Gab Bois is a Canadian artist, based in Montreal, who has turned her ideas into viral images that have made the rounds on digital devices across the world. Her work has a lot to do with the gestures we perform every day on our computers and smartphones: scroll, like, double tap, share, dm. But what struck us wasn’t her many Instagram followers but the spontaneity and natural ease with which she has accumulated them. Her content speaks a language that is easy both to comprehend and to interpret, at the same time her images deal with that part of the brain dedicated to things that we like at first glance.
An instant crush, love at first sight: it was immediately easy to imagine her in a cover story for C41 magazine and the following interview perfectly conveys the attention and awareness that the artist has for her work on herself, using her body as a flesh and bone canvas.
Your self-portrait on the cover of this issue has a story behind it: we asked you to re-do one of your backstage photos. I imagine all our readers are wondering why right now. Well, the editorial staff loved the original backstage version but when Gab proposed using the freshly shot updated version, we immediately fell in love with it. And that got us thinking: what has changed in the year between these two pictures? Are you a new updated version of yourself?
For something to feel the most relevant and powerful to me, it has to be connected to my present state in some way. The original image of me in the bubble bra is associated to a completely different time and place in my life as well as in my work. It wouldn’t have felt right to me to present and talk about current work while associating it with an old visual.
The concept of the self is also something that I like to toy with in my practice so I try to be sensitive and truthful to how I present myself according to how I’m feeling and how I perceive my self
How would you define your work?
So far, I have mainly presented photographic work. That medium was originally chosen because I was always in such in a hurry to put out ideas that it made sense to go for something that could keep up with a very fast-paced production. However, I have no academic background in photography and I’m not particularly interested in the technical aspects of it. To me, the work itself is so concept oriented that the idea ultimately takes over the medium. That being said, if I had to explain what my work is about to someone who hadn’t seen it, I would say that I stage myself in visual compositions where the spectator is exposed to a personal semiotics of today’s hyperreal consumer society.
Your images are often associated with the “post-internet” imaginary. Do you agree that the decrease in the importance of numbers over quality content (the new IG “likes” situation for example) can be considered the real “post-internet”? What scenario is this opening up for social-networking and in general for content creators?
I’m not sure if I agree with that. I think it’s part of human nature to want recognition and approval from one’s peers, and today, whether we like it or not, likes are a big part of that. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see any correlation between likes and quality, but for content creators, or whatever people choose to call themselves.
likes are a measure of success
I don’t think that post-internet is a synonym of content quality at all. We’ve all seen it: stupidity and sex sell A LOT, regardless of likes, and they did even before Instagram. I’m not saying this to be cynical, I think Instagram is a great tool for promoting people’s work but I also can’t fathom a day where it will be considered a platform for purely “quality content”.
Speaking of “post”: we are living in an era in which even eroticism, the role of the body and its public display are perceived differently to a few years ago, especially on social media. What are your thoughts on this?
Using the body (mostly my own) as a subject is a big part of my work but, in my case, itʼs done as a form of personal exploration. I like to work with close up shots a lot of the time because it allows me to present parts of the body in the way that I want. For example, the same body can be represented in many different forms and spark many different reactions depending on the light it’s being shown under.
I find it hard to make a statement on today’s views of the body on social media because I use mine purely out of necessity and efficiency in my work. Basically, I use my body as a tool to help translate an idea so I’m not too concerned about how it will be perceived but I do find it silly when people online think it’s their place to comment on someone’s (especially women’s) decision to display their own body.
One last question. Have you ever thought about working with video? How could your art exist in this different language?
It could most definitely exist in a language other than photography but I don’t know if video would be the medium that I’d start with. I have a lot of interest in moulding and casting and sculpture in general, so that’s definitely something that I would like to explore more in the near future.
There are a lot of object-based ideas in my body of work so its a recent goal of mine to orient my practice towards creating more permanent and tangible objects rather than ephemeral set-ups solely for a photo.
This story is featured on C41 ISSUE 9 Eros.