My name is Ryan Aasen.
I was a 2015 Northern Lights.mn Art(ists) on the Verge fellow, and my work has been exhibited nationally, including shows at The Soap Factory and The Walker Art Center. I have a BFA in Integrated Media from St. Cloud State University, and I am currently a graduate student at MIT's program in Art, Culture, and Technology.
As a photographer, I approach documentation with the knowledge that digital technology already autonomously catalogs my life, making easily available things I’d rather not have seen. This includes late nights out and embarrassing teenage experiences, as well as things with more subtle implications, such as interests perceived by others as suspicious.
This cataloging has affected the way I present myself in (pseudo-)public spaces as I find myself both avoiding and encouraging photography based on its perceived later life. This has rendered the camera both an ally and an enemy, and my work plays with this duality as I actively implicate myself in the technology I criticize.
So, though I consider documentation to be an important aspect of my work, my own self-consciousness around cameras tells me the limits of documentation in artistic production. While primary documents are viewed as the purest form of information, they are still subject to interpretation based on a sum of first hand experiences: a black man plainly killed on video is not enough evidence to indict a police officer; evidence to exonerate a police officer is not enough for communities who don't trust the system the evidence came from.
If interpretation carries more weight than objective information, how can I view myself the same way, externally, through social and political lenses, both metaphorical and literal? How am I seen to acquaintances? How am I seen to state surveillance? And, ultimately, how does an awareness of my external selves in turn dictate my internal actions, creating a feedback loop of actions?
With this in mind, my work extends passed documentation, into interaction, through readily available, over-the-counter technologies. Cheap phones, free software, and pirated files all serve as material to interrogate positions of power, and accentuate subversion and transgression within social and political systems.
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