My thesis exhibition is called Cloud Cafe. I will be running Big Orbit Gallery as a fully functional cafe. Within this environment I will be suspending about 100 handmade, incandescent light bulbs and hanging three projection screens. The screens will display image data passing over the gallery’s open wireless network. I have written a computer program capable of conducting surveillance on the gallery’s wireless network. The program targets images and intercepts them as a viewer using the network requests them from a webpage or mobile app. When there is image data passing over the network, portions of the light bulb element will illuminate, indicating the activity is taking place. The light bulb element will operate in real-time while the images will be displayed at regular intervals. Viewers will be invited to come to the space with their electronic devices and to treat the space as they would any other cafe.
My project intends to engage the following:
TECHNOLOGY AS BOTH AWE-INSPIRING & TROUBLING
We are impressed by the scope and convenience of contemporary technology but also troubled by its capabilities and implications. My project attempts to engage this aspect through its surveillance element.
THE USER/MAKER DISTINCTION
Most who use contemporary technologies remain users rather than users and makers of technology; this creates a power-dynamic ripe for exploitation. My project addresses this through utilizing technology both new (digital networks/media) and old (incandescent light bulbs). Incorporating both is a gesture to engage with technology at a very deep level, requiring me to have a command of electronic technologies at a level many never see fit to explore.
THE CULTURE OF SHARING
Contemporary technology, especially social media, has encouraged us to share an increasing amount of ourselves publicly. This is justified both in terms of the convenience it affords us as well as with a general “bandwagon” mentality. However, in light of recent (and on-going) revelations, it is increasingly apparent that we need to reevaluate just how much of our private lives we are comfortable with bleeding into the public domain.
This is where the cafe itself comes into play. It is a public environment that operates under the assumption of some degree of individual, personal privacy. My project attempts to subvert this dynamic by stripping away much of the assumed digital privacy of the environment in hopes of prodding viewers to question their relationship with contemporary technology.