"Follower," 2014, Lauren Lee McCarthy.  Digital photograph on iPhone 7s (installation). Courtesy of the artist. © Lauren Lee McCarthy.

Digital Capture: Southern California and the Pixel-Based Image World

Sep
21
2024
Feb
2
2025
The Body: Site, Image Possibility

A Curatorial Perspective on Two Objects

The utopianism associated with digital imaging in the 1960s and 1970s diminished as countercultural energies became increasingly co-opted by the corporate interests that fueled the dot-com revolution of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Novel imaging technologies were increasingly enlisted as tools for surveillance, remote vehicle weaponry, facial recognition, and satellite imaging (to name just a few potentially nefarious ends). Conversely, many artists appropriated these same technologies for positive communal and sociopolitical purposes. Many artists scrutinize digital imaging as a tool for surveillance, both historic and current. Some reveal how digital surveillance is weaponized against minority communities, while others find the field a fruitful opportunity for subversion.

Sameshima’s photographic series collects images printed directly from low-resolution self-portraits culled from gay male dating-site profiles. The photos chronicle a period when digital cameras were becoming more available and affordable, thus eliciting more widespread use in documenting ordinary gestures of intimacy. The work explicitly ruminates on queer male desire and visibility, a motivation that continues to drive much of Sameshima’s broader practice. The series considers this desire in a way that relies less on what is seen and more on the affective connections, desirous ambiguity, and erotic repositories that accompany lustfulness.

Follower considers the relationship between attention, its economies, and personal surveillance. Follower was a “service” created by Lauren Lee McCarthy that provided a “real-life follower” for a day. Prospective “followees” had the opportunity to sign up, download an app, and wait for a confirmation (which would never come). Nor did the follower ever disclose the duration or parameters of what the following would entail. The findings from each encounter are depicted in this installation of six Apple iPhone 7s. The image titles are taken from the followees’ answers to McCarthy’s application questions, which included “Why do you want to be followed?” and “Why should someone follow you?” Follower directly considers how the proliferation of digital technology in modern attention economies enables government and corporate entities to collect (legally and otherwise) enormous swaths of information on citizens and consumers from social networks, e-commerce platforms, apps, and other touch points. Privacy and data collection regulations are highly litigated and contested, but users continue to contribute personal data to these systems, knowingly or not.

Exhibition page. 

UCR ARTS at UC Riverside

3824 Main Street, Riverside

THU-FRI:12pm-5pm
SAT-SUN:11am-5pm
MON-WED:CLOSED

For group tours:
"Figures of lust, furtively encountered in the night (no. 6)," 2001-2004, Dean Sameshima. Archival inkjet print. Courtesy of the artist and Kristina Kite Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.
"Figures of lust, furtively encountered in the night (no. 6)," 2001-2004, Dean Sameshima. Archival inkjet print. Courtesy of the artist and Kristina Kite Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.
"Figures of lust, furtively encountered in the night (no. 6)," 2001-2004, Dean Sameshima. Archival inkjet print. Courtesy of the artist and Kristina Kite Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.
"Follower," 2014, Lauren Lee McCarthy.  Digital photograph on iPhone 7s (installation). Courtesy of the artist. © Lauren Lee McCarthy.
"Follower," 2014, Lauren Lee McCarthy. Digital photograph on iPhone 7s (installation). Courtesy of the artist. © Lauren Lee McCarthy.
"Follower," 2014, Lauren Lee McCarthy. Digital photograph on iPhone 7s (installation). Courtesy of the artist. © Lauren Lee McCarthy.

Discussion Questions

  • How do these artistic interventions challenge or subvert mainstream narratives around digital surveillance and its implications in society?
  • How do both Sameshima’s series and McCarthy’s Follower engage with notions of consent, agency, and the boundaries between public and private spheres in the digital age?
  • What is the significance of Sameshima’s series in the context of queer male desire, visibility, and the democratization of digital imaging technologies?
  • In what ways have imaging technologies been utilized for positive communal and sociopolitical purposes? In what ways have they been used problematically?

Bibliographic References

Anderson, Steve. Technologies of Vision: The War Between Data and Images. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2017.https://mitpress.mit.edu/9780262037013/technologies-of-vision/
Benjamin, Ruha. Captivating Technology: Race, Carceral Technoscience, and Liberatory Imagination in Everyday Life. Durham: Duke University Press, 2019.https://www.dukeupress.edu/captivating-technology
Noble, Safija Umoji. Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. New York: New York University Press, 2018.https://nyupress.org/9781479837243/algorithms-of-oppression/