The black mirror* is the screen. It is a flat surface that reflects, in a somewhat gloomy way, the deepest intimacy of our thoughts. It withholds our web browser history, our music playlists, our personal conversations, the lives of our friends on social networks and other stereotyped activities that happen on the screen. Magical in a way, the use of technology created an abyss inside of which all our emotions are stored and that draws the path of each individual quest on a social, intellectual and even spiritual scale of evolution. The dark quality of the screen, when turned off, is its light absorption property – like the absorption of data that it engulfs with each key stroke and with each click. It is a sponge that radiates light and life, nowadays more than ever.
*Reference and hommage to the British TV series Black Mirror released on Channel 4 in 2011 and created by Charlie Brooker
The core of the project consists in the development of a portable application called Black Mirror for mobile phones (iOS) and macs (OS X) and the set up of an online management interface.
The function of this application is simple. It can be installed on any Apple device. Once installed it connects to the management interface and sends a continuos live video stream of the screen on an identical device. According to the same principle, an audio stream coming from the microphone of the apparatus is broadcasted continuously on its replica.
A device equipped with the Black Mirror application is “mirrored” on another device and reveals, in a voyeuriste way, the activity of the person handling it.
In addition, another functionality of the management interface allows the recording of the videos coming from the different devices onto a server.
In order to literally give life to this project, 10 anonymous participants were selected. These people come from different backgrounds. By agreeing to participate in the project, they allow the visitors of the exhibition to explore their intimate, hence my desire that they remain anonymous. Each person carries a false name, which she/he has previously chosen. Each participant is thus represented materially, embodied in a certain way, by the chosen apparatus. For a month, the device of her/his choice (iPhone, iPad, MacBook …) is equipped with the Black Mirror application and broadcasts live inside the exhibition space, a streaming video and audio . All the on-screen activities of the participants are thus revealed to the visitors of the exhibition. The visitors can read the messages being written, the mails being organised, the Internet searches being made and everything else too.
The exhibition is minimalist in form. A long wooden table, reminding the Apple Store, is placed in the center of the space. On the table, the replicas of the devices chosen by the participants are presented as they would be in one of the brand’s stores. Each device broadcasts the live video and audio feds from the corresponding device. No device is functional per se. It broadcasts the video of the corresponding device’s activity and the associated sound. Each device is equipped with standard Apple headphones that the visitor can use. The exhibition examines the place that Apple plays in today’s world – it has almost become a contemporary court of wealth and power. Apple is the contemporary monarchy without borders nor kings. It became the blazon of quality and snobbery.
The final stage of Black Mirror would be the production of a medium-length film produced with the video and audio material collected during the exhibition. This medium-length film would be broadcasted in a loop for a month in a different country. As an experiment, it would allow to extend the exhibition. This film pushes the anonymity and disincarnation of the activities of the participants to their climax. The language is not well understood by the spectators and traces of the devices will no longer exist.
The Black Mirror project is about the dematerialisation of the self. It is a search inside the digital soul. A membrane that separates reality from electronic identity. A translator of analytical surveillance. A surveillance without analysis. A voyeur fetish. A live stream.