Summary of my experience: Earlier, in deciding the placement of the camera, I placed it with careful curation: an area where exposure was limited, and I had complete control over the video frame contents. I anticipated that I would be having viewers, and curated the video contents to hint, rather than explicitly show, what I was doing in real time.
‘While webcams always appear to be casually and innocently positioned, “their field of vision is carefully considered, and behaviour within that field cannot help but anticipate the looming presence of the global viewer.” ‘ – Steve Dixon in “Webcams: The subversion of Surveillance” (2007)
To a certain extent, it was a constrained performance, but at the same time, the contents were not. It was a typical view of what I usually do, banging the keys as I dish out essays after essays. The lines between private and the public have been blurred, as they enter my private space, yet ineffectually through my constructed broadcast.
Another pertinent point which Dixon brought up was rather interesting, that the unrevealed (a la invisible) in fact brings up the visible.
‘Unrevealed offstage action is a standard theatrical narrative device… Similarly, the long periods of time watching empty rooms with no characters within the Jennicam set… presented an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of patterns where, like a Beckett play, like an Eliot stanza, people “come and go”.’ – Steve Dixon in “Webcams: The subversion of Surveillance” (2007)
Through my accidental disappearances in the video – despite it not being intentional nor very much prolonged – along with the restrictive video framing, brought up a second narrative: where did she go, what is she doing now – gone to the toilet or hiding from the camera?
In Life Sharing(2000), Eva and Franco Mattes, an New York-based artist duo, critiques the landscape of privacy and ownership on the internet. By exposing their personal computer to the world wide network, they reveal their digital identities intentionally, turning it into an artwork. Ironically, they opt to hide their true identities, by providing contradictory information about themselves, accentuated by their obscure domain of http://0100101110101101.org.
In his text Webcams: The subversion of Surveillance, Steve Dixon claims that the digital recording devices are separated into two paradigms: one, surveillance, voyeurism, but also two, openness, sharing and freedom of expression.
“While CCTV surveillance is commonly covert and broadly concerned with policing, the webcam is characterised by a generally opposite impulse towards openness, sharing, and freedom of expression.” – Dixon. S, in Webcams: The subversion of Surveillance (2007)
The Mattes duo forcibly combined both models in Life Sharing, creating their own version of the open, inviting Big Brother.
The term ‘abstract pornography’ nicely summarises the essence of this artwork: a calculated spectacle, it reveals enticingly, yet wantonly. More distinctively, it gives off a pleasurable vibe and allures; why do we watch it? Pleasure gained from its novelty, of voyeuristic exhibition, or of knowing that the viewer have knowledge over the artists? However, it is noteworthy that viewership remains passive, as viewers are unable to edit the files. Ownership by the Mattes duo is somewhat retained, ironically solidifying the notion that the original artist still operates from an authoritative standpoint, despite its resemblance to the Open Souce Community.
A Privatised Exposure File Sharing remains an unorthodox experiment in the artistic landscape, where other artists toil to preserve their Intellectual Property. Instead, the Mattes duo purposefully revealed their art studio, discrediting this policy; privacy is non-existent, and instead a shared trust between viewer and artist is established. On the contrary, as they selectively revealed solely their digital identities – hiding their bodied physical self – they inadvertently impeached a more intimate level of exposure. Private thoughts, and the personal(ised) usage of the computer usually hidden to others are now flaunted in the digital arena.
Summary Life Sharing is undeniably an iconic figure in contending the open source community and its related concerns of privacy and ownership. It reveals what we already know – privacy is no longer a solid, fool-proof concept. Interestingly, like bees to flowers, people are drawn towards connecting with others in real time, perhaps in part of their human nature of desiring friendships, or of transposing real life connection into the digitised world. The gradual loss of connections in the public arena of the digital world has resulted in a more desperate attempt for users to connect with another, be it through friendly or perceived ‘unfriendly’ ways.
