Artist Profile: Jesse Hulcher


I'm A Wiz With Computers, 2011 

In Web Presence, you password-hack your deceased father’s gmail account and display it in the gallery on a computer, logged-in, as an ‘available to chat’, contact.  The work is a loose ontological study of sorts, referring to both life during and after existence in the form of an always preserved online presence.  It also demonstrates another way that aura sustains itself in digitally mediated space.  Is this more than just sentiment? How do you confront or deal with the permanence of identity online, within the archive, etc.?

It’s definitely more than sentiment for me because it’s about sentiment. I was actually hesitant to make the piece initially because I didn’t want it to be perceived as a strictly cathartic exercise. For me, it’s about a few things. It’s about these records of ourselves that exist online. It’s about the way time is represented online. And it’s about attempting to do something that can’t be done. We can’t communicate with people who’ve died. They’re not actually there on the other end of the gmail chat. But by password-hacking my father’s gmail account, I was able to reproduce his presence in my life. I didn’t live with him and didn’t live in the same city or state. So, his web-presence was his most common presence in my life. By logging him in on a dedicated computer, I’d recreated that presence and at times even managed to surprise myself for a split-second upon logging into my own account. It was always a pleasant surprise to see him “available to chat”.

Yes, there is personal sentiment. But it’s also simply about finding emotional or spiritual uses for technology. I’ve ...