In 2006, artist and educator Brooke Borg was a recent college graduate with a one-way ticket to Barcelona. In 2012, she finally came back to the United States, MFA in hand and fluent in Catalan, ready to continue teaching and creating art in Brooklyn. Her work has been influenced by her travels, her own family and religious background, and the experiences of others that she’s collected and adroitly examined by using drawing, sculpture, and electronic media. Last week, Borg invited Greenpointers to her Calyer Street studio for a preview of her newest works-in-progress about modern love relationships.
Borg is a Long Island native with a passionate personality and lots of energy. “Nothing about me is casual,” she jokes as her cat, Mabel, runs circles around the coffee table. Borg’s apartment and studio is on a second floor walk up facing a quiet, tree-lined street. She’s accented the walls with her grandfather’s paintings and her father’s law school diploma, the latter which hangs above her workstation in the living room. The mantel is packed with books. I point out a colorful ottoman, and she unhesitatingly tells me a personal story about it.
Later, as Borg leads me through a discussion about her latest projects on modern love relationships, I remark about the very intimate nature of her work—how she unflinchingly takes a magnifying glass to her own experiences of pain, disconnect, heartbreak, loneliness, and love in a way that would set off alarm bells in some of us. “I’m not the only person who has experienced heartbreak,” explains Borg in answer to my question, and she reflects on a realization from a previous project: “I found that the actual words, the actual unique, heart-wrenching idiosyncrasies that people had were not that unique, so everybody gets this.”
Borg has embraced what research professor and TED Talk phenom Brené Brown called “the power of vulnerability,” which Brown defined as the ability to overcome the human “core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness,” by turning those feelings into a “birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.” It’s a vulnerable world, Brown announced towards the end of her TED talk. Yet, Borg is not afraid to be her true self.
For instance, in her most recent project, “Under the Influence (UTI),” Borg created a video documented performance to work through love addiction. “I got my heart broken and it was brutal,” recalls Borg, “but I started thinking, ‘What’s my role in it?’ And that’s when I started researching the idea of the Love Addict. It was something about him. Something about that mutually destructive communication that I was addicted to.” She decided to investigate the relationship, and by doing so, to empower herself. It turned out that “Under the Influence” became a natural point of departure for her next projects. “It got me thinking of forming relationships now with sexting and texting,” she explains as she unrolls a large-scale, graphite drawing onto the hardwood floor of her studio.
“And I’m not embarrassed to say this because everybody does it,” confides Borg, “but they’re all pictures that I’ve sent to various people.” We use books to hold down the corners, and take a step back to look at the selfie. “They’re flattering because you give yourself a boudoir session, but they’re very immediate. The angles are always weird. There’s enough identity to know that, ‘My body is unique and you want it’ but your identity is obscured.”
Borg unrolls another completed drawing in the “Fantasee selfie” series and then shows me a third work in progress mounted on a nearby wall. I wonder aloud if people are afraid of being blackmailed by their sexts, but Borg shakes her head—we’ve moved beyond that worry as a society, she explains. Everyone sexts, and we’ve become co-dependent. “I think that this kind of communication, without the voice and without the face,” she explains, “produces co-dependance because you’re so lonely, and because you’re not really being yourself.” The problem arises when people finally do transition into a relationship: “You can’t not want to know what that person is doing or want to be with that person because you spent so much of your courtship lonely.”
According to Borg, if you’re in a modern relationship, you’ve also likely spent the early parts of your courtship editing your thoughts, abbreviating your laughs, and trying to curate an appealing version of yourself for your significant other. It’s the nature of text messaging, says Borg, “but the only way to be truly honest is face-to-face and we’re not willing to do it anymore.” Her series “edited/unsent texts” focuses on those anxieties, hopes, and deletes that her messages (and by extension, our messages) have gone through before being deemed appropriate to send. “Text-speak. It remains to be seen where that’s going to go,” she concludes. †
Brooke Borg is a Greepoint-based multimedia artist and educator. She likes to hang out at Transmitter Park, and the dock, and often goes to Broken Land. (“It’s a great bar.”) And, of course, Anella’s. “Under the Influence” will be shortly available on her vimeo account. Follow her on IG: @brookeborg