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Life sharing – Exhibitionism VS Voyeurism

Eva and Franco Mattes’s Life sharing starts off with a notion of having others explore their personal computers. They drew a comparison between their personal computers and their minds, as the computer contains numerous data that reveals their life and career.

Never unplug
Never unplug

I personally feel that the project is interesting not only because people are interested in voyeurism, but beyond that is a curiosity of seeing how other people live without having to live the repercussion themselves. I compare this to that of catharsis when people watched a film or play. But yet I find this is contradicting because in film and TV, what is shown on screen has been carefully edited to omit long and unnecessary details that doesn’t facilitate the story. When a camera is set up within a house, there is no cut and edit to drive a story. Story becomes an unknown element, characters become an unexplored territory. I think there is also a heightened sense of reality when viewers can access their mails that connect the artists to the rest of the world.

A chance to enter the mind of a person, as well as live them through? Yes please!

I also wonder about the extent as to how much data a person can give out. For this project when social media website didn’t exist, email was the closest thing to human connection and communication on the internet (Of course, there were also ICQ and msn messenger) However, if the project is to be carried out currently, will anyone be comfortable in sharing his whole virtual life over on the internet? This include google search results, facebook chat history, emails, transaction history etc.

Eva and Franco Mattes are right in stating that personal computers can show a person’s thought and personality, but the thought to truly make them public and accessible is still a scary thought. What if they also access your webcam and can fully see you while you are using your own personal computer? I truly think the reason why people get insecure and demand privacy and security is the fact that we are already so involved in the technology itself that our gadgets can actually reveal how much of a person we are.

 

As for their decision to reveal their locations with GPS, it is interesting to note that the current trend of social media have also give rise to the same actions. People usually tag themselves on Facebook (Foursquare) or Instagram or Twitter about their whereabouts and what they are doing. It seems like this generation not only get comfortable removing privacy, but they also deem it to be an important part of life – To show the world their own lives and how they are enjoying it. During the lecture there were also concerns about whether or not a person will be portraying something different as they are aware of others’ voyeurism. This is like documentary film where the presence of a camera can alter the subjects’ behavior. In social media this is very apparent, as people are eager to present their best  (or worst) moments to accentuate their lives.

The artists monitored the traffic of the people who accessed their files and is aware of the demographics involved.  I suppose this gives them a sense of satisfaction or encouragement to keep going. However I feel that they also accomplished, psychologically, what normal exhibitionists couldn’t do in a real life setting. The artists are able to tell which of their files and datas are popular, and viewers no longer merely view their data; They can even manipulate them or keep a copy of their own.

In all, life sharing provides an interesting commentary of the experience of sharing your personal data on computer. Even though the connection is not at all physical,  the emotional and psychcological complexity of such an act can make people uneasy. It is now for us to ponder whether or not the third space has now become an exclusive space that no one would prefer anyone to intrude.

Project progress #1- Intercepting portraits

Currently I am still exploring alternatives and methods to execute the project.

Summary of the live session trial during the lessons 2 weeks back:

1. Adobe Connect

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 10.29.06 pm
Composite image of myself and Diana

It is not within my objective to get an aesthetically pleasing or interesting shot (though that will be a bonus) However there is also a need for a person to instruct participants in order to achieve a certain look.

Another possibility raised up during the session was the usage of VDMX. That prompts me to think if it is possible to create a live performance, showing the processes of composition or manipulating different camera images.

I found an interesting search result that make use of face tracking technology to mask an identity. obama

Further research also brought me attention to this video tutorial on face tracking. In this video, the person make use of face tracking technology to match certain footages of himself as he talks. The end result is a rather bizarre glitch that distorts or confuse the viewers as to what is being said as well as what is being seen.

 

There have been other people trying to use this method to try out multiple face detecting as well as webcam window, but nobody have developed a tutorial or a set of work as of now.

This is the to-do list as of now (but may be subject to change):

1. To try out a mock session of having 4-5 participants on adobe connect or similar softwares to create a composite. Rules and workflow should also be developed in the mean time

2. Study VDMX for a while to see if it is possible to do webcam compositing and turning it into a live performance of its own

 

Intercepting portraits – Role of the viewer

Tentative project plan as of 20/2/2014:

Using Adobe Connect with 4-8 other participants, I will instruct them by designating them each to take a close up of one of their facial feature. The end result will be the combination of different facial features that has been arranged by me. Alternatively, they can also choose to rearrange the webcam in a way that the top half of their face merges with the bottom half of another user. Lastly, I will also grab a few screen shots and will either combine their features together, or replaced my facial features with theirs so my own identity is concealed as well. The aim is to deconstruct and blur their identity in a third space, and instead builds a collective being that signifies the collective identity over the net.

Role of the viewers:

The viewers are in fact the performers for the piece. They are free to interact with one another while following some basic rules. They are currently as followed:

1. Every 3 minutes, strive to conceal your true face in the composite under a certain set of conditions

2. Follows my set of conditions and take a photo of one of their facial feature

3. There are also timings when they are free to have fun generally. It will be ideal if their positions in Adobe Connect can be changed so they can interact with different users.

