Scene & Unseen The first time I heard the term ‘voyeur’ was at the age of 15 (2005) when Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho called Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger a voyeur - “a person who likes to watch other people”. The assertion Mourinho made was not strictly accurate, voyeurism is a term which carries a negative stigma and for good reason; a voyeur is a person who enjoys sexual gratification from watching another person, normally in a state of undress, from a secret vantage point. At the time I had found Mourinho’s criticism of Wenger amusing, but thought little more of the term ‘voyeur’ until my final year at university. For my final major project on my Graphic Design degree, I decided to
build an installation based upon the themes of: Identity, surveillance and voyeurism. The project was successful, however, I committed so much time to building the 6-foot tall eyesore of an installation (made of trick mirrors, TVs and secret cameras) that I was unable to expand my research and look at technology and it’s influence on voyeurism in the digital age. This magazine questions whether technology has made us any more narcissistic and selfconscious than we already were. Perhaps greater selfawareness will make us more realistic and rational? What does the future of digital identity really hold for us all and one day, will it be the only identity that matters?
Aaron Carline Scene & Unseen Creator
Scene & Unseen - Identity Gender Roles - Digital Gaze Technologic - Digital Reflection
The availability of sexual and/or violent imagery is more prevalent now than ever before, due to social media and a culture of internet sharing. Whereas decades ago, mass viewable video footage was almost exclusively the preserve of television and cinema; now the internet allows unscrupulous footage to be: uploaded, consumed and rated almost instantaneously. In cases such as the Arab Spring revolutions, this has often provided a startlingly raw and ‘propaganda free’ version of events that would otherwise likely have been swept under the carpet. Despite this cultural advance, the lines between explicit and ‘safe’ content are increasingly becoming blurred.Youtube, a true bastion of voyeurism in nearly all forms, has everything from ‘Barney the Dinosaur’ (played to enhance psychological torture at Guantanamo Bay) to the barbaric murder of Colonel Gaddafi (captured by onlookers on their mobile phones) - both instances merely a couple of clicks away. For my final major project film at university, the tone of imagery was juxtaposed between lighthearted and dark, with increasingly fast cuts and sped up video to disorientate the viewer; a nod to the overwhelming amount of visual content being shared though digital media each second. The film is designed to hold the viewers attention with it’s graphic scenery, attempting to show how captivated we are by illicit and titilating imagery. As the imagery flashes from scene to scene, as though switching channels; the viewer is completely unaware that he or she is in fact being captured on a hidden cctv camera and is the unassuming star of the show on the installation’s reverse television. 7
The final installation was partially inspired by the omnipresent ‘Monolith’ from the Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey. I nicknamed it the ‘Voyeurtron’ to make it a little less menacing, yet it’s goal was still the same. The installation was exhibited at the 2013 New Designers exhibition and the way people interacted with it was very telling. The first thing that drew people to the installation, was the sight of their own reflection, the mirror on the front was convex and gave a completely unrealistic projection of people’s self-image (it made them look bigger). Female viewers were typically more conscious of the image being reflected back at them, than the film being played before their eyes. There was an exception, a male student from a nearby stand, frequently, almost obsessively, looked at his reflection close-up to check how he looked, unwittingly looking directly into the camera live streaming his face on the opposite side of the installation. I never did tell him, he probably would have felt rather embarrassed.The hidden camera footage was not saved or uploaded anywhere, firstly because there was no budget left to buy a digital recorder, but secondly, because the ethics of it troubled me a little.When doing field research for the project and taking photographs of strangers in public, even though what I was doing was perfectly legal, it still felt ethically wrong to use someone’s image for my own gain, albeit a non-financial gain. People’s own image and identity are quite literally the most personal things they possess; it is little wonder that the papparazzi are so universally loathed by celebrities and the general public alike. 22
Click the image to view the installation film.
“Perhaps all is not as it seems”
The late cultural theorist Stuart Hall often spoke of identity as being an ever-evolving entity rather than a finished product. One hundred years ago, to be described as â€˜Britishâ€™ would carry certain expectations; being British meant being of either Anglo-Saxon or Celtic ancestry and identity was largely determined by the class and status your family held. In the past century the world has become a far more open place: affordable air travel, globalisation and the internet have made access to a wealth of cultures and ideas accessible to the masses. In the developed world at least, the pursuit of: knowledge, variety and a new identity is no longer the preserve of the wealthy elite.
