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Living in the dichotomy: authenticity vs. privacy

Updated: Nov 17, 2023


When I was at school, I often felt isolated and misunderstood. If I opened my mouth, I was afraid of being teased and ridiculed. So I tried to be invisible by only saying what seemed 'safe'. Even if I knew the answers in class, I often kept them to myself.

Hydrant Acrylic Painting by Jeanette Bohn
"The stare" shows a harmless little fire hydrant that seems to stare at me dramatically. It is symbolic of all the cameras, analytics, location trackers, etc. that actually screen us without us even noticing. Paper and acrylic on canvas, 80x80 cm


At that time I took refuge in books, but also in drawing, creating people and monsters with pen and brush. In this way, I not only processed the rejection, but also looked for ways to express my ideas and thoughts. The page became my playground, where I was allowed to be "me" – completely authentic and at the same time completely secret.

Decades later, this duality still preoccupies me. While I want to show my work and be seen as an artist, in the background there is this nagging fear that I am revealing too much of myself as a private person. To separate between the two is a tightrope walk.

Because as Neil Gaiman said in his speech: "The moment that you feel, just possibly, you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself... That is the moment, you might be starting to get it right." Of course, he meant the necessity of authenticity for valuable artistic expression. This is countered by self-protection, which we should at least not completely lose sight of.


The issue takes on an even greater dimension when we consider that the protection of our data – and not just our expressions – is a fragile commodity in the digital age. Whether tech companies are creating detailed profiles about us, exploiting security vulnerabilities, or leaking passwords – all of this is happening additionally and mostly off the radar. Discussions about insecure software, chat control or digital self-determination often concern only a minority and otherwise pass under the radar.

It is obvious that we have to deal with this, take political action and establish rules if we do not want to run the risk of being totally monitored – by whomever.

Many people don't seem to think too much about this. Photos, current whereabouts, lived relationships are blithely shared with the whole world. We want to belong and present ourselves, so we share a lot, often carelessly and comprehensively.

The goal of my painting series is to encourage the viewer to reflect on their (digital) existence and to share private information wisely, to use platforms prudently, to inform and engage. In the paintings, I highlight different aspects of privacy and data protection. I don't believe that authenticity is "opposed" to the protection of one's own data, but that we as individuals as well as society need to find ways to ensure both.

Acrylic Painting by Jeanette Bohn
"Privacy" shows the self-censorship of what one would rather not share with the world, but also the opposite – the part we expose. Acrylic on canvas, 80x80 cm


From 25-27.08.2023 you can see "The Stare" and "Privacy" live and in colour at the Museumsuferfest in Frankfurt. Together with 13 other artists of the BBK (Berufsverband bildender Künstlerinnen und Künstler Frankfurt) and the Kunstverein Freigehege, we will exhibit paintings, prints, fabric paintings, string graphics, installations and sculpture. The exhibition is curated and organized by Joachim Mennicken. Our booth is located directly at the Mainufer on the Sachsenhäuser side – at the height of the Liebighaus.

I will also be there – at minimum on Saturdays from 11 am to 2 pm and on Sundays from 9 am to 2 pm. Please come and visit us! We are looking forward to it.

Acrylic Painting by Jeanette Bohn
"Ambivalence" once again shows the dance between things we share with confidence and things we hide confidentially. Acrylic on canvas, 80x80 cm

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