Diary, 2012 — 2014
Set of 10 digital videos
A diary walks a fine line between being a matter of private or public record. The modern diary, which is organized according to date, is used to capture private reflections on one’s personal life or direct observation and subjective analyses of urgent social questions. Although primarily intended as a personal document in which to process the intersection of inward emotion and external events, diaries are often posthumously published—particularly those written by notable figures. The rise of web platforms like OpenDiary and LiveJournal in the late 1990s offered a widely accessible platform for diarists to share their private musings in real time with a networked, distributed public. Artist and poet Bunny Rogers’ Diary emerges from the interstitial space between blogging platforms and the traditional image of the teenager’s diary, replete with puffy faux-leather cover and pendant lock.
Rogers has various repositories of personal meditations online: in 2008 she set up her Twitter account to archive all of her Facebook status updates and, most significantly, she maintains an archive of her poetry at cunny4tumblr.com (also published in book form as Cunny Poems) and regularly posts videos of herself reading her poetry on YouTube. Rogers explains, “I have never been able to consistently maintain an up-to-date private journal in the traditional way that I know them to be—physical or online, despite wanting to and believing in the relevance of personal recordkeeping. As a kid I enjoyed re-reading and analyzing old diary entries while entertaining the fantasy of dying young and leaving behind evidence of my perceived precociousness and unparalleled imagination. In this way there has always been an audience in mind. I still relate to these feelings but I have gained a desire to share and connect with greater immediacy.”¹
Rogers’ writing and artwork are entwined practices: as curator and critic Harry Burke notes, “her poems provide the imagery for her artworks, and her artworks provide the worlds for her poems.”² Her poetry speaks of death, love, loathing, vacancy, depression, and loyalty—all the while fluidly shifting registers between the “real” world and the language of online gaming communities. When Rogers speaks of “killing the beast” in her poem Beast (2013), for example, she could just as easily be referring to an advanced level of a computer or video game as addressing inner demons or repressed desires.
In Rogers’ webcam readings of her poetry, the artist and poet adopts a stance that oscillates between intimacy and restraint. These videos often offer a glimpse of the poet in her pajamas in domestic interior spaces, yet despite this veneer of closeness she refrains from making eye contact with the camera—and therefore her audience. Her YouTube diaries will push intimacy as far as she can, but the restraint that bristles beneath the surface of this invitation lies in the fact that the worlds that Rogers creates in her writing and installations are spaces she fully controls. This stance of withholding seems to say: I might expose my fears and desires to you, invite your gaze into my home, and allow you to see me in my bathrobe, but there is a space beyond this that you can never enter. We can only be alone, together.
¹ Bunny Rogers, quoted in Louis Douglas, “Artist Profile: Bunny Rogers,” Rhizome, May 15, 2012: https://rhizome.org/editorial/2012/may/15/artist-profile-bunny-rogers/
² Harry Burke, “Bunny Rogers,” Flash Art, November/December 2014: https://www.flashartonline.com/article/bunny-rogers/