The internet is a scary place. But it’s also a place where humanity has gone to hide-in-plain-sight its loneliness, its longing, and its desperation to connect with others. In his multi-media movement study billed as Joseph, Italian artist Alessandro Sciarroni understands the emotional charge of the internet’s goal, and uses it to strange and mindful effect. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The piece begins with Sciarroni projecting live-feed video from his laptop’s internal camera. The computer is facing us, so we can see the desktop image, and that image repeated large-scale onto the back projection screen, making the audience the backdrop of the piece. Sciarroni then creeps in and out of the projected image, manipulating the video feedback in a number of ways and playing epic-ly emotional popular songs (Jonsi, Bijork, Morricone, etc.). This section has a lot of humor, as the video distortions can be extremely silly, and Sciarroni’s timing as he passes in and out of them heightens a sense of fun. But the power of the piece is realizing that one is seeing both the device and the illusion, in fact they are super-imposed on each other with Sciarroni’s body interrupting our view of the screen. Yet we mentally erase his real self in order to completely immerse ourselves in his twisted projection. We cannot help but watch the illusion, even when the device is so forcefully presented. In this case we prefer to be fooled.
Then Sciarroni does something truly provocative. He checks his email. Everything he does is amplified by the back screen and we are invited into his Gmail inbox, his Facebook profile, and his iTunes playlists. It’s a conceptual-art move, and not a new one, but he is not trying to innovate with this piece, just calmly study – with a dash of humor – an aspect of “liveness” in art and in our modern lives. The piece ends, infamously, with an extended Chatroulette session where, yes, you will see wanking. But you will also see yourself included, if unwillingly, in the piece in a way that literally travels the globe and touches the lives of strangers. Thought-provoking and weird, simple yet at times fascinating, Joseph is a piece that will leave you with something to ponder for days to come.