Only a few hours remain before the final deadline to submit my documentation for The MFA in Computational Art that I have been immersed for the last two years. I am left to consider where this leaves me.
The delightful company, the ideas, the camaraderie of fellow students and tutors, the thoughts and the preoccupying questions that bubble up: “what must I do now…?” these have all come to an abrupt stop.
I feel this is like the end of a job, my notice having been handed in… I am back at home, faced with myself.
The flowering rose bush on the corner of the square nearby has a few scant blooms remaining, they hang sadly in the curiously mild September air. I used to watch that bush flower, throughout the summer. It spoke to me, encouraging me to get on with my work, for I knew that by the time it had finished flowering I would have had to have completed my project.
The project I chose to pursue it was a continuation of research for my chosen topic for an extended essay; I chose surveillance and art.
November last year, my neighbours and I disposed of our collective entry phone system. Each of our houses had a little phone with video screen to check who was at the gate. High gates separate us from the outside world to give us an illusion of security. The intercoms were replaced by an app. However, to date, the app still does not work. For it will ring to tell us, say, the Amazon courier has arrived, but we now cannot open the gate from our mobiles. This is disappointing, since the old intercom worked perfectly well although, apart from its ugly appearance being the sole reason for its disposal. A lightbulb lit in my head: I asked everyone nearby for me to remove and repurpose the phones for my use in a forthcoming project.
I have a tendency to tinker around with equipment of any sort, but I had no idea at that time in November how I could exactly use the intercoms.
During the first year of the MA, I developed an interest in privacy matters and this extended to the much larger concern of how society was changing due to progress in technologies that impact on surveillance. During this year tumultuous effects of the decision to leave the EU as in part been affected by the Cambridge Analytica affair and how the result of the referendum, considered to be in part, influenced by the micro-targeting made possible by Facebook.
In February, Professor Shoshana Zuboff publishes a well-researched book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism . Zuboff’s book was well received and articulated What we had already suspected, that we were the product not the users of digital technologies and that the likes of Google Facebook and Amazon were influencing and predicting our behaviours.
By April the whistle-blower Chris Wiley confirms what had happened at Cambridge Analytica and Mark Zuckerberg put under scrutiny of Washington.
These events that occurred in early 2019 spurred me on to complete my extended essay for the course. I was particularly interested in researching artists who had chosen surveillance as the theme for their work.
This culminated in my final exhibition piece, ‘Who is at the Door?’;
An assembly of the six recycled telephone intercoms that I had salvaged back in November the previous year.
I am not entirely at peace with myself as to how it eventually turned out, for certain technical problems still persist right up until the end. I’m sure I can improve upon what I have made and possibly could re-show the piece if called upon to do so.
In the meantime, I’m faced back looking at my shambolic workshop. A mountain of wires and tools, components and sawdust confront me. A long list of jobs prepared by my wife, grows day by day on shared Google sheet.
I am grateful for all the incredible the experiences I have had during my two years at Goldsmiths. I feel renewed and empowered again following several years in the wilderness. To my tutors and fellow students, I say thanks and hope to see many of you in the future as I am sure you all have much to show us.
The documentation and a small video of my final piece is avalable here.