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.
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.
We constantly create incidental portraits of ourselves, images left in our environment and in the memories of others. Life is a series of self-presentation, and each presentation helps to develop a 3-dimensional sense of an individual.
Yet individuals are much more than 3-dimensional. They move through time, through different doors to different contexts, to changing expectations, and it is in this that we present the complexity, the multiplicity, of self.
The crenelations of our mind hold memories that present and re-present changing recollections of ourselves. Thoughts flow and doors impose a structure on our access to what is there, to what was there, and to the possibilities of what might lie beyond.
Participant observation is the only option for a self-portrait and the subsequent risk of loss of objectivity has to be considered. Using multiple images and considering multiple perspectives has the potential to address elements of the question of objectivity.
Is a sense of discomfort when considering elements of your presented self indicative of good observation? The process of learning about yourself can often be uncomfortable. In this work, I seek the uncanny valleys, those uncomfortable places, boundaries that question the nature of reality. Ultimately any presentation is a presentation of what you see and any value is in what others see.
Gaps in walls controlled by doors.
Safe place illusions.