Tall Glass of Shame: We Are Public
The name Josh Harris doesn’t ring a bell to many people, yet he may just be the most important person in the creation of the internet as we know it today. Josh is an internet pioneer, technology wizard, artist and potentially a power hungry surveillance addict. In his hands technology is both art and terrorism.
In the early 90′s Josh Harris was part of the new young talented group fiercely pushing forward the technology of the day in what became known as Silicon Alley. He foresaw a future where billions of people would be logging on to share pages and stream video, all from their personal computers. He saw great opportunities for advertising personalized to each viewer based upon their visiting habits which just recently has become the norm. Almost every prediction he saw for the future of technology has come true.
His enthusiasm for video technology sparked his artistic side early on and led him to create some of the most involved art experiments utilizing human behavior as their media. To Josh, his fascination lies within the blurry lines of reality, surveillance, performance and reaction. He created the Psuedo.com television network, which launched him into the public eye even further and laid the groundwork financially and technologically for what he was to create next.
WE LIVE IN PUBLIC is an incredible documentary exploring this man’s rise and fall in the world of business and art. It documents the creation of his piece “Quiet: We Live In Public” where he created 150 subterranean surveillance bunkers in NYC just before new years day of 2000. He interviewed each person who became part of the “Experiment” as he called it and they were each assigned a bunker to inhabit for the duration of the piece. All aspects of life in the bunker were recorded from showering, to eating, to using the bathroom. He wanted all aspects of human behavior to be laid out before our eyes. The destruction of societal norms is fascinating to watch, and after each “interrogation session” the sanity of the group appears to decay a bit more.
We Live in Public:The Official Trailer
The film won the Grand Jury Prize at The Sundance Film Festival in 2009. It is interesting to see the fallout from each of his “experiments” and it brings about the question, who is watching? What people out there are taking in all of his content and being so involved as “watchers” in his social experiments? In this next video we see one “watcher” reaction when he is confronted at a Q&A he is giving after a screening of the film. Where does reality begin and end for the viewer? Is Josh right, are our minds slowly being absorbed into these machines to the point where our understanding of what is real becomes warped? Do we let the content dictate our actions and emotions like he says we do?
Josh Harris’ has a new project he is pitching called Wired City. He says he was very influenced by the movie The Truman Show and wants to take it all a step further. Is this eerily similar to Quiet but on a larger scale?
These experiments of his seem fascinating in their creation of a realistic terrarium of sorts, but there is another aspect that hits me the wrong way. There seems to be an almost psychotic aspect to his fascination with taking away power from his subjects and creating a kind of fascist state. His visions of the future are frightening but I must say I see it all as a distinct possibility down the line.
In a more playful tone here are the Surveillance Camera Players: 1984 They are extending the definition of performance and multimedia, on a small and intimate scale.
Also in the realm of art and surveillance, here is a quick little look at a great art piece I encountered at Burning Man 2008 called: Checkpoint Dreamyourtopia. This piece was so much fun to interact with, taking interrogation to bizarre new level. It was at once being playful, but also examining the issues of immigration and who really owns your soul.