Artist Extracts Short Visual Stories From Web Cameras All Over the World

Artist Extracts Short Visual Stories From Web Cameras All Over the World

We might be instructed to stay at home for now but it doesn't mean that the outside world has stopped turning. It has, actually, continued to thrive and has given one artist an idea for extracting and collating brief digital sceneries from web cameras all over the world to tell stories of isolation.

As a photographer, it is very likely that you have had to readjust your creativity while the world is dealing with the virus pandemic and it is possible that you haven't picked up your camera for weeks.  Some of us turn to shooting personal projects at home, some are still catching up on editing backlog, some have picked up finishing DIY jobs they have been putting off for months, and others have turned to simply looking after their home and their mental and physical wellbeing just to survive through these strange times. 

An artist from Austria, Janick Entremont, currently attending the Ostkreuzschule für Fotografie in Berlin, Germany, has found his own unique way of expressing himself and exploring the world while we're on lockdown. Without leaving his home, Entremont finds and extracts brief clips from public online web cameras from every corner of the world to create a compelling visual collection, allowing the viewer to bring globalization home. 

Having been interested in the visual medium from an early age, Entremont used to apply a more technology-based approach, such as, exploring the inside and the functional principle of a camera. But, after years of gaining experience, content matter took priority. His work gives viewers insight into "places they would normally not get and let them live through moments they would normally not experience". The underlying goal, while experimenting with different genres and techniques, is to seek out people and their stories. 

When the first moments of isolation surfaced, Entremont began feeling the uncertainty and the unknowing while on his way from Berlin to Art Festival in Innsbruck, Austria. A flurry of cancellation e-mails landed in his inbox and the media also began to catch up in informing the public. Next thing you know, the borders were closed and "nothing was like before." While processing the current situation and events, Entremont began questioning his own duty as a photographer and how he could make the most of the terrible situation. Not really a familiar situation in regards to the extent of a world wide pandemic but the artist had already been used to reacting to impulses from the outside, so the transition was natural.

Being at home yet having access to reach distant places through a click of a button is fascinating. Staying at home and keeping yourself and others safe is part of the solution to the current situation but it doesn't mean you have to extinguish that passion for discovering and exploring the world. Entremonts reasoning was, "why work with just one camera, as usual, when we have access to thousands?" when he started collating these sceneries from web cameras. 

He spent a lot of time searching and observing public web cameras accessible online. The project seemed appealing because it's a new approach to tell these stories, albeit a challenging one. The process requires you to sit in front of a screen for hours on end, which becomes exhausting. Definitely not as enjoyable as the "regular" way of traveling. 

To find these webcams, Entremont used a variety of websites that have sorted them by region or other keywords. If he had a particular location or part of the world in mind, Entremont searched for them directly but other times simply worked his way through different websites and webcams, usually using multiple tabs open at the same time. Initially, it was a fun process but understandably after a while became exhausting. 

The approach to recording the visuals was by using a phone, allowing for more flexibility with framing and avoiding a large amount of data to process from high definition and 4K webcams. This saved a lot of time and was more practical, too. The screen and pixels you see in his visuals also added to the aesthetic. 

For creatives from different types of arts this time can be challenging because we all deal with the situation differently and not everyone is able to currently express themselves creatively. However, because the use of Internet allows us to easily get our work out and seen, it is something that artists should consider to make the use of. Not just to share something for artistic consumption but also to stay in contact with peers to maintain at least some normalcy. 

Entremont encourages others to pursue personal work and projects without any expectations but as an urge. It could be a reaction, a visual diary of how we feel, or a simple expression that turns frustration and the unknown into something tangible. It does not need to make any sense today but in a few months and years, when you look back at this period in your life, whatever you created in this time will have grown in meaning to you. It may be overwhelming to plan any personal projects right now but if you do, try and break it up in small steps as you would with any task and do not get distracted from your end goal, Entremont suggests. This gives you some structure but still allows flexibility and freedom to deviate and experiment with what feels right at the time. 

The project, titled "corona.webcam" is viewable on Entremont's website. It has given the artist a feeling of control and purpose when the surrounding environment is so unpredictable. The project, created as a response to today's events, is seen by the artists as a "piece of work as part of something bigger". Who knows what the future brings but artists will always find a way to creatively process the world and its events to show the viewers their way of seeing. 

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11 Comments

Deleted Account's picture

Not my cup of tea.