“The desire to connect to others in real time may be driven by a response to the ‘loss’ of the public realm” – Dixon. S, in Webcams: The subversion of Surveillance (2007)
The Pirate Cinema (2012) by Nicolas Maigret is an installation artwork featuring 3 screens, visualising how peer to peer data transfer in real time by using BitTorrent protocols. A collage of top 100 most popular transferred files are played across the 3 screens for a few seconds, including a brief flash of a partial IP address and location. Today, the artwork can be viewed online.
How it was created Built on a data inception software, The Pirate Cinema automatically scans the most viewed torrents. The intercepted data is immediately projected onto the screen, and discarded after. Torrents scanned originates throughout the world.
In recent years, the availability of peer to peer sharing towards millions of internet users has heralded a new form of piracy, inadvertently changing the way how cinema is experienced. By exposing the ‘internal workings of media'[i], Maigret makes visible the limitations of peer to peer sharing with his immersive sensory and audio installation. Concurrently, he also highlights the possibilities of peer to peer sharing for being part of the aesthetic experience.
Relationship with the Third Space Network The Pirate Cinema‘s foundations were built upon the third space, despite itself not being part of the medium, but rather, and extrusion of it. It becomes a visualisation of this abstract space, an amalgamation of the efforts of the collective user network engaged in torrenting (unknowingly). Akin to the 1970s and 1980s video collectives such as Videofreex and TVTV, which attempted to mobilise people to make their own medium rather than being passive consumers of a centrally constructed broadcast programming[i], The Pirate Cinema hosts the ordinary consumer (of networked data) into the role of the changed broadcast programming.
They attempted to democratize the media by facilitating people-to-people communication… activating the production of media around a proliferation of local issues expressed by a range of marginalized communities.
– Randall Packer, author of Third Space Network (2016)
Hence, the marginalised, passive consumers are able to break down the hierarchy in media information corporate structure, even-ing the grounds for communication. In fact, they are altered:
It is a living art, exploiting contemporary forms of digital and physical networks as a mode of open praxis…
– Marc Garett, co-director and co-founder of Internet art collectives and communities in Third Space Network
In fact, its existence as a living art can further contribute to the diversity of the artwork – with its ability to constantly rejuvenating itself based on the whims of the collective community, and free against the rules of the broadcast programming.
Ironically, despite of what it seeks to contravene, The Pirate Cinema‘s delivery emulates the centrally broadcast programming in the top down broadcasting to passive viewers. While its content might be drawn upon from the third space, its narrates its information through a screen – similarly, to passive viewers of the installation. Nevertheless, it remains a pivotal artwork in addressing the abstract realm of the third space, underlining the greater possibilities of the third space as an artistic platform and network.
How might the open source system of sharing and collective narrative be a creative inspiration and useful approach for your work as an artist or designer?
The open source system was created in part to subvert the limitations presented by intellectual property legal rights, and the construction of a collective platform for the sharing and compilation of knowledge. As an artist in the making, this open source system of sharing allows me to reference other artworks of both more established artists and my common peers, and be able to understand and pace myself as an individual against the common ground. Art is interpreted on different measures of understanding; the strength of the open source system as a platform to gather artists and thus different opinions and thinking styles, if utilised effectively, can be a resounding force to help artists, or specifically, me, to gather public opinion, and sought critiques which I believe is an essential process in honing oneself as an artist.
On a similar note, while the benefits of Open Source system is definitely admirable, one cannot help but to wonder if there are certain downsides to it. Open source projects which have currently been realised include Blender, Processing, and FastPokeMaps.se. FastPokeMaps however, met an unfortunate downfall when main developer Waryas allowed access to the code for a privileged few, but the code got leaked, and the project was ultimately stopped as a result. As a budding creator, while the open source system is helpful, I feel the need to be wary about the artwork/information I put up on the collaborative platform. Ultimately, this may defeat the purpose of the open; perhaps what we need is a synthesis of both safeguards, and responsible usage. For the starting artist though, the open source system will definitely be a good starting point for her.