In 2002, artist and professor Hasan Elahi spent six months being interrogated off and on by the FBI as a suspected terrorist. In response to this experience, he created Tracking Transience, a website that makes his every move available to the FBI – and everybody else.
Tracking Transience is a website where Hasan Elahi uses time-stamped digital photos to track his own whereabouts. In addition to providing his location throughout the day by posting aerial photographs from Google Earth, he has uploaded his cell phone logs and even his bank statements to the website itself.
The artist’s intent is to explore the meaning of identity and privacy in an age of surveillance. While Tracking Transience robs him of his personal privacy, it also provides him with a running alibi, should he ever be falsely accused again.
Sharing of everything or the sharing of nothing?
With the sharing of bank statements and even cell phone logs, it might seem just a tad bit too radical but the reality is that many people are providing just as much personal information on the Internet in only slightly less overt ways.
Whether is it tweeting every aspect of one’s life or the constant updates of your Facebook status to paying your bills or making a purchase on-line.
It could be said that Hasan’s detailed documentation of his life is not at all too different from what we have been doing albeit just in a slightly different medium, especially so today.
However, the point is that by sharing everything we have, what is relevant? Sharing all that information is as good as sharing nothing. And by sharing nothing, what good is that information?
Dara Birnbaum – Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978)
This video piece shows the constant transition from the Superhero’s alias Diana Prince into Wonder Woman herself. By isolating and repeating the moment of transformation – spinning figure, arms outstretched.
The visual aesthetic of the piece is simply a beautiful kaleidoscope of colours and forms for the eyes, especially for for those who havent really heard of HD, 3D or Jackson Pollock. Dana Birnbaum was thought to make this video to be seen as if it was a moving canvas whist offering a reconstructed vision of images by involving a panel of repetitions, interruptions, rhythms, sounds and colours.
In the context of the 1970s, the piece aims to denounce the disparity between the genders. Wonder woman, the main subject matter, is a POP culture symbol who throughout the years became an iconic symbol. Other then being pro-america (eagle screech!) She had evolved into an important symbol of the feminist movement, which Dara Birnbaum was a part of. Thus simply put, using Wonder Woman as a subject matter was a representation of the emergence of women in active roles.
However to me, what was most interesting about this piece is that it is one of the pioneers of a video appropriating imagery directly from another source (television) which perhaps was an way to dissect or reinterpret the language (of television).
In this case, Dana created a piece of pop culture out of finished works/videos. Who knew that even up till today, this was not only relevant but still immensely popular and practiced extensively amongst the populace.
In short this piece was the grandmother to all youtube mashups.
Life 2.0 is a documentary released in 2010, it follows three different relationships between real people and their second life avatars. Each of their simulated relationships results in a real world moral dilemma.
Who is Ayya Aabye?
The masked programmer who begins the film in shadow has the most psychologically complex plot-line that reveals the psychological complexities of Second Life on how it can be used as a psychoanalytic tool, and how it can effect real-world bonds.
On the surface, it just seems like your rudimentary addiction problem, but digging deeper there’s more to that. One interesting thing to note is the way he refers to his avatar, in contrast to himself. Beyond simply talking through a 3rd person viewpoint, his avatar seems to be thinking on her own, and making decisions that seems to conflict with its controller; at times even conveying messages through him to the viewer.
In the documentary, he talks about his avatar having an ‘increasingly dangerous state of mind’. So much so that it instigates her into going on a rampage, killing many other residents of Second Life, at places where other users seem to be enjoying themselves such as the beach or at dance clubs.
The controller’s excuse for this clear act of terrorism is that his avatar knew that he was spending too much time on Second Life, and went through with the rampage hoping that he would have his account suspended, thus preventing him from having his life taken over by the program. He seems to have, in his mind, completely suppressed the fact that he himself controls the avatar.
There seems to be quite a lapse or a fragmentation if you will, in personal identity (dissociative identity) . Where the online avatar is seen by the controller as a separate entity from himself. And even at times is seen to be controlling him.
Who will control the controllers?
The web has made these issues more prevalent, be it through dissociative identities, cognitive dissonance, fragmentation and the like. With online environments such as MMOs, online role-playing games, virtual communities, and even forum groups, it becomes very easy to become someone else- be it an alter-ego or persona. To what extent will it start to become detrimental to oneself. And to where do we draw the line of keeping our personal identity.
By the mid-1970s, Kraftwerk had achieved international recognition for its revolutionary experimentation with sound and imagery. Its compositions, which feature distant melodies, multilingual vocals, robotic Beats, custom-made vocoders, and computer speech, anticipated the impact technology would have on art and everyday life, capturing the human condition in an age of mobility and telecommunication. Kraftwerk’s innovative looping techniques and mechanized rhythms, which had a major influence on the early development of hip-hop and electronic dance music, remain among the most commonly sampled sounds across a wide range of musical genres.
Kraftwerk uses robotics and other technical innovations in its live performances, illustrating the belief that humans and machines make equal contributions in the creation of art.
