Michael Chernoff

Media Artist + Researcher

You Can(t) See Me Now! (2020) Web Performance

During the fall and winter of 2020 I started working with web video in P5.js and digitally generating pulse waves with theArduino Nano IoT 33. The messiness of drawn video pixels in the Javascript library and the ability to initiate codeed events with serial data inspired a vision of someone sitting in a room with their back to the door, monitoring the space over CCTV. When a distant figure enters and comes closer the surveilance monitor is scrambled not allowing the viewer so glued to the screen that they will not turn in time to meet this stranger.

Medium: Macbook, p5.js, local HTML, Zoom,
Sony HandyCam, SD WebCam, Tripod, Arduino, Piezo Speaker, UltraSonic Sensor, CRT Monitor,
BNC Distribution Amp, Composite Video Cable

Due to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic I chose instead to make the viewer in the room everyone by doing a real-time web performance broadcasted to Zoom.
As the sole performer, coder, and installer I successfully interfaced the closedness of analog video and with online digital video surveilance whose source image is interupted by an unseen psycho-signal from a character who see’s and dislikes the surveilance camera in the hall. The visual results of the performance were screen grabbed as a video file.

You Can(t) See Me! immediate surface reads as a rebellion against mass surveilance by glitching the unfixed nature of video imagery. Beneath however is that technoliges sample and inform by way of analog means. The Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) comically shows just one space. The CRT itself is being surveiled by a webcam which is picking up the interfaces image output and subject. The MatBotix sensor emits serial data when an on coming object alters it frequncy but rather than sample the numerical data stream sin waves are emitted. As the frequency increases so the audio pitch which is picked up by an internal computer microphone which jitters the drawing of video feed pixels shown in HTML. 

Due to the projects minimalist and intermedial nature what we get is blending of video art and tech history. The monochrome space of a white washed hall and archaic TV harken to 1970’s artwork by the likes of Bruce Nauman. The space of the openness of the room is skewed into a hallway due to the framing of the camcorder, television, webcam, and online graphical representation. The differential closed and open circuitry of video is one analog and the other digital. That the analog equates to state surveilance while the webcam is popularly used to surveil the self, both transmitting data to other parties. Machines communicating through one another blurs if the subject is the imaged person who acknowledges the distant other directly or if its the machines themselves that are the subjects. The reality is that outside of television video has always served as total field of surveilance and that the increasing windows of video cameras on computing devices is nothing new. Just like the traditional CCTV apparatus people by and large accept surveilance as given of modern living.

But if we recognize the long standing usage of video surveilance how can we interupt its hold on us? I believe the first step is for everyone to acknowledge these facts and not be passive objects but involved subjects in video signal which is always on and never off. 

2020 Progressive Documentation on Arena DMS 550 Prof Mark Shepard