This week I decided to explore another persona: a zealous and enthusiastic rookie reporter who has her first assignment as a youth correspondent at NTU. I appropriated terms and vernacular that we often hear in news programmes such as announcing the current local time and moving between site and studio.
The video in the link is actually the second broadcast of the day. In the first broadcast, I was standing in an open walkway and approached people coming down the stairs and from the buildings behind. I realised that location matters in inviting participation as the people who were walking were less likely to stop and talk to me.
‘Programme viewers’ watching the live broadcast also commented on how the youth did not seem keen on being interviewed. After 3 unsuccessful attempts at engaging an interview, I maintained the context of a live programme and informed our viewers that we were unsuccessful and would try again in a few moments.
A few minutes later I tried a second broadcast but at an open area with tables. Since they were already seated, it was harder to refuse and thus easier to engage participants into the broadcast. To maintain continuity (for viewers who had seen the earlier broadcast) and to emphasise the ‘liveness’ of our mock news programme, I acknowledged the earlier difficulties in the conclusion.
JenniCam was a website which broadcasted the daily life of the eponymous Jennifer Ringley in her apartment using webcams. Every 15 minutes, viewers would see a snapshot of current happenings in Ringley’s apartment. The massively popular ’24/7′ site ran from 1996 to 2003, garnering millions of hits daily. Although Ringley has since gone off the internet grid, JenniCam is hailed as a pioneering internet performance project and phenomenon which sparked debates on privacy, surveillance, authenticity and exhibition.
Webcams: From Windows 95 to Physical Window
The webcam’s single camera static view distinguishes it from the finished, multi-camera style of television shows or the personal style of handheld video recordings. In JenniCam, the webcams showed Ringley’s apartment as it was for most of the day: empty as she left for work. The default absence intensifies the human presence, lending the images an almost theatric quality as Ringley (or her cats) entered the ‘set’. Described by Dixon as “digital theater”[i], in this way, JenniCam organically played with balance, contrast and anticipation, generating interest on a global scale.
“… webcam as a technology that above all provides a digital window into another real time and space, thereby conjoining the actual and the virtual.” — Steve Dixon, “Webcams: The Subversion of Surveillance” in ‘Digital Performance’ (2007)
Following Dixon’s analogy, JenniCam was plainly a window where Ringley did what everyone does — laundry, shower, sleep, sex, TV. Each image revealed the next episode in the narrative of real life.
The Appeal of Authenticity and Mundanity
“It was its serene unpretentious banality, its innocent and tedious ordinariness, which left JenniCam standing apart and which made it the idiosyncratically effective theatrical event it became…” — Steve Dixon, “Webcams: The Subversion of Surveillance” in ‘Digital Performance’ (2007)
JenniCam had a resonating normalness and mundanity that media outlets attempt to create today. Its appeal lies in the authenticity of the individual and daily life where itwas run by an (initially) unknown individual instead of a corporation or institution. Ringley also refused advertisements so the site remained as a simple window without imposing anything onto the viewer.
Furthermore, JenniCam did not separate the private and public spheres, baring both the mundane and intimate, as it was, to a global audience. Is it ironic that although technology has greatly improved since JenniCam’s days of low resolution interval images, and we can share snippets of life on-the-go, many online posts are now filtered, glamourised, and possibly less authentic?
You sit still in the Christmas Eve of ’99, staring at me at my desk. As the years roll by, this photograph has faded along with my memory of you. I scanned in a digital copy in hopes of preservation, but that does not apply to the archive in our minds.
I’m afraid I’ll forget how you used to make porridge. I’m afraid I’ll forget the sound of your singing voice. I’m afraid I’ll forget all your sayings and quips which I laughed at growing up. Like the increasing distortion of these glitched images, everyday I forget a bit of you, and hold on dearly to photographs that can’t compare to the smell of your powder and nightly stout.
This video walk leads the viewer around the familiar and routine school space. Along the way, they will encounter an unexpected spectacle of moving balloons which seem to appear from nowhere.
After a few hours of bicep curls, I pumped about 60 bright pink balloons and positioned them in 3 locations around basement 1, the lift lobby and outdoor shallow pool. This is a development of an initial idea which involved the addition of objects to alter the space. Instead of using static objects which the participant would walk around, I opted for balloons as they have an organic movement i.e. they float down slowly when released from a height. With force, balloons can also make dynamic and quick movements and
Documentation of video walk experience
(The documentation shows 2/3 locations featured in the video walk)
Original video participants’ view while going through the space
This weekend we visited teamLab’s ‘Future World’ exhibition at the ArtScience Museum. We were kindly guided by Takasu, a member of teamLab.
