Clandestine – Final Video

After countless time spent exporting and rendering, my final video is now complete.

Having footage about the upcoming election displayed next to the recording of a user internet shopping is meant to show how internet users are constantly flicking between topics and are easily distracted from one to another in the overflow of imagery and information.

I have tried really hard to have the audio cues hit at the same time as the video transitions, this links the soundscape and visuals really well. It means that the audience can envision and anticipate a change. Content wise I have tried to mix up the boring with the lively and exciting. The video is constantly jumping between loud and quiet and the visuals go from being in-your-face to giving you a breather. Overall I think this piece is quite exhausting to watch, its not something you would stand back and watch passively, it demands your full attention and every time you watch the loop I think you notice something different.

When this video plays on loop on my mac screen it transitions perfectly from end back to the beginning. I know however this is not the case when looping on the TV screens but this is something that is unavoidable. The TV screens have a pause in between and although this makes the actual length of the piece more obvious, I think the face pace of the video is more important to focus on.

Overall, I am satisfied with the final output of this project. I know if I where to have it installed differently, on a larger scale then I would be over the moon with it. But as for this presentation – it will have to do.

 

Final Project Proposal

 

Working title: Clandestine

Topic / Treatment & Audience

Clandestine means to keep secret or to be done secretively, especially because illicit. This is the idea that I want to employ as I present ‘stolen’ private moments from internet users in the public realm.

The idea behind the project is to expose how easy it is to hack and track people online. I will do this by hacking into remote webcam locations by sending out a virus for people to download.  A friend of mine is able to write this code for me legally as I have previously run into ethical issues surrounding this. I originally had hoped to hack into random, unsuspecting individuals cameras but I quickly learnt that this was illegal. However, if the user was aware of my intention and willingly downloaded the virus then this fit into legal territory.  Although they where aware of the project taking place they wouldn’t necessarily know as and when I was recording.  This way of capturing the subjects means that the projects doesn’t become performative, something I want to avoid.

The purpose of this is that I want to show the audience that there is a feedback loop created by the rise of ‘selfie culture’. Making oneself a product of common knowledge has its repercussions. I plan to do this by including footage recorded from social media and snapchat, and make the presentation of this seem quite seedy and unwelcome, much like the webcam videos.

The collective of people that I am aiming Clandestine at is definitely digital natives. People that have grown up with the internet and sometimes fail to see the flaws contained in living an electrified life. As we have grown up with these digital devices we don’t realise how much information they contain about us. Our phones that we cannot live without also double as a location tracking device. Our email accounts expose our social circles to the providers and whoever else they choose to sell that information to. Our social media bio’s let any mutual friends know where we live, work, study and our current relationship status as well as many other things that we would not want to fall into the wrong hands.

Sure, the access to all sorts of information at our fingertips makes life a lot more convenient but I believe that people my age don’t fully understand what they’re signing themselves up for by accepting cookies and having open public profiles. I want Clandestine to make the audience feel uncomfortable by feeling like they’re also being watched, not just watching.

I intentionally want the topic of voyeurism present throughout. Having explicit content presented will add to the unease of the viewer as I imagine most people may feel uncomfortable viewing porn in a public space.

For the final installation of the work, I had envisioned having each of the web cam footage videos projected at a large scale against surrounding walls so the viewer is encapsulated in the middle, watching and being watched from all angles. Unfortunately this isn’t possible for the Unwritten show but if I where to have installed in this way, with the audio from the footage playing from all angles, I don’t think that the other videos, such as screen recordings and viral clips, would’ve been as necessary. I think the scale and experience would’ve been uncomfortable enough for the viewer to stand in. Although I would’ve still wanted extra kinds of filler footage to break up the banality of watching people type.

For the actual installation I will have to scale down the piece quite drastically. I only have the facility to display my work on 22” screens and although this is slightly annoying I’d rather know sooner rather than later what medium I am working with.

I want surveillance to be present in the installation of the work as well as being the topic. There will be a camera positioned high above the display screen that will live feed to another monitor placed on the wall behind the front. The idea behind this is that the viewer may or may not realise they’re being watched and even if they think they are, it will be hard to verify this as they wont be able to see if there is anyone the other side of the wall.  Also, having the second screen on the back wall means that the viewer will probably have watched the whole video before they walk around the corner and realise the set up.

