YOU ARE HERE
a solo exhibition by Jessica Hoffman
You Are Here is a response to digital surveillance, the implication of rights to privacy and the concept that our private lives and personal information are protected. We are told that the capture and process of our communications is a necessary part of modern life to make us feel safer and protected. Anytime we search for something on Google, make a post on Facebook, send an email to a friend, put a book on hold at the library, little bits of information about our private lives are stored in perpetuity in the digital realm. We know this. We agree to terms and services, without really reading the fine print. We operate under the false assumption that everything we say, write, post, and photograph is ours to keep and can’t be shared or seen by anyone we don’t want prying on our lives. With these many points of capture through the transfer of digital information, there is little that can be done in the way of erasing data permanently, making it vulnerable to security breeches and surveillance. Even with these risks of security breeches, we continue to rely on digital mediums as our main mode of communication.
The pieces in this show represent my interest in exploiting these security breeches. Shown here are both still images and video pieces. Throughout the duration of the show, the images and video feeds will change. Together, we can watch the lives of strangers unfold and discover new places without having to leave the couch.
Based in Seattle, WA, Jessica Hoffman is a member of SOIL Art Gallery, an advisory board member for Short Run Seattle, co-owner of risograph print studio Paper Press Punch, and is a visual artist investigating memory, obsessive behaviors, and interactions between humans and communication technology. You can find more of her work at jessicakhoffman.com.
This show features seven pieces -- one video piece, and six still image collage pieces.
The video piece hangs on the far wall of the gallery, while the printed images hang on the long walls of the gallery, facing each other.
Piece A: VIDEO PIECE
The video pieces combine footage from unsecured surveillance cameras, NASA satellite video of Earth, and audio recordings from my daily life. The surveillance videos move slowly and as I watched them, and I was just waiting for something to happen: for a person to walk by, for a sun to set, for a door to open. The pace and uncertainty of the surveillance videos matches the pace of the audio track, as we wait for someone to speak, for the music to end, for the footsteps to rest. Tying them together is the video from NASA satellites, continually circling the Earth, day after day.
dual projection video (playground in Stockholm, NASA satellite footage), audio (May 2nd, 2012)
PIeces B, C, D, E, F, and G: Still Images
The still images are collages taken from surveillance cameras and Google Maps images. The website that hosts these unsecured surveillance camera live feeds also provides an approximate longitude and latitude of where the cameras are filming. I then plugged those coordinates into Google Maps to get a better idea of where on Earth they were. Because the coordinates are only approximate, the Google Maps location often didn’t look anything like what I saw on the surveillance camera. I’m interested in this idea of only vaguely knowing someone’s location, leaving some small shred of privacy in place.
Over the last year, I have been sourcing material from audio recordings in my daily life and found surveillance feeds from websites that hack into private webcams throughout the world. Through these investigations, I am considering the impermanent nature of communication and how that relates to memory, ephemeral objects, and physical contact. Often, we rely on written descriptions or visual cues to help us remember details of important events throughout our lives. We use our social media presence to log our daily lives, leaving a digital record of things we ate, things we saw, thoughts we had on the bus, places we’ve visited. But these digital records are intangible and fleeting. Once the physical objects disappear and interactions have ended, we are left with only our memory to guide us.
My artistic training is in photography, video, and book arts. I am not bound to any one medium, preferring to let the initial idea of a project dictate the medium most appropriate. The link between my work lies in the structure of narrative. I am most comfortable as a storyteller, whether that involves creating a story, recording a story, or interpreting someone else's story. My need to explore these various means of creating narratives, has lead me to where I am now, a hybrid of text and image installations that reference language and books and draws upon my interest in still and moving imagery.