"Chatlandia" (1996) is a sound installation by Julia Meltzer and Amanda Ramos.


Julia Meltzer & Amanda Ramos: Chatlandia

Transformed as if by magic into a boudoir these lavatory rooms exude an air of intimacy. On approaching the space the lights go on and upon entering we hear a mixture of voices simultaneously engaged in conversation. The texts are taken from an internet relay chat line (IRC) on the Internet and are being spoken by computer generated voices. In order to hear the words clearly the visitor has to stand close to the walls of the lavatory room. Mirrors are hung above so the visitor sees himself: the voyeur is watching and watches himself watching.

On the walls are vertical banners with the complete text of several IRC sessions. These are illuminated by coloured lights, luring the visitor into reading them. You are tempted to read and listen to these private things being made public, but this makes you a public voyeur. The texts and conversations deal with sex, lust and intimacy, spunky women and 'what Desirée wants'. As physical experience here is limited, cybersex demands strong visualization and a lot of imagination, relying heavily on memory and motivation. On-line intimacy therefore has given rise to a language of its own. There are new words and a new syntax with appropriate ways of understanding. All languages have their own limitations and everything that can be written down, is not all there is. The chats on IRC - written conversations - are no exception to this and they seem to be governed by the same principles. The possibility to express one's individual identity in multiple forms on the Net is a very specific aspect of these writings/conversations.

Still, one can only be approached as the person one 'presents' at that moment. But without knowledge about the other person the context of a conversation remains unclear. If you suggest innuendo, you do not take the other seriously; if you think that causes exist that can unconsciously produce opinions, you don't even see the other as a person who can speak for himself anymore. We therefore assume that someone says what he or she thinks. The intimacy resulting from a jointly written text is here being presented to voyeuristic visitors who now see this intimacy publicly displayed.

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