The ‘blackbox’ exhibition space has a linear structure; we walk through and view the different works in a planned sequence, starting from the floral room and ending at Crystal Universe. The exhibition almost mirrors an entire universe as visitors navigate through various environments (garden, city, ocean, space).
The floral room (comprising three works, ‘Flowers and People, Cannot be Controlled but Live Together’, ‘Ever Blossoming Life II’ and ‘Flutter of Butterflies Beyond Borders’) engages our senses on multiple levels— sight, sound, smell, climate etc.— to create an immersive space. The projections react to our presence and vary with the current climate. This is a thoughtful feature as galleries often seek to create a sense of ‘timelessness’ which disconnects the space from the outside environment. However, the changing flora and fauna makes the work feel like an extension of the real world.
The digitally rendered Universe of Water Particles recalls East Asian landscape paintings. The massive cascading waterfall has a strong sense of gravity and vertical dynamism as the water particles flow down. Its large scale makes us feel small in comparison and aptly captures man’s humility before nature and the elements. I like how the work incorporates Eastern aesthetics and retells classical subject matter like landscape painting.
Many of the works employ soundscapes to intensify our experience of the environment. In 100 Years Sea, the soundscape becomes more solemn and severe as water levels rise, submerging the islands. Similarly in Crystal Universe, sound is used to emphasise the movement of the lights as they rise and fall to form constellations. It also uses mirrors and repetition to mimic the effect of infinite space, lending an impactful ending to the exhibition.
Future World does not explicitly deal with divisive issues commonly discussed in contemporary art such as politics, gender or race. Instead, it highlights the importance of play through relatable topics which are common to everyone such as our way of living, transportation, nature and collaboration. Perhaps in our increasingly tense and divided world, we need some collaborative ludic play to let our opinions and intellects take a step back and let our senses come forward. The works are easy to appreciate, if not for the ideas and concepts they embody, then at least for their beauty as a visual spectacle. Spectacle isn’t a bad thing. TeamLab aims to make people happy and I think they succeed in doing so.
The lightbulb becomes the central focus of the dark space. The light it radiates can be thought of as forming a space in itself, apart from the darkness that surrounds it. The clear difference in size between the inner space and enveloping space has to be maintained to preserve the effect of being a ‘space in a space’.
In Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is Present, although not separated by any physical barriers like walls, the outer space is defined due to its size difference from the centre space and the crowd of people standing and watching from the edges. The lighting and centrality directs focus to Abramovic and the participant.
The repetition of lightbulbs on a gradual diagonal incline creates depth and perspective within the space, giving the illusion of the edge being deeper and further away. This space plays with both the linear direction and verical plane, and creates visual interest due to the suspension of elements. This is also at work in Cai Guo-Qiang’s Head On.
The lighbulbs will no longer be viewed as individual objects; instead they will form a blanket effect. The even repetition and distribution of a single element creates a dense uniform atmosphere.
The rounded entrance emphasises the round and cavernous interior. Visitors have to step over the low hedge made out of lightbulbs to enter the space, cleanly separating it from the outside. The tight small opening also restricts our vision of the space interior from the outside, creating a sense of mystery.
Furthermore, the all-over effect and the heat from the 1000 lightbulbs will create an immersive womb-like environment, suggesting an image of safety and gestation.
Please click here for my 2nd Facebook Live broadcast. This post has been updated to include more information about influencers and online celebrities in Singapore’s social media landscape.
Some post-broadcast thoughts
This week I wanted to experiment with performance, persona, parody, and the context of social media live streaming.
Social media influencers and online celebrity beauty and lifestyle bloggers have become ubiquitous on the Internet and pop culture landscape. In Singapore, influencers have a sizeable following on social media, especially Instagram. A large subset of influencers are good-looking young women who offer fashion inspiration, beauty advice and are sometimes ‘famous for being famous’. Companies often approach influencers for product sponsorship (marketing through individuals) which they will share with their followers. These online personalities typically build their following on multiple social media platforms and may have accompanying Youtube channels with videos like makeup tutorials, fashion hauls and Q&As.
Although there are multiple positive aspects of social media and influencers, it has been criticised as rather narcissistic and unhealthy especially for youth, if they are too invested in online fame and followers.
It was very intimidating yet refreshing to take on a persona totally different from myself and commit to it unabashedly and without breaking character. I approached strangers in the SMU campus with the absurd proposition of giving them my autograph and convincing them to become my fans.
As part of the performance, I appropriated online vernacular (e.g. #follow4follow and “subscribe to my channel”) and the way online personalities interact with their fans locally and remotely through live streaming and ‘vlogging’.
