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You Are Under surveillance
Di-Egy Fest 0.1 Conference 2013 CR13 International Research Conference In The Series Of Consciousness Reframed: Art And Consciousness In The Post- Biological Era
The influences of communication technology on the concept of privacy and it’s reflection on New Media-Art
By Sameh AL Tawil, independent Media Artist and art critic, specializing in Media art. He is a graduate of ADBK Munich, Germany, Master study in Media Art Histories in Donau university, in Krems, Austria
From the aroma of time and up till now, the issue of penetrating public privacy preoccupy human in general, and the governments in particular, having the desire to know what is going on in people’s minds and controlling on the ways of transferring information that belongs to them and to the others around them. In the presence of the desire to achieve the initiative, the governments encouraged the specialized companies to develop sound means of transport and a means for transferring pictures and videos in the real time. That leads to accelerating mechanisms excellence in transferring information technology in unprecedented way, and what follows from successive inventions such as : telephones, televisions, access to personal computers, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS technologies, and other fixed and mobile means of personal communication which paved the way gradually for breaking through privacy, which allowed it’s tools and sources for the society as a piece of cake. So that a newspaper published an article in 1967 entitled
(1) George Orwell,the English writer,has clearly stated in his novel “1984” written in 1949 that the prominent sense of individualism which is controlled by a fear of a dystopian future from a totalitarian regime that is prohibiting and watching closely any act or manifestations of privacy, not only that but also controlling and manipulating the amount and type of information received through imposing a total restrain over both private and mass media,
(2) Florian Henckel,the director and the author,also expressed clearly in his German Oscar-winning film for 2007 “the lives of others” which is produced in 2006 where it’s events are set in EAST BERLIN in 1984, five years before the Glasnost and the fall of the Berlin Wall and before unifying German, under the rule of the so-called (GDR) Germany Democratic Republic where an agent of the secret police is assigned to conduct surveillance on a playwright and his mistress, ultimately paid to change his convictions and sympathizes with them after his indulgence in their intimate life.
Despite this, writers and authors could not expect that an era may come where people publish their private information by themselves, not only that but also organizing, dating, and supporting them with different applications and promoting them in an unprecedented way, all these by the encouragement of the available resources to them such as : the communicating devices, personal computers, and the available internet networks, and many ways for social networking sites which serving them with a digital archive containing billions of pictures, videos, and sounds that reveal everything co-ordinates on earth and under the midst of the ocean.
In this new context, public users of these technologies became the content producers and the writers of their biographies which are documented with pictures, videos, audios, and co-ordinates in the real time.
Publishing these up-dated data works on obstructing secrecy and changing the concept of privacy where the most accurate personal data is published to all the inhabitants of earth by the same person himself.
(3) Borrowing the term introduced by the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, we can affirm that intimacy has turned into extimacy.
something secret or reserved, to be projected in every direction
by means of channels within reach of the entire planet.
extimacy manifests itself in a variety of ways, as much in the publication of the private as in the transgression of the distances which we normally establish in our personal relations, or the dramatization of our own egos.
Numerous Art works adopted the Extimacy concept and employed the modern technologies and applications to illustrate our new personalities under the name of “public figure” – as a metaphor –
One of the most important techniques is the Global Positioning System (GPS), which reveals the possibility of mapping the entire world from a privileged position of a satellite or from street level, has become reality through the applications Google Maps, Street View, Bing Maps, Foursquare, Etc… .
That a private company assumes for itself the right to save images of public spaces and retain copyright over them has provoked intense debate.
What about the privacy of passersby,landowners, real estate and the population of the planet in general?
4) The Italian artist Carlo Zanni have expressed that in his artistic work “Self-Portrait with a dog” in 2008; This project has started when Carlo decided to record the sequence of his trip with his dog on one of Milan’s street by capturing different shoots using “Google street view” application, then he decided to transform the invasion of his privacy into an affirmation of his presence, as if he was sending a full report to the whole world telling it about his whereabouts and his location. Then he converted these photos into an artistic work which unable any person who visits the website to track Carlo and wander in the exact same place as the artist also give him the ability to maximize any detail he wants in an interactive way. Afterwards he hired a Chinese company to convert three of these shots into a huge oil painting, as if the artist decides to give up his control on his artistic work by himself as he gives up his social privacy by himself.
By doing that the artist sends us a strong message asserting how what is private changed into public:
” none of us enjoys privacy even on the simplest personal matters”
The continuous quarrel between privacy and Globalization or between the individual and the world and the immense flow of data exchange and its effect on the social relations and changing the concept of private and general and the meaning of what is close or strange and the idea of sharing our life with others has inspired many artistic work. For instance;
(5) The egyptian artistMohamed Shoukry and his Video work “the bed room” in 2002; Shoukry has presented a film about a girl in her bed room in a Downtown public screen, in this video the girl proceeds with her everyday’s normal life as she tends to write sometimes or tidy her room or even lies down on her bed without giving any consideration to the camera as if the film is a tape on a surveillance Camera.
The artist here has presented the idea of Extimacy using the girl’s bed room as an important symbol of privacy in the eastern-Islamic society.