Other thoughts that I am still exploring at the moment:

Are there other ways I can deliver meaning or raise the interactivity through the instructions? For example, will it be interesting if I demand a condition instead of designating them a facial feature continuously? “Which part of your face do you dislike?” ”

Am I going to remove the sounds for everyone except myself? What will third space mean with the exclusion or inclusion of their own voice? Can I use their own sound as a tool for the project? Similarly, there are limitations of the connectivity over Adobe Connect that have to be taken into consideration.

Amie Goode – “He’s fake, and I’m real”

“He’s fake. And I’m real. And I’m hurt and he gets away scot-free. I want to get across that I’m a victim. And that doesn’t mean I’m stupid, I believe he was really the person he presented himself to be but this is a silly notion on my part because… he’s not real.” – Amie Goode

In Life 2.0, there are several characters who plays Second Life in order to  achieve some sense of satisfaction. Among them is Amie Goode, a housewife who feels emotionally unfulfilled despite claiming that she has a good life. She joined the Second Life and met fell for anther avatar Bluntly, in the  virtual world,  an encounter they called ’emotional adultery’.

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Amie’s romance with Bluntly on Second Life: They both have a marriage of their own in real life.

In my opinion, not only does Amie Goode wants emotional fulfilment, she also has a strong desire for someone to love her for who she is.  As a result, she presented herself raw in Second Life, baring herself almost entirely to Bluntly on Second Life.

An astonishing yet terrifying example is the house in Second Life, which she have rendered according to her house in real life: She invited Bluntly over and shows him around the house, making Bluntly feels as if he had a Deja Vu.

adultery
Wow somewhere between emotional adultery and a real adultery. This is some serious intimacy thing going on

To me, Amie doesn’t use her avatar as a new identity or as a mean to escape from her real life. Instead, she hopes to use the avatar to enhance her real life. She hopes to finds fulfillment within Second Life using an avatar, to connect with people whom she cannot come into contact with in her real life. I think this is the beauty of third space in Second Life: It allows people from different parts of the worlds to connect. Interestingly, this point is also mentioned by her daughter as an example while she plays a different online game.

When Amie thinks she finally does find someone who can provide her with emotional fulfillment, she is eager to then merge that with her real life. As a result, she is elated to show Bluntly to her daughter. She is even more excited when Bluntly finally moves in with her in real life. They both decide to quit Second Life and strives to make a life of their own in the real world.

“The real world with him, how great is that, too, to be able to say that I’m in the real world with him”

However, the transition from Second Life to real life seems to be very difficult for the both of them. Amie blames it on the fact that Bluntly is not the person whom he portrays himself to be. Amie she portrays herself as a victim who chose to believe entirely in the avatar that somebody have created. Friction also occurred between the two as they tried to live together

Personally, I am able to relate to her somewhat with my own experience in entering the virtual gaming world when I was a teenager. However I feel that creating an avatar alone creates a fake identity: People manipulate avatars differently and assume different identities in order to satisfy themselves emotionally.  One cannot simply say their avatar is truly them in  real life.

It just so happened that Amie chooses to merge her identity with her avatar, and finds herself a victim when she realizes that the person she fell in love with did not choose to do the same. She feels betrayed, yet she acknowledged that she is naive for believing in someone’s avatar entirely, just only because she is completely truthful with hers.

The loss of control in the real world also contributes to the failure of the relationship. Second Life draws in people because it is a life that people are able to control in the third space. They can change their looks; interact with people they want; build a house readily; start a career readily etc. They are able to do all these while they are cut off from hassles in the real life. For Amie and Bluntly, the transition to real life comes with a price: Separation procedures, Amie’s daughter’s dislike for Bluntly and their own tension with their spouse. As much as Amie wants to merge her Second Life with her real life, it proves almost impossible now with the inclusion of things that she can no longer control.

This documentary makes me think about the emotions over the internet. While people developed feelings on the internet, it is something that does not materialize in the real world easily.  I think it is important to factor in the fact that our online personas may conceal or alter certain details. Because of this, avatars can allow a person to express himself in more than 1 way. People uses avatars differently, while I think it is fine to present your true self in an avatar, a person should not assume or believe entirely in a person just based on his online persona. Yet it is interesting to note how the nature of a relationship changed drastically over in the third space.

Stelarc: Ping Body

It is amazing that Stelarc created Ping Body in 1996, when the internet have yet to mold each person’s identity as strongly as today’s age with the social media.  Yet, it chillingly captured that state of the internet almost 2 decades later where everyone relies heavily or even developed an addiction for social media and internet.

One element of this work that strike me is the analogy of the metaphor that links the various network connections with the arteries in our bodies. Stelarc demonstrates and embodies himself with the internet, allowing users to create pings that cause his body to move involuntarily.  This analogy is as if the internet users become all the pulses that a brain can send. This is interesting as it reverses the whole notion of human controlling the internet. A human ends up being controlled by other humans via a connection in the third space. He made himself a puppet for the masses, yet we are all puppets for one another as we are all connected and affected by one another on the internet.

