Molly Crabapple via Instagram
When you buy Google Glass, you are not a consumer. You are an Explorer.
Everything about Glass affirms your specialness. The Swedish modern showroom, where a hot guy tweaks Glass’s nose grips just for your face. The card that comes with Glass, calling you an "adventurer," a "founder." The fact that you must be invited to purchase your pair, since there are only 8,000 Google Glasses in the world.
When you wear Glass, you and Google are a team.
But explorers are not neutral. They are the shock troops of empire. The lands explorers traverse are later conquered by armies, their sacred objects melted down for gold. Glass Explorers continue the corporation's conquest of reality.
In December I did an art project called Glass Gaze. Wearing a pair of Google Glass that had been hacked by the journalist Tim Pool to live-stream, I drew my friend the porn star and aerialist Stoya. The interwebs could see what I saw as I made art. The model. The paper. The ink. The whole 19th-century practice of life drawing commodified and separated from me. I once tweeted, "Google Glass lets the government see the world from my perspective." With Glass Gaze, I was giving the network the same opportunity.
Portrait of Stoya by Molly Crabapple.
Creative Time Reports and Rhizome present Glass Gaze, a one-time performance in which artist Molly Crabapple, wearing Google Glass, creates life-drawings of Stoya, porn star and advocate for fair labor practices in the pornography industry, as she strikes a variety of poses. The performance was streamed live on the Rhizome website on Dec. 11 from 3pm to 3:30pm. In early 2014, Creative Time Reports and Rhizome sites will co-publish the video along with an essay that Molly will write about the project.
Looking means taking. The gaze, whether the stereotypical male gaze or the gaze of an artist, is rapacious and objectifying. But technologies like Google Glass add a new layer to looking. Now, the gaze itself can be commodified, quantified, and sold—whether to advertisers or the NSA. Google Glass lets your audience, or the government, see the world from your perspective.
A classic act of looking is that of the artist staring at a model. In Glass Gaze, I will draw porn performer and aerialist Stoya while wearing a Google Glass that has been hacked by journalist Tim Pool, enabling it to live stream. Viewers will see art-making directly through my eyes.
The choice of Stoya as a model is an homage to Degas's drawings of dancers. Degas is an archetypical artist of the male gaze. In the 21st century, the subjects of his drawings have been stripped of context, but in 19th-century Paris, many dancers doubled as sex workers and mistresses. His ballerinas were iron-tough athletes, working-class women hustling to survive and finance their art. As an artist, I love Degas's dancers, but not his misogyny and alienation. Glass Gaze attempts to see what the gaze sees when the artist is not other, although the gaze itself is commodified and captured by an intermediary.
This is a story about not asking permission.
It starts with Occupy Wall Street.
I'm an artist who got her first job making covers for SCREW Magazine. While I gradually carved out a nice career doing every sort of art that one can extract a living from, I had always been afraid to draw "activist things." Real struggles were serious business, and I drew girls with feathers and bare tits. Making activist art seemed like posturing. So I'd sell paintings on Twitter to raise money for abortion funds, but hide the subversive bits in the margins.
The last few years changed that.
Suddenly the world was crumbling, and people from London to Tahrir Square were taking to the streets. Everyone said Americans were too apathetic for that. But we weren't.
When Occupy Wall Street first parked their mattresses in Zuccotti Park, my friends and I felt that something very rare was happening, and that we should help however we could. Noticing a lack of OWS graphics, I drew up a clunky octopus with "Fight the Vampire Squid" written on its belly. It became a protest sign around the country. Since then I've been churning out posters for Occupy — for libraries and general strikes and unions. Doing political work enabled me to take the subtext dancing at the margins of my art, and make it loud and proud.
Political posters are fast. I'd draw one, brain on fire, and two hours later a masked protester would be carrying it on the streets. But I wanted to do something bigger- to take the political content of my OWS work, and express it in paintings that were giant and detailed. I wanted to make the kind of art that takes 100 hours of carefully daubing paint onto a giant piece of wood. The sort of work that would traditionally be sold in galleries...