Maximum you can touch me
APEAL's 'Museum in the Making' and Temporary. Art. Platform. present: The 2016 Ras Masqa Artists' Residency
The smartphone, as a sleek and seductive object, places a premium on surface manipulation, while keeping its user in ignorance of its underlying mechanisms. Its ubiquity and portability have turned it into an extremity that allows us to surpass and amplify our mental capabilities, to overcome the laws of physics, specifically those of time and space, and to boost our sense of control. Without it and the virtual connected world it catapults us into, I and many others, feel handicapped.
When the digital world hijacks our ancient reflexes to lock our attention, how do we frame the digital world as 'manipulator' and not as 'mediator'?
How do we navigate and respond to the virtual world within our tangible reality?
What happens to time and space when we tap in and out of the virtual realm?
Through my series of experiments, I confront our interdependent relationship with the smartphone and break down the wider research into tighter concerns.
HOLDHAND wax objects examine the tight grip mobile technology holds us in and the physical aspect of our dependence on it. The smartphone is kept close to the body not only because of increased efficiency and accessibility, but also because it has become a manual appendage without which we must face a feeling of discomfort and anxiety.
All Media 717, 2016
Video, mute, 4 mins 37 secs
In All Media 717 we are submerged into the hypnotic process of 'swiping', which creates a continuous stream from fragmented units of time, locations and visual data. The WhatsApp conversation happens between 31st December 2014 and current day, with one person based in Beirut and the other based in Dubai, but also traveling the world. The flowing images, a ribbon of their own photos, selfies, screenshots and images saved from the internet, hold no information other than the pixels they are made up of, thus disregarding authorship, date, location, narrative and context of the conversation within which they were inserted. All Media 717 mirrors the limitless plane of virtual time and space – abstract, non-linear and asynchronous – where the only order is the one we choose.
In Last seen, I explore how the audio notification and the game of anticipation warp the notion of time in a WhatsApp conversation as it happens. Stripped of the data exchanged, 'Last Seen' leaves us with nothing but the audio signifier that a transfer occurred and the live countdown awaiting the subsequent response. As the wordless and imageless conversation continues, we hear the high-pitched sounds repeat and watch time pile up upon itself, thus becoming aware of the act of chatting itself and how it removes and isolates us from the physical world.