What if that screen you’re peering at was something akin to a one-way mirror? There’s a definite aspect of dressing room horror, viewing artist Robbie Cooper’s Immersion project, a video collection of the alternately grotesque and dull expressions appearing on people’s faces as they play video games and watch YouTube. (The viewer is never privy to what’s showing on the subjects’ screens, but one suspects it’s likely less rarified than a short animation inspired by physicist Richard Feynman’s remarks on a flower or filmmaker Miranda July’s lyrical advice to the procrastination-prone). But before we denounce the mostly underaged participants’ dead eyes and slack jaws—an effect made more disturbing by the soundtrack’s high incidence of gunfire—perhaps we should turn the web cam on ourselves.
That’s exactly what Cooper is hoping will happen, as he prepares to expand the project’s scope to include people of all ages and nationalities. “Babies being born right now arrive in a landscape where computers, smartphones, the internet, and social media already exist,” he explains, “While the oldest generation alive today can remember a time before TV was a fixture of our living room.”
To widen the net, Cooper is turning to crowd sourcing. Whether someone who knowingly trains the camera on him or herself can achieve the previous participants zoo-like lack of inhibition remains to be seen, but the Kickstarter campaign to fund this next phase lays things out on a grand scale. The plan is for the public to contribute via uploads and a social media aggregator. More excitingly, they’re encouraged to seize the reins by creating a series of instructions and prompts for those coming later to follow.
Let us hope this will lead to a more heartening variety of expressions, as well as the book, documentary, and interactive exhibits Cooper envisions.
Ayun Halliday’s laptop is directly responsible for two vertical creases between her brows.