Backdoored., à rebours, as in the novel by Joris-Karl Huysmans showing a decadent life, in a Naturalism approaching, but nothing against nature. It is in the nature of technology to be used, to be manipulated, to be shared, to be disloyal to her owner. Umberto Eco wrote “Superman defends private property not people”. Nye Thompson, a netmodern artist, defends people, not property. Or more exactly, she defends things. They do what we tell them to do. She stands for sharing technology, sharing things, sharing intelligence. And she does in this project showing how we are already sharing our life, our intimate life, through technology. Even if that wasn’t our aim.
The pencil is no less technology than your new phone, your smartphone, your net device. But the phone connects you to others faster than the pencil. And the webcam of your phone, and your computer, your bell ring, your babysitter, your TV, your bank, your cashier, your taxi, your station, your supermarket, your elevator, your street. You are twenty four hours, seven days a week under surveillance. And part of this time is your private life. That means that you are sharing your selfies with more people than you thought. That means that you have set up surveillance at your home, at your private space, thinking you were going to control intruders in your life and instead of that you have opened your life to them.
We should remember that The intruder is a classic piece of net art, and Backdoored. is deeply rooted in the beginnings of the net art. Natalie Bookchin, the creator of The intruder followed for her artwork a story by Jorge Luis Borges. And Borges was a master in blurring the boundaries between reality and fiction. This a loop. Everything is connected would say Don DeLillo. These pictures have more layers than you will realise at first view.
For the intruders, you are living in an aquarium. You are in a liquid life would say Zygmunt Bauman. You are in a Liquid Modernity he would say. In a postmodern life I would say. In a net-postmodern life. Your home, your office, your toilet, is a Big Brother show, a reality. Is someone looking at you when you open your computer? Is someone watching the selfies you took on your phone? Maybe. It was your decision.
Is someone collecting information and organizing it in a huge file with all the details of your life? Are you allowing to others to do that? These people on the pictures are doing that. And who are the voyeurs? Some are just casual viewers, like you now. Others are sellers taking note of your habits. You will be in their hands like the Pavlov’s dog. And more silently, government agencies watching every single movement you make. Until you don’t have any private life at all. You will become transparent and maybe you will think this is good, like Mae Holland the protagonist of The Circle, the novel by Dave Eggers. Is that you want? To have no private life at all? Is the same to share things and to share technology as to renounce the right to any intimate space? Is the same to share food as to share what you like to eat? Is the same to share a sandwich as to share a bed? Nye Thompson thinks is not the same. And she is warning to you about it. She is warning about the lack of privacy as a consequence of careless use of technology. The better the connection between things, the more exposed is your life. And the connection is getting better, the net is absorbing all, gobbling up everything. Including you.
And how do we look at these Backdoored. images? This is one aspect of the project. One is about things, another is about intimate moments. How we look when we think no one is looking? We look without make up, we look like clowns after the show. Red eyed, half naked, clumsy movements, sleepy, weary, inconsistent. We look humans as an animal category. A category slave of their life. Slaves of themselves. Slaves of their things. Slaves of their technology. Slaves of the net. Those pictures are windows to the late capitalism. The net capitalism. This is postmodern realism on the net. This forgotten webcams are the ruins of the hyperconsumerism capitalism. We are on the ruins of the future would say Don DeLillo. We are watching the colour of the sky above the bay in all these open dead channels, would say William Gibson. We are cyberpunks enjoying these pictures. This is the desert of the real would say Slavoj Žižek. This is white noise would say DeLillo. This is the Unbearable Lightness of Being. The dehumanization. The sublime. Are you feeling the same as in front of a landscape by Caspar David Friedrich? We are a Wanderer above the sea of Fog.
The other point is about the net, how things are connected. Those pictures are Full Metal Apache would say Takayuki Tatsumi, are the bastard offspring of transactions between the whole world connected. Promiscuously connected. This pictures are infecting you while you are watching them.
One fascinating issue in the pictures is against of the usual narrative of postmodernity in the age of the screen. In the usual contemporary fiction the characters adopt poses, overact, wink, in the way they could do in the theatre, television or film, because the watcher recognizes that language. All this narrative disappears here. They are not acting.
These photographs make me think about Sophie Calle investigating us instead herself. About Jeff Wall’s indoors photographs looking so perfect that they looked imperfect, random, Nan Goldin’s. These pictures are a kind of dada shot. Like ready-mades. Again we find this art work deeply connected to the art history, using his tradition. Rebuilding it.
Thinking on what Roland Barthes wrote about the death of the author, who is the author of this pictures? Can we call them automatized self-portraits? This unconscious author is dead but there is a second author dead in this series. The artist is acting as curator when making a selection from a number of random pictures. All the meaning of the pictures is given by us, by the spectator. Mostly the meaning is the feeling that we are looking at ourselves. As if they were universal selfies. Mirrors. Fredric Jameson said any position about culture is a position about contemporary capitalism. The pictures of Nye Thompson are in words of Jameson, index and symptom of its time. Someone is looking at you right now. And you are not noticing. Are you alright?