Skills and Resource Requirements 

I am heavily relying on the participation of others for this project to be successful. I realise that it is an extremely odd thing to ask to watch someone through their webcam and most people will feel uncomfortable at granting me access. I think communication is going to be key here. I am going to let the participants verify all the footage I use and in what context I am using it for their own comfort in participating.

Research-wise, access to photobooks with similar visual concepts are priceless. I envision the project to look a very particular way but this is subject to change.

Another major element to the requirements of this project is editing skills. I am self taught in Adobe Premiere Pro and can navigate the software to get the result I want but adding extras and filters is not something I am overly confident in. In the past I have found watching YouTube tutorials fairly helpful in getting the aesthetic I want.

For the installation I will need to figure out how I can live stream to the second TV. I am fairly sure this is possible with a HDMI cable but then there is the obstacle of how to keep the cameras battery constant otherwise I will have to continually climb up and down a ladder changing this.

Two TV screens are needed for installation as well as a memory stick containing my media files.

Objectives and Outcomes

By the end of this project I hope to have created and presented a well articulated, but confronting installation piece that instills fear and doubt about what it means to live in the digital world, into the audiences mind. I want the presentation of my final piece to make the audience feel uncomfortable at the thought of being watched but I also want the video piece to distract from the fact that they actually are.

I personally want to be wiser on how to live more privately online and want to be able to share this knowledge with my peers as it is a topic I am passionate about. I think having the degree show as a platform to show my interest will definitely be the start of a discussion. I intend to do quite an informal talk during our public programme and would like to open the topic up for discussion with the audience.  Seeing their opinion on the topic but also getting their feedback on any fears they have while surfing the web, and seeing if I am able to help with any of these.

I will judge the success of the body of work by the audiences reaction. I have kept the piece fairly short intentionally as to keep it within the average internet users attention span so they do watch the whole piece. I will have it playing on loop so there is not one start and end point for them to join at. Feedback I have had on the piece so far from my peers has been positive. I have also had an interview about the work featured in #photography magazine’s online blog so there has been a social media focus to spread the word.

Timetable 

This timetable is broken down in to very distilled notes from each individual week of this project. A full timeline can be seen on my blog visualisingtech.wordpress.com

Tuesday 10 January – Start of new module. Start to consider new ideas. Build on ideals from previous exploration but don’t rely on these too heavily – this idea was exhausted and reached its full potential.

Tuesday 17th January – Artist talks from D.Wiafe and Briony Campell. Although I appreciated both these artists talents and works I didn’t relate to them much. Interesting to hear about different photography careers and their journeys.

Tutorial with Brodie Standen – talking about viral videos and how to dissect one of these. Can there be a formula to these? Think about the pace and speed of social media.

Tuesday 24th January – Brodie artist talk. Tutorial with Gemma. Steer away from viral videos, again. Think about social political implications of the pace of social media. reality star as president?! Decide where to anchor this work. What is my impulse to share? Think about my focus rather than how this is being presented visually.

Tuesday 31st January – Workshop at uni. Wrote first draft of project proposal (see blog).  Told again to move away from viral videos and move to surveillance. PLAN AHEAD have everything ready 2 weeks before deadline 9th MAY. Starting to question the viewer as part of the installation. Reflective. Feed the audience back on itself.

Tuesday 7th February- Tutorial with Matt. Talk about taking portraits of relevant people to surveillance. Don’t particularly want to go into portraiture or still imagery, moving portraits? consider this. Consider google image search. Think about surveillance through university.

Tuesday 14th February- stop thinking about end result and start experimenting with smaller projects along the way. Look at Watched exhibition. Ordered the book of this as couldn’t afford trip to Berlin.

Tuesday 21st February – One week before first formative feedback and I am still in the very early brainstorming stage. Need to get act together. Research Susan Schillupi.

Tuesday 28th February – First formative feedback. Presenting footage from CCTV cameras around the world. Kind of boring. Reconsider what I am trying to say with my piece. Get my head in the game. (Also, research paper stress hitting all time highs and being very distracting from this module.)

Tuesday 7th March – Didn’t attend uni this day as it was my Nan’s birthday, travelled to Liverpool to visit. Spent the week ignoring all uni responsibility as formative feedback left me deflated and uninspired.

