Observation Station: From the Rim is a 25 channel video installation that simulates the experience of standing atop one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and poses questions about new behaviors developing around the proliferation of smartphone digital cameras. The installation consists of video, sculpture and photography that transport the viewer to the Grand Canyon, a place where this changing behavior is exemplified.
Upon entering the Main Gallery, the viewer sees a semi-circle of 24 tripods standing, “watching” a larger video projected on the wall. Atop the 24 tripods are Smartphones that play a continuous synchronized program of selfies, pans and zooms, scrolling image searches and sweeping panoramas. The projected video is a 14-minute video “mashup” of over 100 Grand Canyon family vacation videos: vacationers standing at the rim of the Grand Canyon speaking to the camera and thinking out loud about their first visit.
With this work I’m interested in the tension created when our compulsion to document bumps up against social expectations, or our own need to feel “present”. Is there more or less value placed on documenting versus experiencing? When do I put the camera up to my face and when do I observe?
In a recent NPR interview, Psychologist Dr. Linda Henkel said that when we photograph something we, in effect, outsource the memory. When we rely on an external device to record a moment, we take away from the mental processes that help us solidify that moment into a memory. We don’t preserve those memories unless we look back at the pictures and reflect on them. In From the Rim everyone is either posing for or holding a camera. It’s as if the sole purpose of the trip to the Grand Canyon was to “get a good shot.”