A Cup Of Tea

(At hiromiyoshii, Tokyo, June 23rd to July 31st, 2010)

A relationship formed within the sphere of the internet, especially that of video-chat, has been intriguing me for quite a while. We are assured that it is private, yet we always feel observed. We feel that someone is seeing us. The bedroom curtains can become theater curtains, raised without notice, or forcefully pulled down to expose what is on the other side.

There seems to be a striking similarity between the nature of the video-chat and the pseudo-privacy that a captain of a warship, with his authority, creates on the deck in Melville’s Billy Budd, Sailor. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick in her book Epistemology of the Closet, argues that:

“The audience…has itself an audience, or the more unsettling incipience of one”

In such an unreliable and skeptical realm, is it possible to negate the unsettling nature of that incipient audience, and to generate a firm connection with an other?

A few years ago, I started the project “You were there in front of me”, which is a portrait project done using video chat programs. I contacted people from all over the world, scheduled time for the shoot. At the arranged time we started the chat, then with my handheld SLR, I photographed him displayed on the screen of my laptop. I was curious to see what sort of relationship woud develop there. However, what I realized through the process was such a simple fact that we (I and the other) can never meet each other’s gaze. The other only seems to see me.

Matthew was one of the models who sat for the project. More by accident than by planning, I kept photographing him in a long term we became friends. Yet, regardless of how many photographs I shot and printed, the virtual images remained virtual. Web camera, screen, SLR, Photoshop, Printer, those layers of processes only adds to its original un-realness. Plus there were those uncanny presence of the incipient audience: information on the web, possible censorship and leakage of the personal, the computer itself in front of me, and people I encounter in everyday life. I could not see him clearly. I was not sure of the shape of his hands, color of his eyes. Yet once in a while, some seemingly irrelevant parts – an orange peel, flute, mug cup, wall paper- speak to me and reveal things about him.

The works in “A Cup Of Tea” are my various attempts against those incipient audience. The attempts to hide from them, to play with them, and to accept them. Many of them seem to be failures. But there are times that I was certain to establish a firm connection. It was a thin spider’s thread, yet the thread was as strong as to clear the presence of the incipient audience.

Installation Views: