“Eyestalkers” art installation puts all eyes on you

April 17, 2014

There’s really nothing that’s not creepy about the “Eyestalkers” exhibit in Deventer, in the Netherlands. First of all, it’s a display of disembodied eyeballs (not the real thing, thankfully). Second, they’re bobbling atop red, vein-like stalks. Third, they appear to be disturbingly larger than life (even if eyeballs are slightly larger outside the socket).

But the studio behind this unsettling spectacle, Front404, isn’t in it for the gross out factor. There’s a deeper message in how these eyeballs behave. As people pass by, they turn and move. They watch. And they’re meant to remind us all that, really, we’re being tracked all the time—by surveillance cameras, computers, even our own cell phones. It’s an abstract idea that takes on solid significance when you learn exactly how many cameras watch over pedestrians and drivers in London, for example.

Eyestalkers. From Ozarts Etc.

Eyestalkers. From Ozarts Etc.

According to Front404, we’ve lost sight of what’s happening in our world. We really ought to be more suspicious of all this surveillance, and the studio aims to cultivate our paranoia. But art being art, the exhibit doesn’t tell us what we should do beyond that—how we might curb surveillance, or how we might escape it.

It certainly doesn’t suggest we might embrace the watchful eyes of the world.

Consider these stats, however: In January 2013, Instagram reported more than 90 million users per month. In February 2014, Twitter reported more than 241 million active users per month. And as of March 2014, Facebook had more than 1 billion mobile active users per month.

Maybe people don’t want to be watched on the street, but they’re not shy about sharing their lives. You might even say there’s a trend toward clamoring for attention, virtually screaming to be seen and heard over the din of others with the same cyber-goals.

It seems all of this surveillance is having a circular effect. Opening up our lives to virtual friends (who may or may not be real friends, or even acquaintances) feels perfectly normal in a world that’s always watching anyway. Increasing surveillance is creating not paranoia but an untroubled sense of acceptance instead.

Eyestalkers @ Kunstenlab Deventer 2014 from FRONT404 on Vimeo.

Adding another layer of surveillance to the “Eyestalkers” exhibit, many people were caught on video as they passed by. Mute the spooky music in the above video and judge for yourself: Do they seem disturbed when all eyes turn toward them? Or are they just plain interested? Or might some of those people actually enjoy the attention?


Category: Surveillance