Social media merely the latest way of managing one's brand, says The Works artist

Tanya Camp admits she’s timid when using social media apps like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

“I’m horrible at social media because I worry too much about constructing my identity,” says the Edmonton graphic designer turned artist. 

Camps’ first exhibition is part of The Works Art and Design Festival centred at Capital Plaza on the Alberta Legislature grounds. 

But you could walk past the little white tent featuring Camp’s exhibit called < status > and never be the wiser.

Meet Edmonton artist Tanya Camp and learn more about her exhibit, Status, as part of The Works Art and Design Festival. 1:05

“This work is a series of portrait cards that look at the constructed nature of identity,” she said. In other words, the image you want to put out. 

Camp’s examination of social media began in an unlikely place with a box of old-time, black-and-white Victorian portrait cards she came across in an antique store in Invermere, B.C., recalling she paid $3 a card. 

A collection of Victorian portrait cards found in a British Columbia antique shop is now part of an exhibit called “status.” (Tanya Camp)

“I’ve had these portrait cards for about 10 years now and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with them, but I finally decided I wanted to superimpose modern fashion on these Victoria portrait cards.”

These 19th century cartes-de-visites, as they were known, were traded by celebrities and common folk as an early form of self promotion.

“This carefully calibrated image was going out into the world, so it’s very much like social media of today.” 

Camps mash-up of old and new is the kind of art The Works is known for, said artistic director Amber Rooke.

Amber Rooke, executive artistic director of The Works Art & Design Festival surveys the site at Capital Plaza. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

“It’s big and it’s fun and we don’t have gallery walls, we don’t have gallery admission, so you don’t have to make that conscious choice of ‘Am I an art person?'” Rooke said.

The 34th year of The Works features bigger exibits including a brightly colour sculpture made of 300 wooden doors you can climb inside and a golden pig, the size of a small car, constructed entirely out of recycled plastic, but Rooke says smaller surprises like < status > shouldn’t be missed.

“Looking back, and going, ‘Oh that was when photography was new and suddenly it became accessible and now everybody is representing themselves. Isn’t that so fake?'”

The timeless universality of people wanting to ‘peacock’ in portraits could offer a heartening take away, Rooke said. 

“It offers hope to people who see society going down the toilet with these self representations on social media.” 

You can see more from The Works Arts & Design Festival on Our Edmonton Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and 6 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Canada Day Monday. 

A number of pieces at the festival makes for the perfect backdrop for a Canada Day selfie. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

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