When you consider the most celebrated artists throughout history, the majority of them will have undergone numerous style and identity overhauls during their careers. Pablo Picasso, one of the most famous examples, continually re-evaluated himself and his approach to the point that he became synonymous with reinvention; the identity he expressed through his art, was in constant transition. Perhaps the most pertinent example though, are The Beatles. The band typify the 1960s and modern identity reinvention better than anyone else; in what is widely considered the first decade where popular culture and ‘celebrity’ truly became consumed en-masse, they were the torch bearers. The Beatles appropriated the the exotic culture of India and foreign sounds into their image and music; this constant reinvention set the precedent for pop culture’s insatiable appetite for new trends and arguably made them the original hipsters. Television enabled them to see through the looking glass at what the masses thought
of them. Previously, the most visible celebrities had been Hollywood stars portraying characters on film, in cinemas; when The Beatles released ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ in 1967, they abandoned their preconceived real identites and decided to portray themselves, as characters. The cover art, created by Pop artist Sir Peter Blake, positioned the band amongst their contemporaries and many other prominent historical figures. Wax models of the band in their previous guises appear in black and white next to the luminous ‘new’ Beatles; this was both an acknowledgement and exploitation of their celebrity identities realised anew for globalised mass consumption. The next self-titled album’s artwork was created by Pop artist, Sir Richard Hamilton. The blank, white artwork was adorned with a serial number, suggesting it was as much product as artwork. Pop art reimagined commercial products as art; perhaps this also means normal people can reimagine themselves as celebrities too?
There was a time when people wanted to become famous through possessing a skill, talent or achievement; now the line between celebrity identity and public image is so blurred, that people just want to become ‘famous’. Before television and the digital age, the only ‘normal’ people who became famous without achieving anything desirable, were serial-killers. Since the somewhat ironic ‘reality television’ show ‘Big Brother’ became a worldwide phenomenon at the turn of the twenty-first century, you no longer need to have any real discernible talent to become a household name, hell, you don’t even have to be particularly interesting. The show made watching people and the desire to be watched, mainstream. Pop art’s most famous son, Andy Warhol, once supposedly quipped “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” - whether he actually said it or not is irrelevant, the point rings true today. Everyone wants to taste success and feel validated, we emulate the appealing characteristics
and traits of celebrities that we feel best suit our own desired self-image. At birth we effectively start as a blank sheet; every thought, emotion and experience thereafter is like a dash of paint or imagery layered on our conscious canvas. We become an everevolving, walking, talking, collage of identities. In fact, throughout our lives it’s impossible to stay the same; we experience such a wealth of information and interaction on a daily basis, that to stay the same would mean maintaining the same state of mind, permanently. Even our dreams at night subconsciously shape our conscious identity. The best you could hope for in attempting to stay the same is becoming a pastiche of your past-self. The exception to this rule are people who suffer deteriorative illnesses such as Alzheimers; where tragically their experiences are stripped from their canvas, leaving holes which leave the bigger picture and conscious identity, incomplete. Ultimately, we are who we are not; however, we can present a favourable ideal of ourselves, to other people...
Plato’s philosophical blueprint for creating a perfect society, ‘The Republic’ ponders a moral dilemma in it’s tale of ‘The Ring of Gyges’. The ring provides it’s wearer invisibility and leads us to question, would invisible people be moral if there were no repercussions for their actions? Invisibility is impossible, however, we can manipulate how people perceive us. Our identities must be perceived positively to progress through life feeling admired and validated by our peers, acting in an endearing manner to look good may actually be more
important than truly being good. Celebrities frequently attend charitable functions and clearly benefit from being associated with a good cause. True altruistic celebrities who donate to charity, by definition, remain anonymous. There are undoubtedly celebrities who make public donations to charity, just because it makes them look good. The gesture may be morally empty, but it is a full-proof way of boosting your public persona. It’s even easier to manufacture a flattering digital identity. Whereas in real life, it’s difficult to quantify how popular an
individual is, social media is specifically tailored to do just that. Once you reach a certain level of social media notoriety, people will ‘follow’ and ‘friend’ you because, well, everyone else has. Social media helps us to numerically measure how popular we are by the number of followers and friends we have; in the real world friends are desirable, online they’re an achievement. A digital identity also has the added benefit of being quality controllable, in real life you may lead quite a monotonous existence, online you can pick and choose your personal highlights to
portray the idealised version of yourself. We market ourselves like products, Facebook’s users are considered to be it’s core asset. Our identities are not quite as black and white as we would like to think. Science has recently discovered that we respond to emojis in much the same way we would a real human expression. With our digital identities it seems we just wear our most aspirational and desirable mask for our audience, in the hope that they admire and appreciate our idealised digital existence. It’s the closest most of us will get to being true celebrities.
Mairzy doats & dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey; A kiddley divey too, wooden shoe?
