Personal (Search) History

Illustration by Erik Carter

Excerpt from this article:

One afternoon, riding the bus in downtown Montreal, Madelyne Beckles swiped open her phone to browse the web. She caught sight of her most recent mobile searches — ‘‘Snooki diet,’’ ‘‘Miley Cyrus’ sex tape,’’ ‘‘Bruno Mars songs’’ — and found this collection to be absurd but unexpectedly poignant: an unvarnished glimpse into the meanderings of her mind. Beckles, a 23-year-old visual artist whose work explores her relationship to technology, took a screen grab and shared the image on Instagram. This became the genesis of her newest project, called Herstory: Every so often, Beckles pulls up her mobile search history and saves it with a screen shot.

Beckles says she likes how this public display of her innermost thoughts, represented by her search terms, conveys an uncomfortable truth: that we are rarely as sophisticated and erudite as the versions of ourselves we publish online. ‘‘It is what I have actually searched, and it is how my mind works,’’ she said. She described viewing the images as ‘‘opening an underwear drawer of thoughts.’’

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