The Robots, Kraftwerk -2005
In this particular song, it references the then revolutionary techniques of robotics. The Russian lines “Я твой слуга” (Ya tvoi sluga, I’m your servant) and “Я твой работник” (Ya tvoi rabotnik, I’m your worker) come across particularly clearly. Where the robot is seen as a tool to the human race. This has to be taken literally, as kraftwerk is fundamentally a german group.
In live performances, the recurrent theme of the substitution of robots resembling group members, has become symbolic of the group itself. This is a portrayal of ongoing commentary of the division between man and machine since its conception. It’s kinda hard to analyze this into something concrete but I shall do my best.
On one hand, i liken this the acceptance of robotic entities as surrogates to the human race, from a standpoint where the group is purposely replaced by idealized robotic replicas of themselves and also to a point where is viewers of the performance accepts this replacement as a live performance piece.
An interesting observation is that over time the robots become more abstract and less human-like, possibly in line with the changing acceptance and idea of robotics.
The Pre-Robot Condition
I would like to say that this is one of the pioneer pieces in popular culture that redefines the human form- the post human condition, another one of them phrases with the post-suffix that hold overgeneralises everything. An evolution that changes the traits of of what defines us as man, be it through cybernetic replacement or proxy. Where the human mind supercedes the the body as a conceptualization what it means to become human.
In this case specifically, the music becomes an extension of the human psyche. Be it how the viewer experiences the piece or through the composition/composing of the music, whether or not expressed through an actual human entity. Even the aforementioned acceptance itself is a step towards this post-human condition thing.
Also the use of custom made devices and tech in their music has some ode towards the acceptance of “robots” and its relationship with man. The metaphor that a musical instrument becomes an extension of our body is to how these “new tech” becomes an augmentation of the band. This is to say that the band essentially is a form of cybernetic organism is not that much of a stretch. I hope.
Through the performance of the piece this becomes more evident though the lyrics where the performers proclaim themselves to be robotic entities. Going even further, in a concert setting, the viewers take part in the song itself through the echoing of the lyrics which further cements the acceptance of this evolution through the denial of difference (chanting- we are the robots)and the acknowledgement of the corporate and industrialised age.
In some ways perhaps, this is a nod towards Baudrillard’s hyper-reality where the boundaries between the real and the symbolism is dulled, be it through the performance aspect of the piece or because of the timeframe in which the piece was released- Where people created their own impressions of robotics through snippets of pop culture and documentation of its conception. Find out more after the jump.
Hole In Space was an early display of Telepresence featured as a Public Communication sculpture created by artists Kit Golloway and Sherrie Rabinovits.
It was installed, without an announcement to the public, at New York’s Lincoln Center and at the Broadway department store in Century City, Los Angeles. Hole in Space employed the use of two large screens in the two cities linked via a two-way satellite to show the video feeds from New York in L.A. and vice versa. Staying up for three consecutive days, it was intended to connect people via a life-sized video feed with either random people or ones they knew from the other city.
Viva la Revolution
To us, the idea of doing a “Hole in Space” link between two museums where people are standing there, holding cake and wine and looking at each other, and you know, they’ve got their invitation cards, and everyone shows up with the expectation.This is not what we’re talking about as practitioners.
What I felt happened here is one of the many sparks in redefining the boundaries of art. As a very reluctant student of art history, I akin it to a repeat of the ideology behind the realism movement only this time in interactive and technology driven art. From what i understand, realism began after the french revolution , naturally it was a protest against romanticism, rejecting its exotic subject matter and the idealised classicism of academic art in favour of down to earth concepts and the depiction of the common man.
In essence the same holds true to some extent, where Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz removes the boundaries of high art. Taking it out of the display of a museum onto a public street exposed to the masses, and rightly so; as the piece was never meant to be analyzed by the academia nor be ogled by the rich or the educated. It was meant to experienced by the world, the very people that in time were to be the ones that had to accept and adapt to the changes of technology and with it connectivity, it was the rehearsal for web whether they knew it or not and also the staging point for the Gesamtwerk- the collective artwork.
Rehearsal for Web
And so, “Hole in Space” had a day of discovery, and then a couple of other days. So it grew and grew, people phoned each other and started meeting intentionally, but it was organized by itself. So we created the context, as artists, or authors, then walked away, and then the people sort of finished the work.
The significance of this piece, is that it wasn’t just a window between two locations, LA and New York. It was a window into the future, a step towards hyper-connectivity, It was from this work that we started to understand how the relationship between space and community was being rewritten by technology. This was the first publicly shown evidence of the 3rd space. The space no longer governed by distance, or even actual physical space for that matter.
The Hole-in-space was thought to the crowning achievement in closing the boundaries of space and even time. At that point even the creators did not forsee the rise of the internet, or even the possibilities of public telecommunications. Who knew that in a few short years our world had advanced to a point where the distance we close through connectivity goes well into the unfathomable. Coupled with the mobility of the technology and the evolution of the many-to-many paradigm we have eroded any semblance and boundaries of distance and time. We have created whole communities within virtual spaces. The 3rd space, is not longer an impossible goal or lavish dream, is has become part of our culture. To most of us, It’s just another hole in the wall.