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“The function of the artist in a disturbed society is to give awareness of the universe, to ask the right questions, and to elevate the mind.”

– Marina Abramovic, Serbian performance artist

One of my favorite things about art is how a simple painting or a photograph can convey deep meaning, unsettle the audience and push people to see things differently. This is the reaction I had when I first spotted the work of artist Antoine Geiger: a series of photos that portrayed people’s faces as if they were being sucked into their smartphones. I found it so striking and such an apt commentary on our present times. If you are currently reading this in a public space, look around you: you’re very likely to find people staring intently at their phones’ screens, in a bubble that makes them unaware of the environment around them. As soon as I saw Geiger’s photographs, I knew I wanted to feature him in my new documentary. We began corresponding this past summer and finally scheduled an interview last month. It was phenomenal: in the 2 years since I started thinking about and researching this film, I must have read over three dozen books and hundreds of articles by experts on technology, sociology, psychology… and yet, the concepts Geiger discussed were so original, poignant, and thought-provoking. As the quote by Marina Abramovic underscores, artists have a special gift, pointing out truths and elevating our minds.

The video I posted today is just a quick introduction of Geiger’s work and I look forward to sharing more in the coming days and weeks. For some reason if the subtitles don’t work (Geiger speaks French), please try to watch the video directly on Vimeo:

The transcript:

Surfake is a series I did in 2015 that represents people who are in the street, or in museums, or in their everyday lives, using their phones. And so I decided to represent their faces literally sucked into their phones, which makes them beings that are suddenly deprived of their identity, sucked into social networks and into a universe that is no longer related to the place in which we are, or the time in which we are. Apart from the simple message “look we’re all zombies” there’s also “look at what we’re doing” and how we act in public spaces, but also how much we’re losing a certain sense of intimacy, of living things for ourselves… and so trying to understand how every moment of our lives is becoming a bargaining chip, but not just for us. That is to say, behind it there are tons of people who are pushing us to these behaviors. We are losing what it is to live things for ourselves. And this is a huge social pressure, but I think that this pressure… this huge pressure is in our pocket as a matter of fact. That’s what I find very impressive about the phone.