It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Camera Man!

Wow, check out that guy in the bizarre helmet that looks like a camera. What's the deal?

(Screenshot by Edward Moyer/CNET)

  1. He's giving his Halloween costume — Instagram Man — a very early test run
  2. He's the inventor of the digicam, and an old, film-using SLR has taken its revenge by assimilating him
  3. Don't be a wiseacre, this is art.

If you chose number three, you're absolutely right (and we apologise for being a wiseacre).

Touchy (see video embedded below) is an art project by Eric Siu — an MFA graduate of UCLA's Department of Design Media Arts, and a Hong Kong-based new-media artist — and beneath its playful surface, it's actually quite serious.

The fellow wearing the helmet is blind, you see, until someone touches him and causes the camera's shutters to open. If the touch is maintained for 10 seconds, the human camera takes a picture, which is displayed on the back of the helmet.


According to a Siu, the project is a commentary on how social networking, texting and the like are killing off old-fashioned, flesh-and-blood human contact, and "dehumanising physical communication". Such technologies, Siu writes on the project's website, may, to a certain extent, even generate extreme social anxiety, such as that "experienced in the 'Hikikomori' and 'otaku' cultures in Japan." Touchy, Siu continues, "criticises this phenomenon and suggests a solution by transforming the human being into a social device: a camera".

One might wonder how turning someone into a machine sends a message about greater humanity. But if you're trying to reach (or generate discussion about) shut-ins who largely limit themselves to interactions with machines (or machine-generated versions of people), then perhaps a fantasy such as Siu's is a good way to do it. In one sense, Touchy might represent a comfortable intermediate step from living such a machine-based existence to shedding the machines and re-entering the physical world.

"Metaphorically," Siu wrote, "Touchy lives in an isolating cage built by the experience of total darkness, as if he is encountering the same sensuous withdrawal as some social disorder patients have. Your effortless touch is an action of giving vision and taking photos, which heals the anxiety and generates a playful interaction that invites people to have fun."

Siu further explained his choice of a camera, saying that it's "a known tool for sharing memories, valuable moments, enjoyment, emotions, beauty and so forth". And the camera idea also helps to emphasise the notion that we're all one. Siu mentioned the expression "the eyes are the windows of the soul", and he said, "Isn't it a lyrical irony that gazing into another's eyes for 10 seconds gives life to your self-portrait?"

(It's not clear from the Touchy site if the project — a collaboration with the Ishikawa Oku Laboratory at the University of Tokyo — will be given a public life beyond the video, and, perhaps, exhibitions. Will there be public performances or interactions of some kind? We've sent Siu an email for clarification, and we'll update this post when we know more.)

Via CNET



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