Mares eat oats & does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy; A kid’ll eat ivy too, wouldn’t you?
nce upon a time, I spent a friday night out dressed as a ‘woman’ in central London. For a university project in which we were tasked with diving into a new experience, preferably outside of our comfort zone, I naïvely thought spending a night attempting to be a convincing woman would be a breeze. The superficial things were a piece of cake. I wore a wig, my then girlfriend did my make-up and plucked my eyebrows, before I wore a dress in the hopes that I would nonchalantly blend in with all the real women out that night. Even though I am a skinny, fairly androgynous looking guy, there were certain tell-tale giveaways that had to be concealed, like my upper arms and my adam’s apple. To add another dimension to the night out, I was meeting my best friend and his then girlfriend, neither of whom knew I would be dressed as a woman.
Before heading out, I had felt fairly comfortable and assured that the night ahead would be a little strange, but pretty straight forward. Stepping outside, I discovered otherwise. My footsteps were about as elegant as an elephant on a tightrope; a man clearly doing a clichéd impression of how he imagined women walked. Silently standing
still, I could probably pass as a woman, my body language and cadence were unmistakenly masculine when walking and this made me extremely anxious about being caught out as a man dressed as a woman. One of the rules I set myself for the night, was that I had to stay ‘in character’, unless someone explicitly asked me why I 52
was dressed as a woman. This meant that with every passing stranger and passenger on the tube, I was so self-conscious about being perceived as someone I was not and not being able to justify my true identity, that I felt nauseous. In hindsight, my nervous body language probably made me far more conspicuous than if I had just relaxed. It’s hard to imagine just how difficult it must be for transgender people who do genuinely suffer stigma, for what is their true identity. We rarely notice the idiosyncracies of things like spots or other blemishes on other people; we are far more concerned with our own perceived shortcomings. I cannot remember a single occassion where I ever thought, “wow, look at the spot on my friend’s face”; yet, I could easily recollect the last few occasions when there have been miniscule things about myself that I disliked. On the tube and during the walk to the nearby bar after leaving Oxford Circus, I became pretty aware that my girlfriend was overtly being checked-out by passing guys, in a way that I had never noticed when
we were publicly together previously. It certainly made me feel immasculated, even more so when I realised they were ogling both of us. As we arrived at the bar i remember feeling less anxious, but feeling pissed off at how letcherous the ogling men had been. I imagined how satisfying it would be to tell them they were attracted to a man and see the disdainful looks on their faces. My friend and his girlfriend were already at a table drinking when we arrived at the bar; my best friend of seven years did not recognise me. He later told me he had thought my girlfriend brought a female friend and that I was running late. It was impossible to keep a straight face and as I burst out laughing the look of bemusement on my friends face was almost surreal. Eventually he worked up the courage to ask why I was dressed as a woman; after some very understandably confused consideration, he later confessed that he had not wanted to offend me in case this was “the new me” which was genuinely quite considerate and thoughtful in a bromance sort of way. After a few drinks the dynamic between
the four of us became bizarrely normal. Laughing and joking, I completely forgot I was supposed to be someone else and by default, was myself, with a different appearance. Our aesthetic identities are not as important as we believe and if we can forget our self-consciousness, maybe we can enjoy our lives a whole lot more? For the
rest of the night I was able to laugh at my own pathetic attempts to speak with a higher pitched voice to bar staff and shrugged off being called a ‘faggot’ by some ‘LADS’. The biggest revelation of the night though, was my shock upon visiting the women’s toilets (with my then girlfriend) to find they really are so much nicer than the men’s toilets.
Digital Gaze Women gaze at men too. Women, however, are traditionally conditioned to court and tolerate the attention of men; whilst men are traditionally expected to openly pursue women. You are far more likely to see revealing imagery of women online, than of men. It would be misleading to suggest that women are any more confident or narcissistic than men, it is just centuries of cultural conditioning and the status-quo at play. It is how things have always been and will continue to be. It does seem as though women are unsurprisingly, far more frequently the subject of voyeurism than men. It could be coincidence, but this could explain why the laws on voyeurism exclusively use ‘he’ rather than ‘he/she’ when talking about the alleged voyeur. The greater inclination for men to gaze at women seems likely to be down to a number of factors; media of any degree of sexual content is normally targeted at men. A man’s justification of ‘viewing’ a woman may be that he is entitled to as women are objects
of heterosexual male desire. This patriarchal standpoint is reinforced by the fact that the majority of pornography is of ‘available’ women, to be enjoyed and fantasised over by men. The female beauty industry dictates that women appear physically ‘desirable’ and ‘beautiful’ in order to feel validated in their appearance. Whether the woman actually feels validated, is of little consequence to the male voyeur and his ‘male gaze’. The voyeuristic cycle is a selfperpetuating one. Female Narcissism is an interesting facet of the ‘male gaze’ argument. It could perhaps be argued that some women, captivated by their own image, covet the attention of voyeurs as further validation of their own beauty. However, if true, this could potentially be another dimension of the ‘male gaze’ at play. Surely if the women being viewed are secure in their own beauty, then any male justification should be inconsequential? Perhaps John Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing’ put it best, affirming “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at”.
