Renee Parkhurst’s Haunting “HIDE” Is Part Photography Exhibit and Part Social Experiment

In our current cultural moment, there is no such thing as privacy. We simply can’t look away. We watch the colorful, curated minutiae of each other’s lives play out on Instagram stories, we bear witness to thought processes in real time via Twitter, we exploit failing relationships and emotional mood swings and call it good television. The personal has become public, nothing is sacred, and everyone has access. The near constant scrutiny of social media and effortless exploitation of intimacy inspired photographer (and Live FAST museRenee Parkhurst‘s latest photo exhibit turned art experience, aptly named HIDE, which opens tomorrow at the Los Feliz Philosophical Society. Less than a year after her debut solo exhibit, PURE, the LA based photographer is back at it again, upping the dose of vulnerability, intensity, and provocative electricity in her work as she attempts to untangle our unsettling obsession with invasiveness.

HIDE consists of a collection of photographs, all of which document moments that feel powerfully personal and strikingly private: despair and drunkenness, intimacy and vulnerability, loneliness and awkwardness. Shot on film using fine grain, each image is blurry and slightly warped, full of streaking movement and mischievous mystery, as beautiful as an oil painting and as cryptic as a Rorschach blot. You cant quite put your finger on what you are seeing, but you can feel the bold and blushing heartbeat of it, and you can’t tell if you should look away or keep staring. Her images contrast light and dark, serving each with an ominous energy that feels straight out of an 80’s horror flick, keeping us guessing about what’s real and what’s not, what’s playful and what’s sinister. We are given no answers, no explanations, no captions neatly tied up with a bow – just a private moment, a moment of passion or vulnerability or reflection, frozen in time like a whispered secret.

As if that wasn’t enough to entice you, HIDE also functions as a cinematic social experiment. The exhibit takes place in a historic and likely haunted library of rare occult books, and Renée has decked the place out with live stream CCTV’s, so you can watch people wander through the exhibit, all the while knowing in the back of your mind that people are also watching you. How does that change how you move? How does our addiction to sharing our lives change how we live them? The unique experience both examines and feeds our modern obsession with voyeurism, with watching others and with being watched ourselves, and if you don’t leave unsettled, you probably didn’t do it right.

Don’t miss this one-night-only experience – HIDE opens Friday 3/29 at the Los Feliz Philosophical Research Society (3910 W. Los Feliz Blvd) from 7-10PM, followed by an equally surreal afterparty at the Satellite (snag your ticket here).

Q&A

Live FAST: What do you consider the inspiration behind this new body of work?

Renee Parkhurst: Originally, the vision for the entire collection grew from one of the pieces in PURE, my last show in September. It was a blurred out portrait with black sprayed make up around the eyes that looked like a mask and I loved the mysteriousness of not being able to tell who it was exactly. The questions that could arise from it, unanswered, left me really intrigued. My friend Elle was in town and we were looking at it on my wall, and in that moment, I decided to do an entire show shot in the same way.

I wanted to show frozen moments in time, intimate times, vulnerable times, private times, scenes to be kept for yourself, in the same blurred technique on film with fine grain, to emulate an oil painting. I feel our culture is so accustomed to exploiting our most intimate moments to each other, friends, strangers, colleges, whoever. Sometimes it seems like we leave nothing for ourselves. Each of the pieces in HIDE hold their own story, meaning, and inspiration…but viewed as a collection, I am the fly on the wall telling  a larger story.

LF: What point do you feel your work is making about the invasive nature of our culture? 

RP: I feel all of the pieces show quite personal moments, which I see constantly being exploited in our culture. For example, in these pieces there are moments of despair whilst drunk and alone, sexual situations, vulnerability among the opposite sex, loneliness in an empty theatre, bad habits, etc. I can’t actually put my finger on if this surveillance on one another is making people be more careful or causing more chaos.

LF: What are the side effects of our intense scrutiny of one other?

RP: Absolute insanity, lack of self, lack of character, a life lived with too much caution therefore unfulfilled. But on the other hand, I think it has also birthed so much rebellion, and I’m watching so many artists, musicians, etc completely turn their back on the scrutiny, which is inspiring and will lead the way out of this mess.

LF: The exhibit utilizes CCTV’s and a live stream alongside your photography. What inspired you to add another layer to the exhibit and involve the viewer in this way? 

RP: I always want to include an experience alongside the work, to go deeper into the concept. The installation will also be treated as a social experiment. I’ll be putting CCTV’s above some of the pieces, so while people are looking at the work, other people will be watching them at the same time. Also on display, I’ll have a 6 foot tall projection of a grid showing all the different cameras around the room.

LF: How does the location of the exhibit, a library of rare occult books, fit into the narrative of your work? 

RP: Occult comes from the Latin word “Occultus” meaning clandestine, hidden, secret. Aside from that, the history of the Philosophical Research Society fits perfectly into these pieces.

L’Agent Goodies…