Coded Memory: Breanne Trammell’s Twitter DiaryAugust 15, 2014
For the past seven years, Ora Schneider resident Breanne Trammell has used Twitter as a digital diary. Her feed is a playful archive of puns, conversation snippets, and coded records that signify particular moments. Breanne describes social media as containing “observations and gestures that make us who we are.”
“Social media is a tool,” she says. “I’m not using it to be social; I’m using it as a way to record ideas or thoughts.”
During her short time in our Letterpress Studio, Breanne continued 86 BAD VIBES, a series of letterpress prints that is based on her social media archive and embraces humorous fusings of pop culture and everyday ephemera.
It’s a fitting project for Breanne, whose work continually (re)situates art in the everyday and the everyday in art. Combining a background in photography, design, and printmaking, she draws on popular culture, junk food, and art history to use art and design as a means of connecting with people. (Last year, she got certified as nail technician to travel around the country giving free manicures from a renovated 1968 Shasta Compact camper for her project Nails Across America.)
Breanne’s current project stems from her folio TXTS IN THE AGE OF MECHANICAL REPRODUCTION (2010), which Breanne completed during a residency at the Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, CA. 86 BAD VIBES includes ten 5 x 7” prints in an edition of 20. Its clean typographic design—each print characterized by a different color and typeface—highlights a playful and sometimes self-deprecating tone that carries throughout Breanne’s work. Idiosyncratic phrases, like “Tallboy in a Cheeto bag” and “relationship status: lol,” adopt idioms, Internet slang, and retweets, a new approach within this project, to her personal experiences. Others like “S-O to Braum’s” (a retweet from friend Jordan Richardson which references a Texan ice cream company Breanne grew up with) pull from nostalgic sources of childhood comfort.
Throughout Breanne’s wordplays are also sly references to critical theory. In TXTS IN THE AGE OF MECHANICAL REPRODUCTION, she tips her hat to Walter Benjamin’s canonical 1936 essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” which criticizes technology’s transformation of artworks, and in 86 BAD VIBES, she mocks her own understanding of Theodor Adorno’s aesthetic theory. Breanne acknowledges that combining colloquial language with academic theory plays with established notions of high and low culture—but she doesn’t take it too seriously. During our conversation about these terms, she appropriately tweets “Rolls eyes at theory.”
It was while pursuing her undergraduate degree that Breanne first discovered the grounding space of the printmaking studio. “I found my place in the print shop,” she says. For 86 BAD VIBES, the physical aspect of letterpress—the weight of type, the tack of ink, the repetitive rolling motion of the press—has been crucial for Breanne to reconcile the immateriality of a digital medium like Twitter. Although Twitter has a vast capacity for information, its information exists in an abstract digital space. Imprinting her tweets letter-by-letter allows Breanne to make tangible the disembodied characters of her archive and and honor the original memories they came from.
In 86 BAD VIBES, “86” means “no more” in restaurant slang, signaling that the kitchen is out of particular ingredient or dish. The title references Breanne’s life-changing experience in the small hamlet community of Wassaic, NY. It cultivates humor and positive memories to set forth an affirming intention for Breanne’s uncertain future, as she leaves Wassaic for a big move this year. Breanne is relocating to Iowa City to teach printmaking at the University of Iowa.
Just like Breanne’s Twitter feed, her letterpress project is continuously evolving. The prints she made during her time as Women’s Studio Workshop will be photographed to live another digital life on her website, further playing with the lifecycles of digital and print media. And just as one might reminisce with a personal photo album, Breanne occasionally revisits her Twitter timeline. “It feels really special to have that one long stream of these memories,” she says.
Breanne Trammell holds an MFA in printmaking from Rhode Island School of Design. Her work has been exhibited at Mixed Greens, The Wassaic Project, Pulse Contemporary Art Fair, New Museum of Contemporary Art Store, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and many more. Through teaching, she seeks to demystify the art process and cultivate creative excitement in young people. She has taught at SUNY Purchase, Ramapo College of New Jersey, and has been a Teaching Fellow at the Wassaic Project. She is currently the Virginia Myers Visiting Artist in Printmaking at the University of Iowa. To see more of her work, visit www.breannetrammell.com.