(6) Also Gregory Kantunsky‘s “world state” in 2008
In this work also the girl’s bed room is used as a symbol of high privacy. As the girl appears lonely in her room and at the bottom of the TV the CNN news bar presents updated news. Also in this video the girl sometimes appears to be very sick, and sometimes her condition gets worse, or even gets better. It seems that her health condition changes in accordance with the change happening in the global events, as these changes keep going forever.
Kantunsky here wants to say that every barriers of privacy is removed and that public matters have become a private affair. To the extent that what is happening in any spot of the entire world could trouble a lone girl in her bed room and control her psychological and physical condition. This asserts the concept of Extimacy we face nowadays.
(7) In his essay “the Ecstasy of Communication” positions: east asia cultures critique 9.2 (2001) 401-422 the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard referred to what he considered the end of privacy and excessive vicinity and Transparency which invade people’s personal life without any hinders ,also ask is this absolute vicinity, is a good thing or not ?
Moreover, Jean Baudrillard states that we are in an era of “connections, contact, contiguity, feedback, and generalized interface that goes with the universe of communication.”
(8) The end of privacy is blatantly shows in Annie Sprinkle‘s recent performance piece “Post-Post Porn Modernist Still in Search of the Ultimate Sexual Experience,” Sprinkle talks about her life as a former porn star and ex-prostitute. The show’s topic is sex, which Sprinkle “understands as her hobby, politics, spiritual experience, expertise, main subject matter . . . and the key to her great health and happiness” (Program note, Theatre Oobleck, October 1991).
The performance is visually graphic: Sprinkle urinates and douches on stages, invites the spectator to look at her cervix, performs a “bosom ballet,” and introduces sex toys for the fulfillment of various sexual desires. In a series of loosely linked segments, her narration moves through the different stages in her life and reveals its changes, both in job and attitude. To complement her stories, Sprinkle uses
sets of slides; for instance, the “pornstistics”, showing an image of the Empire State Building as a sexual symbol” or a diagram that reveals in percentages her reasons for becoming a sex worker.
(9) ” Corps étranger ” or ” Strange body ” (1994) is another work by Mona Hatoum‘s – a Palestinian born in Lebanon artist who now lives and works in London and Berlin. Much of her work is very centered on the body and she has used her own body to create works.
I really love Corps étranger (1994) This installation made use of endoscopy – a medical procedure that uses an endoscope, a camera, to investigate the insides of the body.
Corps étranger takes us on a journey of the surface and innards of the body. Corps étranger‘s installation is a large, white cylindrical structure that the viewer can enter. Inside the structure are the video projections. This installation plays with notions of exteriority and interiority through the video the viewer can watch and also the experience of moving in and out of the installation.
(10) This concept and inquiry is clearly stated in Rafael Lozano“Pulse Index” in 2010
The artist in this piece puts a contraption that records the finger prints and reads the heartbeat ratio and presents them instantly on the walls forming a Mosaic of these fingers and vital information, enabling to view and store them, and even modify their size in an excessive way.
This categorically asserts the idea of vicinity from others surroundings and the lack of ego concept as a result of this closeness.
(11) Another classical work of Paul Sermon named “Telemetic Dream” in 1992 refers to the same point.
In this compiled work the artist has installed two cameras in a two separate rooms in each own there is a bed, then he presented each bed separately on the viewers allowing them to share the bed with somebody else without physical interaction between them that give the chance to visual contact and converts the idea of sensory contact to hypothetical one, it let’s us “touch with sight” Sermon said. The use of bed as a symbol espouses the meaning of privacy as a mean of contact, the lack of privacy as opposite to it, and this is what we experience in our lives recently through the internet and visual means of communication.
(12) From the same point, the egyptian artist Sameh Al Tawil through his interactive-video installation project “meeting” in 2004, he presented a video of a half naked man lying vertically-projected on an actual bed, his video plays just as one of the inspectors sit on the empty chair beside the bed . Then the video-man begins to spontaneously start the conversation with the person sitting next to him as if they are old friends, shouts at his face as if his a brut enemy sometimes or ignore him, or starts to sing for him among many other personal things that any one do to any person close to him. Sameh here wants to illustrate a model of privacy which became public; he also wants to put the viewers in the exact frame of those who break into others privacy, aiming to convert the concept of physical communication to hypothetical contact with all religious and psychological insights this genre carries.
All these artistic creations, especially since the outbreak of the Digital-Revolution early twentieth century; assert the issue that troubles humanity everywhere which is the issue of erasing identity and breaking into the privacy surroundings of others that never stop fading away and melting by the absence of identity and the world of digital Extimacy.
Enjoy your privacy because it is going to disappear soon
(4) Carlo Zanni, Selfportrait with Dog.
(5) Mohamed Shoukry’s Bedroom, http://mohamedshoukry.com/portfolio/bedroom
(6) Grégory Chatonsky, World State.
(7) Jean Baudrillard, “The Ecstasy of Communication”, in: Hal Foster (ed.).
The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture. Seattle,Washington: Bay Press
(9) The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader By Amelia Jones
(10) Rafael Lozano, http://www.lozano-hemmer.com pulse_index.php>
(11) Paul Sermon, http://creativetechnology.salford.ac.uk/paulsermon/dream
(12) Sameh Al Tawil’s Meeting, http://126.96.36.199/~hiveadco/samehaltawil/portfolio/meeting/
by Artist Sameh Al Tawil