Are You Really My Friend? (Art Opening)

Tanja Hollander, Colin Dusenbury + Thaddeus Herrick, Los Angeles, California. Archival pigment print. 2015. 42×42″.

New Years Eve 2010, photographer Tanja Hollander sat at her house in Maine instant messaging a friend in Jakarta while writing a letter to another deployed in Afghanistan. She began thinking about the differences in those two friendships, the contrast in the methods of communicating. She continued to reflect on friendships and relationships and how they are evolving in the context of the 21st century with its myriad means of staying in touch, being connected, reconnecting. What is changing? What remains the same?

Inspired in no small part, Ms. Hollander decided spontaneously that she would embark on a grand voyage to photograph all 626 of her Facebook friends in their homes. With fifty dollars in the bank, she set out. Now six years later, the project is complete with 430 portraits beginning in Washington, D.C. and finishing in Tel Aviv.

The show Are You Really My Fiend? opens this weekend at the MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts and will run for ten months.

MASS MoCA Press Release

Tanja Hollander, Jenny Ewing Allen + Grady Allen, Shepherdstown, West Virginia, 2013
Archival pigment print

NORTH ADAMS, MASSACHUSETTS — In February 2011, Maine-based artist Tanja Hollander set out to photograph 626 of her Facebook friends in their homes around the world. In June 2015, her final 430th portrait was made in Tel Aviv, after traveling to 4 continents, 12 countries, 34 states, 180 cities/towns, 260 zip codes, and 424 homes. This working project evolved into a multimedia art experience that records how we all reshape our lives through photography and digital experiences. Are you really my friend? opens at MASS MoCA on Saturday, February 18, and an opening reception will be held on Saturday, March 18, from 5:30pm to 7pm, in conjunction with openings for new exhibitions by Liz King, Steffani Jemison, and Chris Domenick.

In Are you really my friend? Hollander delves into themes of privacy, contemporary culture, family structure, social networking, and human relationships in the 21st century. She examines both our on-line and off-line experiences, and incorporates the ideas of compassion and empathy into our modern-day experiences. Ultimately, Hollander intends for the exhibition to be a “collection of portraits that create a window into the home as each subject defines it, a collection of multi-generational and demographic views on friendship, and a slice of life on the road as a lady artist for over 5 years.”

Are you really my friend? features 430 portraits of Hollander’s Facebook friends, landscapes of the places she traveled, snapshots of what she discovered along the way, thousands of images of travel ephemera (such as boarding passes, receipts, gifts, notes, etc.), and a short documentary about the project directed by Robin Greenspun. Additionally, partway through the project, Hollander also began collecting Post-it notes asking people to answer the question, “What is a real friend?” She has collected thousands of these across the world and held two collection sessions at MASS MoCA during the 2015 Solid Sound and FreshGrass music festivals. Visitors to Hollander’s exhibition will be able to add their own Post-it musings on friendship throughout the run of the show.

For more information visit MASS MoCA

About the Artist 

Tanja Alexia Hollander (b. 1972, St. Louis, Missouri) received a B.A. in photography, film, and feminist studies from Hampshire College in 1994. Selections from Are you really my friend? have been exhibited at the Portland Museum of Art, Maine; Virei Viral, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, Dresden, Germany. Receiving international media attention for the project, Hollander was invited to give a TEDxDirigo talk in 2012, and has lectured extensively at Demanio Marittimo.KM-278, Marzocca, Italy; the University of Maryland; Clemson University; SXSW; and Facebook headquarters. Hollander is represented by Carroll and Sons in Boston, Massachusetts. She is currently a resident of Auburn, Maine.

Tanja Hollander, Derek Jackson, Portland, Maine. Archival pigment print. 2010. 42×42″.


Tanja Hollander, Self Portrait with Sarah Khatry + Jeff Sharlet, Paris, France, 2015
Archival pigment print
42×42 in.