- deeply significant invisibility -
One of the most dynamic – and most invisible – roles of the artist in human culture is that of being a “watcher,” that is, one who’s tasked to make accurate observations on the state of things – from now, on into the past, the future, and the possible – and bring honest reports back, both to the culture at large, and to themselves.
In John Sturgeon’s 2013 video piece, touch & avoidance, which he made using an iPhone, he’s depicting a rapid flow of 21st-century Londoners on London’s “tube,” its subway/metro system, and – signally – so many of the passengers are in another world.
Composed of surreptitious recordings while traveling the London Underground, the video’s focus is on the way Londoners ritually use the array of electronic and digital communications media to connect but also to protect by simultaneously disengaging from the intensity of modern urban life. The ubiquitous “smart” technologies immediately pulled out in the public space of the Tube signals unavailability and affirm disconnectedness, yet concurrently offer unprecedented virtual connectivity even the potential of global community.
And this world is as real as the physical world – only it’s physically invisible. It’s the world of information – news, specific data, music, communications – and most of all, obviously, a form of shared awareness, however privately and individually functionalized – and however radically dissociated its users are from each other, in real space and time.
Excerpts from: James Mahoney’s “Watchers” 2013