Chris Eckert: Privacy Not Included
February 17 – June 3, 2018
Silicon Valley-based artist Chris Eckert uses technology and machinery—a media that is often thought of as cold and impersonal—as a vehicle for exploration and introspection.
In many parts of the world and especially in Silicon Valley, it is rare to see people not gazing at their smartphones in public. Technology has transformed our society and culture. We depend on our mobile computer devices in our daily lives: we have applications to help navigate road trips; rather than visiting stores, we shop online; we have virtual conferences and communicate to our colleagues around the world; we exchange ideas and opinions on social media sites; and we meticulously document our restaurant visits and vacations with high definition photos and videos that are then saved in the cloud. In order to engage in these virtual transactions, we agree to share select information to companies and organizations, in effect, negotiating the boundaries of our privacy. It is this intersection of our relationship to technology that Chris Eckert investigates in his solo exhibition Privacy Not Included.
The exhibition presents two large installations, Blink and Babel, which at first glance, seem rather monotonous. The same object is repeated along one side of the gallery, and in parallel, another set of objects on the other side. However, upon second glance, there is a rather surprising element behind each sculpture. In Blink, Eckert installs a row of mechanical eyeballs peering out from the wall. The individually articulated eyes follow gallery visitors, tracking their every move. Babel, which consists of several small writing machines, is programed to write a message in different handwriting styles and languages including English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish. Eckert has programmed the machines to cull phrases from the Internet that are pertinent to each language’s country of origin.
Privacy Not Included presents a sensorial experience that considers how we are viewed, followed, and tracked. As technology progresses and, in conjunction, as we continue to share personal data and information, what will be the consequences of our own privacy, our right to personal space, and ultimately, our freedom? In George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 about omnipresent surveillance and public manipulation, the author writes, “The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.” The works in the exhibition challenge us to contemplate this dilemma. They reflect the conundrum we face in our contemporary society: appreciating the joy of convenience and technology’s ability to provide us security and safety, versus negotiating between the disconcerting, constant surveillance and intrusion in our lives.
Chris Eckert is a California-based artist who uses technology and machinery—media that are often thought of as cold and impersonal—as vehicles for exploration and introspection. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally including venues in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Austria, Germany, France, Switzerland and Japan. Eckert received his BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering from Santa Clara University and his MFA from San Jose State University.