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Sean Fader

Sean Fader

American, born 1979

Sean Fader (he/him/his) is interested in how photographs circulate in digital systems, including on social media. His works and performances explore how digital technologies are transforming our concepts of sharing and collective authorship. His recent work was featured in the solo show Thirst/Trap at Denny Dimin Gallery, New York, NY (2020). Fader is a Professor of Photography at Tulane University.

See more of Fader's work at his website: seanfader.com.

I think the thing we all fear about in technology is that it's going to be used to control us rather than to free us.

Sean Fader

Sean Fader (American, born 1979). Insufficient Memory, 2020. Screenshot of interactive Google Earth database displayed on monitor. Courtesy of the artist and Denny Dimin Gallery.

Insufficient Memory, 2020

Six hanging archival inkjet prints with corresponding texts; interactive Google Earth database displayed on monitor
Courtesy of the artist and Denny Dimin Gallery

“I hope that people look at this work and they realize how many people we’ve lost in the fight for queer equity, and that visibility for queer people is complicated: visibility is part of equity, but it’s also something that can still get you killed. So we have to continue to fight every day.”
—Sean Fader

In 2018, Sean Fader (he/him/his) began combing through historical archives—including old issues of queer publications, many of which have never been digitized and are therefore hard to find—to compile a database of every LGBTQ+ person who was murdered in a hate crime in the United States while the Hate Crimes Prevention Act was being debated from 1999 to 2000. (The bill was not passed until 2009.) He drove 15,000 miles to photograph the scene of every murder using an old Sony Digital Mavica camera that itself dates to 1998, just before the online sharing of photos on social media began to increase the visibility of queer communities. He then uploaded these photos to Google Earth, along with his short descriptions of each murder. The result is an interactive map that allows you to engage with a digital memorial to LGBTQ+ lives.

The photos are also presented here as enlarged prints that emphasize their inherent low resolution, which becomes a metaphor of the “insufficient memory” of digital systems that erase or exclude the histories of LGBTQ+ people. Shot two decades after the murders, they show only nondescript rural and suburban locations. Their ordinariness speaks to the ordinariness of violence against the queer community, as well as the paradox of visibility, in which leaving the closet to proudly proclaim your identity can make you vulnerable to other forms of oppression, including surveillance and even violence.

The Google Database that is part of this work is freely available for you to experience on your own devices by visiting here

  • Transcripts of Fader's Insufficient Memory

    Insufficient Memory Large Print Texts

    Provided here are the large format versions of the texts which accompany Fader's installation for Difference MachinesInsufficient Memory (2020).

    View Here (PDF)
    Learn More

Sean Fader: Thirst/Trap

Exhibition catalog for Sean Fader's Thirst/Trap, June 23 to August 21, 2020, at Denny Dimin Gallery in New York. The catalog includes an essay on Fader's work by David J. Getsy, the Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Professor of Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Read Getsy's full essay here.

By working with a global team of collaborators on this, I was able to show how widely these stereotypes circulate and how they have fed into a narrow and problematic stereotype of American culture. Any one of the images can be funny or innocuous, but 365 of them shows the force of these norms operating in visual culture. By visualizing them, we can turn that humor against them to reveal how hollow and fragile they really are.

Sean Fader, "Facing the Black Mirror: Sean Fader's Awesome Year"

Facing the Black Mirror: Sean Fader's Awesome Year

Andrea Alessi

"If the original black mirror, the Claude glass, hid the artist to reveal the idealized subject, then Sean Fader’s 365 Profile Pics is its modern day progeny indeed. Despite comprising some 365 images of the artist’s face, the expansive artwork reveals very little about Fader himself, turning its lens instead onto contemporary culture, image making, and consumption..."

Read the full interview here.

"Multiple Exposures: Sean Fader's #wishingpelt and Humor in Social Media Performance"

David J. Getsy

"It was a laughable premise. Sean Fader staged a performance at a 2014 art fair in New York City in which he invited participants to rub his chest hair and make a wish. And they did. Lots of them..."

Read the full essay here.

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