Social media has helped to level the playing field of digital voyeurism. Whilst there is an imbalance in the quantity of undressed female imagery, compared to that of men, women have far more scope to be active voyeurs and adopt a ‘female gaze’ than they would typically be able to in the real world. Sexuality is also an interesting dimension of the digital gaze. In day-to-day life, it is normally difficult to ascertain someone’s sexuality; online, people’s profile biographies and their recent user history give far more clues as to a person’s orientation, often explicitly stating whether they are “interested in men and/or women”. Social media has turned voyeurism and borderline stalking into a passive leisure activity, much like progressing through a videogame unlocks achievements or levels, social media has it’s rewards too. Newcomers to the scene, such as: Instagram, Snapchat and Tinder in particular, cut out the pretense of ‘personality’ and cut straight to the imagery. Tinder is effectively a superficial game of ‘hot or not’, swiping left or right to discard or ‘like’ a person. Yet, it was never designed to be anything other than a lighthearted way to find out how attractive you are to the wider world, then make you feel validated when you are matched with someone. The curiosity of wanting to understand and enhance our own digital and social standing keeps us coming back again for more. It’s addictive looking at you, looking at me, looking at everyone.
TECH? NO. LOGIC! It is common knowledge that in central London, you are likely to be captured on CCTV roughly 300 times per day. Despite the omnipresent nature of surveillance in the capital and people’s indifference regarding CCTV; the recordings taken are often used and recorded for unknown purposes. People are typically more uncomfortable when an individual is pointing a camera at them, than the faceless and therefore identity-less surveillance cameras turning their way. People’s own conscientiousness often leads them to fear the worst of a photographer’s intentions; whereas we often have a perception of a photographer using his photography for his own personal gain or pleasure - we assume that surveillance plays a more necessary security orientated role. At it’s worst, surveillance is merely considered a necessary evil of modern life. Surveillance is far more sinister in essence than that of an individual’s work, as it’s intended purpose is far less transparent and increasingly less static. Buildings and vehicles are not the only places we have surveillance, now it is in the skies above us. 61
Surveillance imagery was once finite, in that it was analog and recorded onto tape; now surveillance has almost limitless potential. Video can be wirelessly uploaded to a ‘cloud’ storage system, meaning there is effectively never a need to ‘switch off’. With exponential memory increase and smaller recording gadgetry, far more of our daily lives look set to be catalogued. It was not all that long ago that cameras in mobile phones seemed like a novelty; companies are installing cameras inside everything from helmets to clocks now. With Google’s ‘Google Glass’ (a set of glasses with a built in camera) documenting everything you do throughout your day, updating your lens with a live stream of social media updates and wirelessly saving your footage to a cloud; it does make you question, why would you want to wear it? One episode of Charlie Brooker’s dystopian TV series ‘Black Mirror’ looks at a future world where we obsess over every intricate detail of our lives, analysing every moment that we would otherwise normally forget. Needless to say, there is no happy ending. Google has only sent out it’s glasses to a select few so far; the wearers have regularly been attacked by members of the public not wishing to be filmed, thus suggesting mass acceptance
of what is still quite an invasive piece of gadgetry, is still a way off. Recent times have highlighted just how prevalent Government surveillance really is, after whistleblower Edward Snowden lifted the lid on GCHQ and the NSA’s surveillance activity. The sheer scale of digital surveillance is alarming, it is estimated that in one month, the NSA monitored 60 million Spanish phone calls; even German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been spied on and refused access to the information that was seized from her. Most terrifyingly of all though, are drones. Since 2004 America has killed over 3000 people in Pakistan, mostly children and civilians; this is in a country America is not officially at war with. Perhaps the very nature of drones keeps them off of the front pages. Drone warfare is revolutionary in that there is absolutely no risk of casualties for the attacking side; the drones are operated thousands of miles away from the attack zone, behind closed doors. They say that history is written by the victor; more so, when there are no soldiers, there is no story. A new age of silent weapons, for quiet wars. With Facebook and Google developing their own drone technology; soon we will not only be looking up their websites online, we will be looking up to the skies at their drones too.
a digital world where language as we know it is defunct, where we communicate through binary code and the only identity that really matters, is our digital persona.
Scene & Unseen ÂŠ Copyright 2014