Illustrated diagram for Ping Body’s complicated mechanism

Unlike pieces where the artists have absolute control over the multimedia and technology they designed (such as Telematic dreaming that i have covered last week), Stelarc is not able to react to the audience, simply because he can’t. There is interactivity with the audience  so that the audience can participate in creating involuntary movements for Stelarc. However the artist is reduced from a participant to an observer: He is at the disposal of others and can only observe what others are doing to him.

Stelarc and his robotic third arm, which Stelarc has retained control while he forfeits control over his own body. (Click on image for more info)

I find this decision a very simple yet complicated concept due to the complexity of human’s psychology, and it is what makes the work very captivating. He loses control of his own action and body while others inhabit it, giving it life and movements, or maybe even an identity.  Is is truly thrilling to be able to manipulate or control another person? This notion of subjecting oneself to others reminds me of Yoko Ono’s Cut piece in 1964 where she remained still as people cut up her clothes. I thus draw a parallel comparison as both Stelarc and Yoko Ono subject themselves to abuse from others, yet it is a very intense examination of how human connections can be, even over the third space.

Yoko Ono’s Cut piece (1964)

This same notion of losing control one’s self and having others reconstructing or manipulating their movements and identity becomes frightening in today’s context. An example would be cyberbullying, where users of social media can be forced out of the virtual identity they created by the amount of cruel criticism from the users of the internet. In the computer, a ping is simply a signal a computer send to another to determine a presence. Translate that to the real world and you have a ping becoming something like a destructive tumor, something that almost cannot be clamped down once it has spiraled out of control in the third space.  Our relationship with the third space is now ambiguous as our digital identity has become such intricately tied to our physical existence that teenagers are choosing to end their lives because of cyberbullying.

I believe Ping body is a very clear demonstration and reminder that the technology has already become one with us. Because we rely on the connection with one another on the third space, we are no longer individuals controlling the internet that we once invented, but we are now subjected to the connections and responses born from the connection from the third space we created.

Stelarc creates the interactive system and embodies himself with technology, however he is left at the disposal of the audience who are connected with him over the internet. Is this a parallel comparison with us nowadays? People construct their own identity online, yet there is only so much we can retain control: They are all subjected to users on the internet can easily crush them or empower them with criticism or support.

Please do check out Stelarc’s official site to see his other works that have made use of technology, such as exoskeleton and the Movatar.

Also, do check out Prakash’s writing at Scribbles of a Mind in Stasis for more information on Ping Body too!

Telematic dreaming

Telematic dreaming  presents an unique experience where audience can interact with the artist despite his physical absence. By implementing a live video conference with a projection onto a bed,  a third space is produced in the installation that connects people in 2 different locations together. In this case, 2 people lying on different beds are connected by the projection.  Judging from the fact that a third space connects people from different places together, a phone call and the video conferencing Skype is also a third space. But if this is the case, then how different is the third space in this installation?

Telematic Dreaming, Paul Sernon, 1992. Artist monitoring the audience’s response and reacting accordingly.

In the installation, the artist monitors the audience’s movement on the bed and interacts according to the audience’s responses. This is different from a video call or phone call where movements are less relevant to one another: The projection provides meaning by providing interactivity and superimposing, or simulating physical contact despite the absence of a physical body. I think this makes the audience become more aware of their actions  and examine what their actions can create while they are connected in the third space. It becomes thrilling for them to realize that they can affect people even though they are not together, as if they are really present on the same bed together. I think Voyeurism for both the artist and audience may also be a spur to making this installation highly interactive: It may have made people pay attention to details and subtle movements they otherwise will not notice when they are in the same space.

Telematic Dreaming, Paul Sernon, 1992.

What I find most interesting is the fact that the interaction involved in the installation allows the audience to experience and become a part of the third space. They themselves become the performers along with the artist and as such, the work can only be complete when there is another person lying on the bed along with the artist. Without any audience’s involvement, the work loses a portion of its meaning. Also, audience do not feel the other person through their sense of touch even though they are interacting with the artist. However, can they or do they actually feel emotions and excitement despite the physical absence? This is rather intriguing to me.

Therefore, I think that the third space in this installation not only try to connect people physically, but it also replicates the emotions and excitement that is still possible without the physical presence of one party. The audience cannot feel anything when there is suggestion of touch, yet it is the act and interaction that gave rise to emotions.

After seeing examining Telematic dreaming, I remember John Clang’s series “Being Together” that I’ve seen in National Museum last year. He reunited families who stay in different countries by connecting the two families together through a projection in Skype.

John Clang, “Being Together” 2013

I am intrigued by this work, and examination of Telematic dreaming have made me understand a little why I had like the work so much. By projecting people from 2 different places into one space, a third space created gains a touching sentiment as 2 families interact and try to take a family portrait. It also offers imagination and emotions for the people involved in both spaces.