[digital] witnessing

In class we practised an double exercise; in the first exercise two of us, me and Gerolamo (relative strangers), touched fingertips for one and a half minutes with eyes closed, before opening our eyes and looking into each other’s eyes while still touching fingers. In the second Gerolamo filmed me while I stood first with my eyes closed for one and a half minutes, and then with them open while Gerolamo continued to point his camera at my face and my body. 

Below are my initial reactions after these exercises, followed by some brief analysis…

My fingertips have been rough over the past weeks, giving me grief, newly formed wrinkles always trying to outgrow themselves. When I hand out paper to a class, the dryness of them rubbing against the rough recycled paper is like a tactile rendition of the sound of knife slicing on a dry plate.

Eyes closed, with my tips pressed against Gerolamo’s, their contours in my consciousness round, and start to fade. Warmed by this, my listening takes over. Light chatter across the site. No Options in my head. Breathing [in the room] steadies.

Eyes open


Around his face, his neck

My eyes drift around his presence but now drift to


into the eyes of [a relative stranger] Gerolamo, it  feel like a connection.  But a shallow one. I feel like I cannot deeply look into what I don’t know, what I haven’t experienced. A screen of unfamiliarity.  opaque but visually transparent. Nothing interwoven

but maybe this can be our first weave. A weird one though… like… pouring ice cold water into an overly hot bath. Cold-warmth. But warmth

Gerolamo now films me

When I lost track of the instruction, where was i? Drifting in front of his camera.

Did I keep my eyes open? Look weird? Mostly I drifted towards myself, into my voice and thoughts.

What instrument would I want to use for bass?

I swayed asymmetrically throughout. Left hip back, push weight from left foot to right. Sway loosely

Back to the camera now, what angle gets me face to face?

It’s clear to me that in comparison to the first exercise, in the second my mind was centered more towards myself. In the first, my thoughts were connected with Gerolamo, despite not being interwoven. I was definitely more self-conscious in the first which seemed odd to me as I was being filmed in the second and generally dislike being in front of a camera. Had I settled in Gerolamo’s presence? Was I comfortable, knowing he would not save the video? Probably

But, more than that, I think the presence of the screen created a distance between us, which isolated me and my thoughts. It’s the same on the phone for me. I try to be absorbed by the conversation but my fingers drift to other tasks

This is something that seems reflected in some of the work we looked at this week… in particular my mind goes to James Bridle’s Dronestagram which is an Instagram feed showing towns that have been struck by drones, predominately from the American military. Bridle has control over the narrative he crafts through this feed. He drifts internally, sways toward his own perspective. I feel that this is enabled by the distancing of digital witnessing. So, the voice of the indigenous population is not just lost, but made redundant. Worth less that the claimed objectivity of photography and so drowned out.

But I do not think this is necessarily the result of digital witnessing but rather projects that occur at a digital distance tend towards individuals pressing their own narratives on events. Bridle could communicate, include conversations. He could promote groups voices

Witness but talk