Instructions for Humans - Day 8

Spent the first couple of hours writing up the last couple of days which had been written off with the headcold. It's still lingering but is no longer blocking the idea flow. The damn has burst.

Quite a few visitors today but few staying for long. It's the Birmingham Weekender (aka Artsfest, for those who've been around a while) so people were doing the rounds, checking out as much as possible. This did help me refine my pitch nicely, which is very handy. I should record it each day and see how it changes.

My role in the gallery is nice and vague. Practically I'm an artist in residence with an open studio, but I'm also a guide, particularly when official gallery guide Susan is out of the room, so I often find myself giving a short contextual tour to the show alongside being part of the show. And then I'm sort of "the art" too, which this pseudo-performance thing I'm trying to develop. Right now it's just a guy in a red boiler suit, but seeds have been planted and next week I hope to grow it a little.

Karen C transcribed today's recordings in record time and one of them is, I feel, worth including here. Bear in mind it's a normal conversation that's gone through a rough transcription by Karen who wasn't there, and then been edited by me for clarity, but given the nature of this whole exercise the notion of editing and reshaping reality to make a point should be a comfortable one.

  • Women ask about the CCTV footage. The artist hasn’t hacked these images. Pete reckons that publishing them would be illegal whereas putting them in an artwork is ok.
  • There’s no financial incentive for CCTV-sellers to implement or encourage security. An effect of global capitalism. The artist is drawing attention to this.
  • Woman talks about the myriad ways data on us is collected, ostensibly for our protection, it’s scary.
  • People in a CCTV control centre looking for suspicious behaviour are seeing patterns and making up stories in their heads. Projecting your ideas on to them.
  • In photography we know that the photograph is a fiction/a lie we construct in our mind. In building a picture of our society and culture that is mediated through a screen end up with a fiction. Is that a problem?
  • Woman says an image is easy to manipulate. Pete says you manipulate the meaning of an image just by looking at it. Pete talks about body cameras - idea was to make the Police accountable, but the camera is positioned in a vulnerable place on the body so everything appears to be an attack against police officer.
  • Woman suggests that if the camera was placed on the head the effect would be different, Pete agrees, the current camera position makes them seem as though they are under attack.
  • Pete mentions the phrase “The treachery of images.” Image tells you a little bit of truth and you fill in the rest, bringing your biases with you. It’s an idea that aids in understanding other things.
  • Pete talks about setting up a camera obscura on a traffic island in Brum. He got a chance to speak to a few homeless people. A police officer gave Pete his phone no and offered to help if needed. He told Pete to watch out for the Polish street drinkers, as they can be aggressive. Pete notes that he just had a really interesting conversation with one of the aforementioned Polish people, because his context was different.
  • For the policeman, the Polish street drinkers are trouble, because that’s the only context within which he gets to interact with them. Pete doesn’t have a uniform and isn’t there at night. It’s not that one perception is correct and the other incorrect.
  • We only ever see a small part of reality but it’s all we have to try to make sense of ourselves/the world.
  • Woman says it’s a human thing, we just need answers and if we don’t get them then we make them up. Pete says that otherwise we’d go crazy, it’s a survival technique. This is what he’s trying to understand by making works about how we see reality.
  • AI/Surveillance is really interesting but for Pete it’s the first step in thinking about how people perceive and understand the world. Can we use those thoughts to try to understand Brexit, Trump, rise of fascism etc? Pete is trying to understand how did all these things happen. Why can’t we communicate with each other?
  • Woman says it’s convenient not to question things and that most of this is down to education. Pete says we don’t teach philosophy or critical thinking, we teach how to consume. Woman says people don’t learn history properly. Pete says people from WW2 are dying now, we’re losing that resource.
  • Woman says all the answers are online now. Pete adds “if you want to look for them, yeah”. He loves the Internet, he was online in the early days. He appreciates the freedom to communicate and get away from big media.
  • Woman says “the Internet is for manipulating information, but also sharing the truth.” Pete says Google is an ad company using the medium of internet rather than a pure internet company. Their goal is profile people and sell them ads.
  • It’s not in Twitter’s interest to rid itself of trolls and abuse cos that stuff drives engagement.
  • He compares Twitter to the BullRing shopping centre, a closed private space in a free and open city.

At the time I was happy with that chat. It went well and was interesting. But it was only on reading it that I realised how useful it was. Within the context of the show, the idea that a transcribed surveillance audio recording is looking like being one of my primary tools is... interesting? Worrying? Weird? Obvious? I don't know.