendships have become the major part of our social network, and we even started to take it for granted that virtual friendships in the cell phone are easier to deal with, and sometimes even help to explore more possibilities geographically,” Miao told Hyperallergic via email. “A ‘Like’ on someone’s post equals a ‘Hello’ on the phone or a hand wave across the street. Social media sites created a new lifestyle where people don’t think an actual meeting is still necessarily needed, or even there is not a good excuse for actually meeting someone. So, meeting a virtual friend in person becomes a challenge to break our routine life. It might be funny, might be cruel, might be boring.”

For “Blind Meeting” — which, like his “Jail’s Seeking Prisoners” project, will be broadcast live online — Miao is inviting two people who are “friends” on social media but have never met in person to spend 24 hours together at the artist’s apartment-studio. During that time participants may not sleep or leave the room, but are encouraged to make something — “Make conversations, Make meals, Make objects/artworks, Make wishes/promises/decisions, Make a miracle if you can, Make love or anything based on mutual agreement,” as he puts it on the Airbnb listing.

The "Blind Meeting" suite
The “Blind Meeting” suite

“The studio to me becomes an actual/virtual stage where I invite people come to visit, and at the same time they become part of the art,” Miao said. “When I had this 24-hour meeting idea shaped solid in my mind, I decided to end the Cage project, but keep Miao Jiaxin studio’s time-space-based art function, where people could bring their own thoughts and life experience, and share with people.”

The piece was partly inspired by the recently deceased artist Barbara DeGenevieve, whom Miao met 10 years ago and had hoped to host at his studio to create a collaborative piece. “She didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do, but she had a plan that we would setup video cameras, and prepare enough food, and stay together for 24 hours without sleep,” Miao recounts in his description of the project. “Within those 24 hours, we would discuss, decide and make something happen.”

Taking up DeGenevieve’s endurance-based collaborative project framework, Miao is now looking for social media friends who want to take their friendship to the next level. But, predictably, some interested parties are having difficulties finding a “friend” to join them.

“I do have many inquiries after the announcement of the new project. But after all it’s not a one-person decision,” Miao said. “These pending bookings could finally drop out because of the vacant partner seat, or because of the fading of interest, or because the increasing fear of actually meeting someone virtual. ”

Book a time to participate in Miao Jiaxin’s “Blind Meeting — A Tribute to Barbara DeGenevieve” here.

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