24.8.14

Helen Grace - Out of Sight: Proof


Opens Thursday August 28, 6 - 8pm
Hours open: Friday - Sunday 11am - 5pm, August 29 – September 14, 2014
Artists talk: Saturday 6 September at 3pm

The repetitions of the everyday have an unnoticeable - and even invisible – quality. What is the threshold of noticeability in a world of attention-seeking and attention deficit? How do we measure wonder in ordinary living? These experimental images made by an automatic device attached to a body-tripod register the perimeters of perception, using sensors to track daily movement and location. A psychogeographic mapping of the local, the images are made using a Narrative Clip, a wearable device that geo-tags and timecodes the images, uploading them to a server so they can be viewed on a phone or iPad. The process raises questions about the limits of privacy and the ethics of the image in its current metamorphoses. 

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Helen Grace is a filmmaker and new media producer based for several years in Hong Kong, where she set up an MA Program in Visual Culture Studies at Chinese University of Hong Kong. She recently returned to Australia after two years as Visiting Professor at National Central University, Taiwan on a (Taiwan) National Science Council Fellowship. She is the author of Culture, Aesthetics and Affect in Ubiquitous MediaThe Prosaic Image, Routledge, 2014

The device & the process:
 The exhibition consists of image sequences, arranged in 'scrolls' - a daily selection plus a caption over three months, like ‘proofs’ of daily activity - as well as maps of walking tracks and small screens of animated image sequences.
 The Narrative Clip is a Swedish-designed, Taiwanese-manufactured device that picks up on what Microsoft's SenseCam started about ten years ago. Initially, such devices were tested in clinical trials to see if they could be helpful in enhancing memory in contexts of memory impairment (dementia, amnesia etc) but I was more interested in the everyday & in the aesthetic qualities of lo-tech images. I’d been doing research on camera phone pictures, lo-tech and ubiquitous media in Hong Kong & I pre-ordered the device, after a Kickstarter campaign in 2012.
 
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I first became interested in 'life logging' tools when I was working with a team of architects in Hong Kong and we wanted to measure and visualise the 'rhythm' of public space in an old area of the city that we were studying, using photography & video with students. The area was in the path of major infrastructure developments (a new metro line, new expensive apartment complexes) & we wanted to register the impact of that, but we were interested in everyday life in this area - the patterns and rhythms of an enduring locality.  Even though Hong Kong is a global city with everything changing all the time, for those who live in the city, there's a fragile permanence that's been maintained painstakingly at a very grass-roots level by the residents of the older areas. There weren't yet any devices like the Narrative Clip, so we couldn't use it, but when I moved to Taiwan I continued the interest in lo-tech devices. Taiwan has two-thirds of the world market in pure-play semiconductor fabrication & it's a global leader in optronics & photonics research, producing a big market share of plastic lenses, used in most everyday devices.
The Narrative Clip is much smaller than other similar devices (such as Autographer & Parashoot). It doesn't record sound or video, & because you have no idea when it is working, nor what it’s seeing, it's completely random and very Cagean. Sometimes the sensors misfire & this produces beautiful abstract images of machine noise, which represent a kind of 'temperature' of the device.  
 This current project involves daily use of the device either for a year, or until I lose the device or until it stops working - whichever event comes first. Each day I select one image, caption it & upload it to Facebook. The exhibition is a 'work-in-progress' of this overall process.
 I started the project to observe everyday life in Australia after nearly eight years living in Asia & trying to figure out why everything has become so weird in this place I thought I knew.
Helen Grace, August 2014

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