While sitting inside a glass house, with the lights turned on against the darkness outside, all you see in the glass are reflections of yourself and the objects that surround you. This bright, brittle presentation of yourself, to yourself, creates an illusionary sense of privacy.
Viewed from the outside, from the apparent anonymity of the dark, the occupier’s privacy is displayed for all to see. Layers of reflection and transparency interweave multiple aspects of individuality so allowing for a constantly moving range of interpretation.
As a house, I provide a portrait of myself living in a digital world, aware that I share aspects of myself both actually and virtually. Each object presents an aspect of me but based on my digital, virtual presence this collection could be created remotely by data mining. The images are transparent because they not only inter-relate with each other but they also interfere with one another. For me, this is a challenge to the reductionist approach that is inherent in the analysis undertaken by data systems. We are more complex than that.
Houses have become increasingly transparent. Windows allow access to natural light and offer a view of the external world but those who are outside can also see into our internal world – our house.
Information technology, retail databases, government information, data mining, mobile technologies and social media offer a similar aspect. Our glass windows have become glass houses. What was once hidden and private is now on display and shared with others. This can suffer the distortions and reflections that can lead to the misinterpretation and manipulation that large quantities of data can expose.
The structure I developed, digitally, became a glass box within a glass box. Objects collected and contained within the structure can be readily identified as items bought and owned – all, I suspect, readily traceable through various retail databases.
Stored together in loose collections, each glass box shares an aspect of my personal interests and responsibilities, but each present to the digital information age a presence that forms a virtual, digital, self-portrait.
The brittle, drawn, doors represent the diminishing security of anonymity. Behind closed doors we may feel a sense of security with the collections of objects with which we have chosen to surround ourselves, however, access to the digital world takes many forms and shapes; some obvious and others more subtle. So ultimately security is represented in my work by little more than faint doors etched on the virtual glass walls.
Security and privacy is a fragile concept and we live in a period in which there is a movement away from any functional control. The security of a house is reduced by the sheer volume of data that flows in and out of the structure.
Recognising basic similarities between us as people with an interior and an exterior, there is a clear physical boundary between us and the external world – our skin. Houses also have an inside and an outside, an up and down. We often refer to the external walls as the skin of house.
I started to explore the metaphors associated with a house, a place in which we feel safe. The simplest structure is four walls and a roof with a controlled access point – a door. A house offers protection from the elements and from others who do not form part of our intimate social group.
However, we belong to part of a social group that behave and respond in similar ways – there are accepted patterns of behaviour. To what degree does the boundary between an individual and the surrounding community maintain the private self?
Doors on houses represent inward and outward communication that is controlled by the occupant of the house. Doors come in many forms, solid oak to curtains are all access control. Security comes from social convention rather than real, physical, security.
Visualise yourself as a house. Initially, you may think of houses you have lived in, the houses you shared with your parents and siblings. All say something about you and your background but not you as a house. What about the houses you have lived in as an adult – these say more about you and your personality but it is still not you as a house.
Houses I have lived in.
What if you could live in any house? Which house would you choose? What would it be like? Think about what your choice says about you. I would probably choose a house with few if any, external windows but there would be a light-filled internal courtyard. But still, I do not think this is me as a house.
What about the house as a metaphor for psychoanalysis? Why choose this route as this approach is a methodology to identify underlying neurosis? It is a way to approach things that you may be subconsciously aware of about yourself but of which you are not consciously aware. This could be a valid tool, but I felt this was not going to assist me in representing `me as a house’.
To describe `me as a house’, what I want to do is use our shared knowledge of houses as a vocabulary to describe me; to create a non-traditional portrait of a person in a digital age.