Tuesday 14th March – Start again with the smaller surveillance experiments, stop thinking about final production. But still, steer away from making naff and obvious work. Speak to Adnan about dark web and see if this inspires.

Tuesday 21st March- Illegal ideas. Tutorial with Gem to work through this. Password protection. Really carefully consider the next move. Merry Alpern research. Is there a placebo effect to telling someone you’re surveilling them? How would you judge the effect of this?

Tuesday 28th March – Second formative feedback. Suggested reading – Ryan Trecartin. Question the filters added to current videos – divided opinion in the class about colour and black and white. Getting to a better place but still feeling rather uninspired.

Tuesday 4th April- Last tutorial before Easter break. If the unethical stuff isn’t working start to experiment with performative pieces. Watch Timecode (film). Think more about post-internet art – gifs. Take images at random intervals over the next few days.

Tuesday 2nd May – Made myself sick with stress about presenting for final formative feedback. Could’ve done with the cohorts opinion but wasn’t happy with the project myself, wasn’t happy to share.

Tuesday 9th May – Tutorial with Gem. Finally feel like I am getting on to the right track with my piece. Take away unnecessary extras. Add to webcam footage but don’t allow this to run for too long – gets boring.

Tuesday 16th May- INSTALLATION WEEK. Although I had planned to be finished the week prior to this, I know I am always a last minute Larry and am still working on my piece. Allow for time for this to develop but understand all the daytime will be filled with work at Fargo.

Tuesday 23rd May – FINAL SUBMISSION 10.30am AT FARGO. Dread this day.

Revisiting my Artist Statement and Critical Rationale

As it stands, my artist statement does still loosely fit with the way my project has developed. This is because for the catalogue submission it was fairly broad around my topic idea.

“The project Clandestine exposes the uncomfortable reality of how easy it is to hack and track people online.  Elle Heaps’ strong skepticism towards the world-wide web shows through the post internet, CCTV style aesthetic and uncomfortable atmosphere created when viewing. The work addresses the everyday internet user and leads them to question their own privacy settings and what it means to live an electrified life. Presenting these seemingly private moments in the public realm shows the blurring boundaries between the private and public in the 21st century, as privacy is now thought of less as solitude and more the right to control our identity and information.”

Although this is still quite a broad statement I think it sums up the project quite nicely, in the sense that it gives the viewer all the information they need to read the work in their own way. It doesn’t impose an opinion on them.

I want to add in a sentence about voyeurism and maybe steer away from the hacking and tracking and focus more on watching.

“The project Clandestine exposes the uncomfortable reality of the digital surveillant state we live in.  Elle Heaps addresses the topic of voyeurism in a post-internet context and presents her strong skepticism towards the world-wide web, through the CCTV style aesthetic. The viewers feeling of being watched as they’re in turn watching creates an uncomfortable atmosphere when viewing. The work speaks to the everyday internet user and leads them to question their own privacy settings and what it means to live an electrified life. Presenting these seemingly private moments in the public realm shows the blurring boundaries between the private and public in the 21st century, as privacy is now thought of less as solitude and more the right to control our identity and information.”

Continue reading “Revisiting my Artist Statement and Critical Rationale”

Over Edited Footage?

Since looking at the work of Francesca Woodman when I have been editing my final video I have kind of been looking at it in a different light. I am really questioning the added filters to the webcam footage. Does it really need to be black and white with the text element in the top corners?

Would the project work better if the other footage (screen recordings / viral videos) had these filters added? I think the simple answer to that is no, this would definitely be over kill. But now I am wondering if these web cam recordings without filters are strong enough to portray the message I am trying to get across…Who is watching you?

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Comparing the original with the edited does make me prefer the edited when looking at them next to each other, but I don’t think there is any way of knowing if this is better or not unless I edit the whole video to be in colour.

Now that I have seen the project edited in this way, I definitely don’t think that having the clips different sizes works. Also, the screen recordings don’t work as each of the video clips don’t sync together well. I tried to have cell phone footage up when the user was on their phone but even still this doesn’t look right. I think even if I had the exact footage this wouldn’t be that shocking. Not that shock is the intention but I do want to make the viewer uncomfortable.

As for the colour, I am not convinced about that either. The black and white filtered footage gives the impression that the user doesn’t know they’re being watched as the footage seems quite seedy.

