Look Out! Chris Eckert’s Machines Are Watching You

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Ever feel like you’re being watched? You probably are. Surveillance cameras are a fact of everyday life, so omnipresent we often forget about the implications of being recorded—and just who is observing us.

“I don’t know that we fully appreciate the level that we’re observed,” says artist Chris Eckert. To make the mechanisms of surveillance more visible (apologies,) Eckert created BLINK, an installation of 20 uncannily realistic motorized eyeballs at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art.

Eckert makes what he calls “little art machines,” mechanical works of art that challenge people to reflect more critically on technology’s place in our culture. Eckert trained as a mechanical engineer and worked for many years in Silicon Valley before he began to see the factory automation he designed and built as a potential art form. At the ICA, the row of eyes scanned the crowds, tracking visitors as they moved through the space; BLINK’s interactivity was both fun and a bit creepy.

But while most systems of surveillance conceal their locations and the destinations of their recorded data, Eckert’s art machines contain a surprising reveal, one that makes complacent interaction all but impossible.

Find out what’s around the corner in BLINK. -- Text by Sarah Hotchkiss


More about Chris Eckert and his work on KQED