Photography: Unsleeping

by Beauchamp Art

Unsleeping

Unsleeping - I

Unsleeping – I

Photos of a screen displaying [various] images of an individual watching a live feed of New York Times Square on their laptop, accompanied by a sound-track of the NY police radio being fed over the airwaves.

This scene may be re-enacted at a later date as a form of instillation using found A/V materials.

Times Square is a curious place to ponder the affects of human interaction with technology on a massive scale; not only due to the vast numbers of people passing through the space, but how benign the gargantuan screens displaying adverts for equally massive companies become. “A walk through Times Square reveals comforting instances of broken pixelation in the overwrought signage, points at which the overly commercialized space stumbles on its own complexity.” [Manon & Temkin, 2011] Pixels stand as tall as men on signs that dwarf their stature; and how easy it may be to turn one’s head to the ground any only see one foot passing in front of the other, looking up momentarily to swarm across a street with an innumerable infestation of pedestrians.

Unsleeping - VIII


Unsleeping – VIII

One could attempt to drown out the noise of the city with personal music playing through headphones; laying embers at the foot of a blaze; attempting to decipher familiar forms from within the chaos. This “constant aurality leading to a pervasive deafness” [Kahn, 1999: 201] may spread across all the senses; to a total numbness to all that is exterior, forming the basis for a phenomenology of isolation within a crowd. When thinking of such restless places and the populous therein, one must contemplate the notion of the “ethnology of solitude” [Augé, 1992] to that of the individual in the sea of humanity; a whisper in the social noise.

The figure observing this peculiarly everyday scene drifts in a pixilated non-space, absorbed by the banal spectacle (that I too was also participating in; before turning to document the event photographically). They may be seen as forlorn figure, taking comfort in the passing of strangers through a live web-feed, given sense of inclusion within an alien social environment. However, this is not a simulation, and they are not suspending their disbelief at the aesthetics of a virtual reality, but rather may be seen as meditating on the contrasting surroundings: a psychosomatic sojourn; not a virtual but a subjective reality.

Unsleeping - XII

Unsleeping – XII

I find a sense of true solitude is difficult to portray with figurative photography without resorting to self-portraiture; as there is always a potential dialogue between the camera-operator and the figure; but by re-photographing the images (at various scales) the subject becomes even more distanced from the presence of another being. The boldness of the pixels makes one realise that one is not even observing a picture of a person, but rather one perceives a mediated perspective.

It seems an existential practice to discuss the infinite regression of mediated media; there is a politics of intervened communications, and debates to be had about what is seen and why things are shown. Finding the original meaning, within an image, is an ambiguous affair. To paraphrase a certain cosmological argument; ‘It’s pixels all the way down.’

Unsleeping - IV

Unsleeping – IV

References:

  • Augé, Marc. (1992) Non-places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. Verso Books
  • Kahn, Douglas. (1999). Noise, Water Meat. MIT Press. New York.
  • Manon, Hugh S. & Temkin, Daniel. (2011) Notes on Glitch
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