So no to colour but yes to the structured grid.

Ideal and Actual Installation

In an ideal world, I would have loved to have presented Clandestine in a very similar way to my last project Division. 

This was presented through projectors in a studio setting. Parts of this installation can be seen below in the video and images.

 

I tried to book out the equipment out of the university loan shop however, as this week has been degree show installation week, I was unable to access any projectors.

I can envision having each of the web cam footage videos displayed large scale against surrounding walls so the viewer is encapsulated in the middle, watching and being watched from all angles. If I where to have installed in this way, with the audio from the footage playing from all angles, I don’t think that the other videos, such as screen recordings and viral clips, would’ve been necessary. I think the scale and experience would’ve been uncomfortable enough for the viewer to stand in. Especially if there where more participants so each wall was consistently changing.

For my actual installation I am having my video presented on a 22″ tv screen. Although this is a smaller scale than I would like, its is the best I could get in the degree show. Perhaps the part I am most excited about is that I am including a surveillance element still. The viewer of the work will be able to be viewed and they won’t necessarily know that they are.

I am doing this by having my video playing on the front side of the wall, with a camera recording this space from above, and live feeding this to another TV screen on the back. This is with the intention that the viewer will watch the video upon arrival at the exhibition and then when they’ve moved on around the space, they will only realise once they have lapped the whole way around that they where earlier being recorded as they see the feed on the back.

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By using a go pro at the top of the wall, the camera is small enough to be less noticeable and I am hoping that when the video is playing, the viewer will be more distracted by that, rather than looking above them. Even if they do notice the camera, they won’t necessarily realise that the footage is being fed directly the other side of the wall.

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Having the camera record from above is intentional to mirror that of a CCTV camera. Aesthetically, I want to leave the display information on screen too as this compliments the added filters on the webcam footage.

Having now installed my tv screens on the wall, I realise that if I present some of the clips quite small the detail may get lost, especially if the viewer stands a fair distance away.

Having the viewer of the work being viewed is paramount to my message with this project. I am very much reminded of Foucault’s panopticon with the thought that the viewer on the front side might be aware of the camera and that they’re being watched but they won’t definitely know that there is someone behind the wall. There could be no one watching. However, once the camera has been noticed they may shift their behaviour to act accordingly. Will they refrain from saying what they really think of the work because they might think that I (the artist) will have a record of their reaction? To me, this is a really interesting concept.

More Experiments With Video Footage

The above video shows further experimentation with editing footage. Here I have started to include clips from youtube and screen recordings from social media. This kind of footage is to promote the idea that this kind of watching that I am presenting can is happening in more ways than one.

Im not convinced that the grid layout of the footage is working; a lot of the time the corners are not lining up in the middle or there has been a gap around the edges. This is something that is easily fixable by just going over the project with a fine tooth comb and spending time perfecting. However, I wonder if this this meticulous process would add anything to the message of the work. I think maybe obscuring parts of the video more could frustrate the viewer as they are trying to watch these internet users but can’t quite get the full frame.

The above video is an attempt at distorting the footage that was presented in a very linear way earlier. Although Im not happy with the content of this video I think it is a step in the right direction, going back to having the videos play at different at different scales and positions will be more like you don’t know where to look. I think having the full screen covered is going to be the natural progression from this experimentation.

In this next video I really like the shots where the webcam surveillance fills the full frame. Although continually looking at this is going to become extremely boring. Im at a cross roads as to what I want to do with this footage next.

I also don’t think that this sequencing is at its final point either, some clips just don’t work that well together. I aim to make the final piece around 2 minutes 42 seconds as this is the average time of an internet video watched. I plan to have this on a loop in the installation because I know that the viewers won’t be entering and leaving at the beginning and end so I want it to be a continuous display, also this represents that the watching is continuous online.

Explicit Content – In Two Minds

I’ve been really in two minds about including the pornography clips in my project. My initial concern was that it made me feel a bit uncomfortable as an artist to put my name next to this. Especially for my friends and family to see at the Unwritten exhibition. Its definitely not something you would expect from me knowing me from outside my art practice.

This unease for me personally came when I played my video during the installation today as when the nude scenes appeared on screen it was greeted with laughing, squealing and pointing. If this is the response from fellow artists then I dread to think what less critical thinkers response would be.