Compared to my first broadcast, the second had more views and responses. This is probably because the broadcast was humorous and relatable to users of social media. It was heartwarming and surprising to see comments and reactions from people I haven’t been in touch with for years.
Jodi.org is a web-based work by the art duo Jodi comprising Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans. Upon launching the site, users are immediately disoriented, unable to find an overall structure or familiar elements like ‘Menu’ or ‘About’ which we habitually use to navigate sites. Instead, the user encounters a chaotic mass of green on black ASCII code. From prior experience with the Internet, users will suspect that this is an error in the computerised system —
A New Aesthetic of Imperfection
Jodi.org deconstructs and draws to the surface lines of code usually hidden and obscured by designers. By stripping away the superficial appearance and revealing the workings of websites, code becomes the visual focus and content instead of a purely functional device.
“Find catharsis in disintegration, ruptures and cracks; manipulate, bend and break any medium towards the point where it becomes something new.” — Rosa Menkman, “Glitch Studies Manifesto” from “Glitch Moment(um)” (2011)
Embodying the spirit of glitch as articulated in Menkman’s Glitch Studies Manifesto[i], Heemskerk and Paesmans were pioneers of using code in a painterly way; they created an unexpected and beautiful disarray of elements by incorporating inevitable imperfections. Glitches, typically seen as erroneous, here
engender experimentation. Although not traditionally ‘aesthetic’, Jodi.org’s site deconstruction has created a new type of beauty and visual medium which has been assimilated into modern aesthetics.
Disrupting Flow & Subverting Expectations
The disruption of internet conventions subverts expectation and leads users to question the functionality of their browser. Has our computer malfunctioned and gone haywire? The work also unexpectedly downloads files and logs information such as current time and date, possibly making some users feel compromised and uncomfortable. As we typically have omnipotence over our browsing experience, this infringement of one’s privacy and browsing space makes users question the agency of their actions. Furthermore, each launch of Jodi.org brings the users to different websites, creating near-infinite variations of dynamic, non-linear narratives.
In this way, while fascinating and enthralling, the work is more than an aesthetic exercise and seeks to destabilise and deconstruct our understanding of the online medium.
I was slightly nervous during the broadcast, not unlike the feeling of going up on stage. The ‘live’ medium initially creates a sense of performance and self-consciousness but that will likely disappear after getting used to the medium. I was surprised and really felt the immediacy of the medium when my friends commented and reacted during my live broadcast.
This was my second time using Facebook Live, the first was a few days prior at my friend’s birthday party. In comparison with my second broadcast, the first came out more as a comedic personal home-video filled with chatter and giggles. I’ve realised that being a reporter is challenging as it requires us to be aware of our environment and the events unfolding before us. I find that it’s also slightly different from capturing personal memories. It can be personal but I do feel compelled to offer something to the audience; be it something interesting, humorous, informative or insightful. What do you guys think?
Paul Sermon‘s Telematic Dreaming (1992) is an interactive video installation connecting two separate locations via ISDN video conferencing. A double bed is set up in both spaces for participants to lie on and interact with each other remotely through video projection, cameras and monitors.
A New Reality and Way of Seeing
The work goes beyond bridging the local and remote, creating a new reality in the third space. Participants are only together in this third space, visible in the monitor or telepresent projected image. Although video-calling is now ubiquitous, Sermon’s work is groundbreaking for its time. It presents the co-creation of narrative and experience through remote interaction in a third space, which has become an integral aspect of today’s Internet.
“And from this ubiquitous state of shared presence we have come to inhabit an entirely new way of seeing via a fracturing of perception.” — Randall Packer, “The Third Space” (2014)
Similarly, Telematic Dreaming alters perception and reality through sensory replacement. As participants lie on the bed and encounter each other as telepresent images, the seeing eye replaces the feeling hand. The third space rejects conventional ideas of time and space, and engenders new modes of navigation, creating a synesthetic experience.
Allowances of the Third Space
The double bed has psychological and cultural associations as an intimate, private space. Sermon subverts this by bringing together strangers who readily share this space and test the limits of this new reality and relationship. Their interactions suggest that people are open to intimacy in the third space and even boldly seek it, perhaps because it is “a space of invention and possibility… where participants might assume their avatar identities”.[i]
Although the third space has become our reality and can bridge vast cultural and geographical chasms, it nonetheless begs the question: Is it enough? The common expression ‘the human touch’ typically refers to some intangible quality of care and emotion. However, could it be as simple as warm, damp, physical contact?
[i] Packer R. “The Third Space,” (2014) in Reportage from the Aesthetic Edge