Unviewed

January 2006

Osman Khan and Omar Khan

SEEN-Fruits of our Labor is an interactive installation that reinvigorates a public plaza through an alternative form of communication between its citizenry. It was commissioned by the ZeroOne San Jose festival and installed in the public plaza in front of the San Jose Museum of Art facing Cesar Chavez Park. The 'monolith' is a communication device reminiscent of the ubiquitous obelisks, plaques and sculptures that populate public squares. These traditional monuments carry messages that sanctify historical moments or a set of values upon which the city has been built. Similarly, SEEN-Fruits of our Labor looks to broadcast a variety of unshared principles from the mouths of everyday citizens. These deal with their projected hopes and the American Dream in light of the globalization. The project asks members of three communities that make up San Jose's labor needs -- Silicon Valley's tech workers, undocumented service workers and outsourced call center workers -- one question: What is the fruit of your labor? Their responses are displayed back to the general public on a 4' x 8' infrared LED screen whose content is visible only through the audience's personal digital capture devices (cell phone cameras, digital cameras and DVcams etc.).

Material: Acrylic, Infrared LEDs, Electronics, Computer, Custom Software

Dimensions: 4' x 8' x 2.5'

Full Text +

SEEN-Fruits of our Labor is an interactive installation that reinvigorates a public plaza through an alternative form of communication between its citizenry. It was commissioned by the ZeroOne San Jose festival and installed in the public plaza in front of the San Jose Museum of Art facing Cesar Chavez Park. The “monolith” is a communication device reminiscent of the ubiquitous obelisks, plaques and sculptures that populate public squares. These traditional monuments carry messages that sanctify historical moments or a set of values upon which the city has been built. Similarly, SEEN-Fruits of our Labor looks to broadcast a variety of unshared principles from the mouths of everyday citizens. These deal with their projected hopes and the American Dream in light of the globalization. The project asks members of three communities that make up San Jose’s labor needs -- Silicon Valley’s tech workers, undocumented service workers and outsourced call center workers -- one question: What is the fruit of your labor? Their responses are displayed back to the general public on a 4’x8’ infrared LED screen whose content is visible only through the audience’s personal digital capture devices (cell phone cameras, digital cameras and DVcams etc.).

The relationship that binds these disparate communities is that they labor in San Jose. The city is a global actor whose products are consumed the world over. Their reliance on the city’s economy is clear but their understanding of this mutual engagement is less obvious. Some of the contributors to this wealth are not even locationally present in the city. The commodification of labor through globalization has allowed an unprecedented population to engage in the global market place. The results are both exploitative and liberating. Not judging the nature of the work that people do, the project surveyed these different communities to get their response. What is labor and what is its purpose? Is it the acquisition of wealth? Luxury? Class? Self-improvement? Subsistence? Is it a means or an end? Are there differences to be found between the communities, income levels, occupations or do we all strive for similarly idealistic goal?

The “monolith” is an 8’ tall, 4’ wide, 1’-6” deep black acrylic screen embedded with infrared LEDs. To the naked eye it is a blank surface waiting for information to be carved on it. However, when viewed through any CCD device (digital cameras, video cameras, phone cams) its messages magically appear on the user’s screen. It is only through the digital apparatus that the messages can be read. The audience is encouraged to photograph and share these messages: the fruits of other’s labors. What was previously hidden from their view is revealed through the technical device. They become complicit in the most personal way to this exchange.

The traditional role of the public plaza as the device through which citizens and institutions communicate to one another has long been superseded by mass communication- what McLuhan called the electronic agora. SEEN- Fruits of our Labors looked at the potential confluence of these two divergent technologies to reanimate public space. The project resulted in vibrant interactions between people, sharing their viewing device with total strangers, discussing the streaming messages and telematically sharing their viewing experience with others in their phonebook. It also brought voices, especially of the badly stigmatized undocumented workers, into the public arena and showed their aspirations to be no different from any others.

Exhibitions +

06/2006 Unviewed, Bank, Los Angeles, USA

12/2007 la scène dans tous ses états, Ars Numerica, Montbeliard, France

08/2007 SIGGRAPH, San Diego, USA

08/2006 ZeroOne and ISEA2006, San Jose, USA