Laurel Nakadate had never posted a selfie on Instagram until New Year’s Day—a fact that might be surprising, as followers of the artist know her face well. Over two decades, in self-exposing videos and photographs, she’s been the mastermind of a sensationalistic body of work that takes herself as a subject.
She has crawled like a cat and participated in exorcisms in lonely men’s apartments. She photographed herself dressed as a Girl Scout against the backdrop of the burning World Trade Center. In Love Hotel (2005), Nakadate, who is half-Japanese, filmed herself alone in hotel rooms in Japan, scantily-clad and writhing on various beds. Through it all, she has exhibited an uncanny talent for translating seduction, vulnerability, and social disconnection—loneliness, in particular—into disconcerting imagery.
For her next project, Nakadate is revisiting her landmark photo series “365 Days: A Catalogue of Tears” in a different form—for which, every day this year, she plans to manipulate images from the project and post them for all to see at the Instagram account @365_tears.
“I’ve long wanted to create a work on the Instagram platform but was waiting for the right moment,” Nakadate told ARTnews. “As an artist who has worked with self-portraiture, I wanted to be thoughtful about how and when that work would be made.”
In the original work, she forced herself to sob every day during 2010, documenting the act with a small digital camera. It was a ritual, she said at the time, that allowed her to “deliberately subject herself to sadness.”
The series includes images of her bent at the waist over a bathtub’s edge as well as close-ups of tear-soaked cheeks. In one frame, only her silhouette is visible against a window’s purple light. The photographs were displayed at “Only the Lonely,” a survey of Nakadate’s work at MoMA PS1 in 2011, and published as a book through the Zabludowicz Collection and Hatje Cantz.
“When I first performed 365 Days, 10 years ago, I wasn’t seeing large expressions of sadness, grief, or unhappiness on social media platforms,” she said. “I wanted to say the thing that many were feeling—but few were saying aloud in that space.”
Nakadate’s work, which willfully dissolves the distinction between authentic and feigned emotion, is a good match for an online platform in which diaristic content is highly accessible and cannibalized. (On Instagram, #crying has been used as a hashtag some four million times.) But for this iteration of the project, Nakadate is re-photographing pages from her book—while warping her past self through reflections of light.
“It will be interesting to see how these images are transformed within Instagram’s framework,” Nakadate said, “aware of its self-consciousness and also its ability to share personal intimacies and supportive connections between humans.”