I have always intended for Clandestine to be an comfortable piece to watch but never a humorous one. This worries me so close to the deadline that I maybe relied on this explicit element to be the sole focus of unease. Because I feel uncomfortable putting my name to this piece, I just assumed that would be the general consensus to the viewer too.

I still stand by my previous opinion that these things work but I think I just need to reconsider my approach to including the footage.

I have experimented with just including the audio and having the webcam footage play alongside this.

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This would mean the webcam footage filled the frame over the top of this. An idea I quite like as it lets the viewers imagination decide what the viewer is watching and what the heavy breathing and moaning is.

Also, when watching CCTV footage there isn’t usually a high volume of noise so I had planned to keep my soundscape relatively simple.

An example of this experimentation can be seen below.

 

Francesca Woodman

Francesca Woodman is not an artist I have paid particular attention to through my study of photography, although I have always been familiar with the name. Looking visually at her work it reminds me a lot of Merry Alpern’s.

In particular I have been looking at the book ‘Francesca Woodman: On Being an Angel’. The book consists of black and white photographs taken by the artist during the 1970’s. Thematically, the work is focused on the naked female body, surrealism, symbolism and distortion.

The artist explores her own mental state through self portraiture; often her body appears blurred through movement and the use of slow shutter speeds. These images appear harrowing when you hear about the life the artist lived. Killing herself at the very young age of 22.

Through her images Woodman seems very aware of her surroundings that she photographs herself in. She knows how to navigate herself into spaces in front of the lens to appear as part of the furniture, or reflecting her ideas of fragility of her body into these inanimate items.

When thinking of her work in the context of surveillance and voyeurism, I question her desire to document herself is such a vulnerable way. No one can understand another persons anxieties but through her images we can get a feel for hers. The distortion of her body in the images makes her look like a ghost, seemingly like she embraced and welcomed death.

I have gone off on a slight tangent here but her work inspires me to look at my own project in a different light. I think it shows that I maybe don’t need to be so direct with what I am saying. I always try to create these in-your-face, noisy, scary pieces but her photographs allow their own narrative to be determined.

 

Video Experimentation

This next experimentation video shows the starting process of including other elements next to the webcam users. I think elements of this work, having the footage broken up rather than constantly filling the frame gives the footage space to breathe but yet disrupts the banality of simply watching someone type.

Surprisingly to me, I actually think the pornography clips work well. Voyeurism isn’t something I had particularly considered including but it seems to be the one added element to the webcam videos that adds to the uncomfortable feeling of making private moments public.

Watching and being watched is the central concept to this work; although I personally feel rather uncomfortable editing and presenting this work, I know that the work will not be as effective without it. In order to make the audience feel uncomfortable, I guess the artist has to feel a sense of that too. Voyeurism and surveillance both question who is looking at who and introduces ideas around power and pleasure.

Surveillance is typically thought of as evidence of incriminating behaviour from a distance. This is no longer the case in the 21st century. Social media accommodates a type of possessive individualism and allows for a public platform for personal surveillance. This type of self promotion is exactly that, promotion. Instagram shows the best, and somewhat fabricated, parts of its users lives. Most internet users only post the highlights of their lives, boasting to their followers of how great their lives are but most of the time this isn’t the case behind the scenes.

I think this is something I need to keep in mind when continuing with my editing process. I think social media needs to be included more and there needs to be more of a fabricated story line.

Yes, at the moment it looks like internet users have been hacked and they may be watching porn but I still don’t think this has been pushed to the extreme. I need to think about how I can make this video much more uncomfortable and shocking.

Are any of the candidates suffering from health issues? Could I include internet searches of them looking for help? Could it be mental health issues? Is there a fatal end to one of them?

I know that these story lines are fabricated but that doesn’t mean that the audience has to. I want to make them believe and have genuine concern for themselves and the privacy of the users.

 

PREMIERE PRO ISSUES!!!!!!!!!!!

I just have to write a heavily exclamated post about my annoyance at Premiere Pro.

I understand I am working with very large audio/visual files but THE PROGRAMME SHOULD NOT CRASH EVERY TIME I AM WORKING ON IT.

I have just lost over two hours work on my final film and there is no automatic back up system.

I AM PISSED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok, back to normal programming.