The two stud walls, built specifically for Scratch ’n Sniff, stand like theater flats in the gallery, approximately 24” apart, creating a long narrow hallway. The typewritten pages are pinned at regular intervals along a level sightline on both sides of this hallway.
The texts are verbatim transcriptions of different internet message board posts made between April 15 and May 8, 2003, during the buildup to the second U.S. Iraq war. Some posts are vociferously for the war, others against, while others still plead for civility and moderation of discussion. This installation comes from a time before social media became central to U.S. politics. Angry, online political discourse was still a new phenomenon at this time. The vitriol the artist encountered in these budding forums left a profound impression regarding the trajectory of our civic lives.
The length and narrowness of the hallway imposed a unique social dynamic. Visitors standing in the middle of the piece would often find their means of egress blocked by strangers. A physical negotiation was frequently required in order to exit the work. This, combined with the tone of the postings, led several visitors to break down in tears.