All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace is a new piece of immersive video art by the artist team Hfour (Ben Z Cooper & Stuart J Ward). Its title references two other works by Richard Brautigan (1967) and Adam Curtis (2011). Brautigan’s poem envisions a world where cybernetics has advanced to a stage where it allows a return to the balance of nature and an elimination of the need for human labor. Curtis’ documentary suggests that technological utopia has failed. Using a series of monitors and mirrors, this artwork examines humanity’s current relationship with technology fifty years after the Brautigan’s work. The artwork reflects the duality of both utopian and dystopian conditions.
Every piece of technology has the capacity for good or evil. Thanks to exponential growth in processing power, storage, and bandwidth, we have the ability to do things that were impossible just a few years ago. As we advance into the future, we cure and cause more disease. We discover and destroy. Both visions of the Machines are still possible, which happens depends on the human influence behind each.
The Utopian component of the artwork uses 3D models of idealized acanthus leaves to represent an historical relationship with classical aesthetics, yet their colourful illumination and digital presentation brings the media into the contemporary world. The digital models are another separation from the original and a step further into artificial hyperreality. Immersion in technological society leads to artificial representation accepted as normal. It’s more clean, and easily digested. Everything outside of the mirror world of technological artifice ceases to be important, and the focus is on the hyperreal utopian construct.
Emoji are technology’s solution to remote communication when emotion is lost. They’ve become an intercultural pictographic way of communicating across languages and long distances, and despite the literature professor’s opinion, they’re making the world a better place.
Technology is pushed forward by greed and self-interest. An unimaginable amount of money has been used to fund the development of killing machines. The internet was originally funded by the US Department of Defense, it was made faster so that bankers could do more high-frequency trading, and it continues to be used to spy on citizens around the world. The all seeing eye of the panopticon never blinks. We are all connected and controlled by the information spread through computers.
Meditation & Destruction
The sound heard during this installation is the combination of the engine sound of a Boeing B-29 Superfortress Bomber and Japanese monks chanting the sutra: ‘The Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom’. The first is a symbol of the devastation of power and technology. The latter is old wisdom containing the seeds of a spiritual enlightenment and desirelessness. Together, they create and ominous hum, similar to the constant hum of computers making the world turn.