It would be impossible to know exactly how many images of us really exist in the world; how many photos and videos of us have been taken, how many captured moments we have produced. How many fractured, low resolution pixelated bits of data we have been instrumental in. How many bursts of time we have unwillingly marked, minding our own business, doing what it is we do, going about our daily lives, unseen, unheard.
Data collection comes in many forms but probably the most obvious are those inescapable cameras which are forever present all around us. They can be found on top of poles, on the façades of buildings, attached to the bus, perched atop of architectural architraves, nestled between columns, balancing in a nook, almost everywhere imaginable. While some are visible, exposed by their outer skins, some are far more deceptive, their identities concealed, blending in with the architecture, acting nonchalantly like there could be no possible use to their purpose. But, regardless of their attributes, the one thing they all have in common is a voracious appetite to record whatever comes within its angle of view.
An absent photographer capturing everything that moves, everything it is asked to track. Its solitary independence excludes no one. It is not biased, it performs its job flawlessly, every second, every minute, day-in and day-out. Every frame a Sontag fracture or a Manovich photoset. An automated recording machine where no one is present to 'take the photo', to release the shutter or to activate that moment of capture. It is a non-existent documenter, gathering information, converting movement and presence into pixel-oriented mappings, aggregated visualisation clusters, or multi-dense pixel dimension, grouping them according to their values, encrypting the granular low resolution pixel into patterns, information, data, knowledge. Assembling the digital to reveal an exploited image; an image which Harun Farocki would describe as “a picture of abstract existence.”
Walk into any supermarket, retail store or institution today and you can watch yourself caught on the screen as you enter. And as you watch, you can see yourself exit the screen as you walk past. The camera, never panning, anchors its focal plane to a transitional space, its gaze fixed, in a similar fashion to a scene from a Hitchcock movie, where the camera lens binds itself to a ‘stage’ as the actor intervenes in the static gaze. A scene which was once devoid of life soon becomes activated by the physicality of a human presence, of motion cutting across the plane of the screen. In a strange way this type of intervention forces the viewer to take on the roll of the camera, a voyeur, or a ‘flaneur’ occupying a fixed point of view but grazing the pixelated screen waiting for some movement to occur, for some sort of intervention to activate its interest. Waiting for a pixel to transform from one colour value to another as motion is defined by the subtle alterations of hue, off and on. A pixel that glimmers like the microbial dance of life in a petri dish being watched by the microscope.
And as you leave the supermarket rarely do you see yourself exit. The screen ignores you as you are no longer relevant, you have done your job, you can go now, your image no longer needed. But in a warped time spatial confluence, even though you have left the store you still remain there, captured, embedded in some machine, in some backroom office, destined to an archive and hopefully, eventually, to some server side software application which has been coded to write a stream of meaningless pseudorandom data over you. Eventually. Hopefully.
[Image] Still from Notorious (1946) directed by Alfred Hitchcock.