Witnessing is a series of three new media projects developed by cMAS students at Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Art and Technology (SIAT). Witnessing was conceived of as a response to the 2016 exhibit “Witness” at New Westminster’s New Media Gallery (Joyce and Duggan 2016). The three projects, including my own peice you.got.a.pic?, all address thematic issues raised in the original Witness exhibit – that of human-machine communication and mutual surveillance. Each new media work demonstrated the uneasy marriage of our shared technological fears and desires.
The Digital Projects
Witnessing consists of three new media artworks:
- Human Memory Database by Frederico Machuca is an ominous interactive future database of human memories.
- you.got.a.pic? by Jo Shin draws upon themes of immediacy in a hyper-mediated world where selfies sent to an AI responds with a distorted machine vision.
- Sentinel 002 by Xavier Wu imagines an AI capable of recording and learning from human language through Twitter feeds.
These projects, accompanied by the Witnessing zine, imagine a future archive of humanities’ attempts to communicate with an all-seeing machine. The zine includes analog counterparts to the digital projects and encourages the reader to contemplate how future machines might learn of our thoughts, memories, languages, and vision.
The Process Book
Documentation of the Witnessing project including each artwork and zine was published as a process book called Witnessing in 2017. The limited edition of Witnessing books contain a hardcopy of the original zine.
Exhibition + other outcomes
An installation version of Witnessing was shown at the AHVA Gallery at the Audain Art Centre as part of Under Super Vision a symposium held by the Art History, Visual Art and Theory (AHVA) program at the University of British Columbia (UBC).
Under Super Vision sought to provide a critical platform for scholarly and creative discourse on the significance and normalization of surveillance strategies both currently and historically. The exhibit was on display from March 10–April 1, 2017.
To date, Witnessing was “published” in the following venues:
The Web Archive
Created as an online archive of the Witnessing project, the web archive was launched as part of a publication about the project in Immediacy, an online media journal by The New School’s School of Media Studies.
I developed the website as a brutalist web design that reflects the glitchy dystopian nature of the project. Each of the artworks can be found and interacted with online while the lo-fi zine is available for download.