Last Saturday, I did my first recording session with Double Reflection — a sculpture I made during a residency a few years ago at Anderson Ranch — in Dolores Park, San Francisco. The object itself is a human-sized sculpture with a two-way mirror and inside rests a camera which records what the artwork “sees” in portrait mode, capturing the scenery while people puzzle at its purpose in public space. The sculpture and resulting video will be on exhibition at an upcoming show, Keeping an Eye on Surveillance, at the Performing Arts Institute in San Francisco.
The reactions were amazing, capturing the gaze of curious passer-bys. Many guessed there was a camera inside. Others thought it was a “grooming station” and one person ventured that it was a solar cooker.
As I moved the sculpture to various sites in the park, I would sit on a blanket nearby, watching the interactions with a sly grin on my face. Was I making fun of people? Sort of, but more than anything, this was an experiment in sculpture performing in public space.
What has changed since I built the work in 2008 was that surveillance in pubic spaces such as a park no longer seems to bother most people. I explained that there was a camera inside to some folks. Did anyone care? Absolutely not. I attribute this to the naval-gazing culture of Facebook rather than the proliferation of CCTV cameras. People have become comfortable with their images being captured and reproduced by others in a surprisingly short amount of time. This strikes me as a beautiful media gesture, accepting ourselves for how we appear rather than cowering from it, and understanding that our image is beyond our control.
I will release the video soon, but will wait until after the show opens on September 10th, 2011, just before the 10th anniversary of 9/11.