Andrew Johnson's picture

Don't know that I would consider taking screengrabs of live webcams and slapping a copyright logo in the context is art. Or legal.
To be fair maybe it is but this seems like a stretch.

Anete Lusina's picture

Hey Andrew, you are of course entitled to your own opinion but in regards to art, it is defined as 'a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts (artworks), expressing the author's imaginative, conceptual ideas, or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power', which this project has achieved. Whether the member of audience likes it is another matter. :)

Andrew Johnson's picture

I understand that Anete but a fundamental element of "art" is creation. This would be a curation of other people's videos not the creation of it.

That would be like me printing your street photography images and taping them to a board in a circle and saying look at the circle of life in Paris and stamping a copyright symbol on it like that would be ok.
That's obviously completely ridiculous not to mention a pretty egregious violation of your intellectual property.

Now to be fair if you were to write a story about the videos or provide some detailed context to it then that piece of it I would think can certainly be considered art but I don't think the few sentences of commentary on the website would count due to the lack of any real substance.

I completely understand your point of view about art and I can respect that I just fundamentally disagree.

Anete Lusina's picture

Completely fair point Andrew. I think discussion should always be welcome in a civilised manner because topics related to art and photography can often be very subjective and we all view things very differently but I certainly understand where you're coming from and your opinion is as valid as anyone else's.

marcgabor's picture

Andrew Johnson, Entremont combing through PUBLIC webcams and pulling stills is not at all the same thing as you printing Anete's photography and arranging it in a circle. This is a ridiculous comparison and renders your argument baseless.

I completely disagree that there is no creation in what Janick did here. The webcam footage is simply a raw material. It must of taken him a lot of time to make something from it. From countless hours of public webcams which are not really art unto themselves - they do not exist to put across a point of view from any one individual - he pulled out these moments that take on new meaning when seen in a new context. It is similar to what a sculptor working with found objects does. Taking discarded objects that on their own, lying in the dump or in the street or wherever they are found have no artistic value but when pieced together become something new.

Just because Entremont didn't take the images himself doesn't mean he didn't create anything. It took a certain CREATIVITY to repurpose all this footage and CREATE something new out of it.

Curation is about selecting, organizing and looking after items in an exhibition. If he had been curating the footage - curating by the way is an entirely overused word that has completely lost its meaning - he would probably would have presented the videos very differently.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/03/style/curate-buzzword.html

Being there to take the video or photo yourself ONE way to make image based visual art. By being a little more open minded you might just appreciate creative ideas that are outside what you narrowly define as art.

Andrew Johnson's picture

Be a little more open-minded (dismisses my view because it's different than his)... lol ok stupid.

Maybe you should go look at the actual website and see it for yourself. It's copied and pasted video and a few lines of text, that's not the creation of art. Now if he used that footage like stock and it was supporting footage for a larger video or piece then sure, that by any measure would count but it's not.

Got to love your apples to oranges comparison of what a sculptor does. The clue is very much in the name, a sculptor actually sculpts something. Is the guy who tapped a banana to a wall an incredible artist to you?

LOL, the fuck outta here.

marcgabor's picture

So I'm not being open minded enough about your right to be closed minded about what does or doesn't constitutes art?

"What's hard for people to accept is that issues of art are just as difficult as issues of molecular biology; you cannot expect to open up a page on molecular biology and understand it. This is the hard news about art that irritates the public. if people are going to be irritated by that, they just have to be irritated by that."
-THOMAS McEVILLEY
Professor of art history, Rice University; contributing editor, Artforum magazine

"Lay people who react strongly may be better indicators, and the fact that they say it's not art probably means it has touched a nerve."
-ROBERT STORR
Curator, department of painting and sculpture, Museum of Modern Art

"Something is a work of art when it has filled its role as therapy for the artist. I don't care about the audience. I'm not working for the audience. The audience is welcome to take what they can."
-LOUISE BOURGEOIS
Artist

"Art these days has very little to do with esthetic responses; it has more to do with intellectual responses. You have to project a hypothesis: Suppose it is a work of art? Then certain questions come into play -- what's it about, what does it mean, why was it made, when was it made and with respect to what social and artistic conversations does it make a contribution? If you get good answers to those questions, it's art. Otherwise it turned out just to be a hole in the ground."
-ARTHUR DANTO
Art critic of The Nation

"If people want to say, that's art, great. That's terrific. Art is whatever people want to perceive it to be, but that doesn't mean the Federal Government should fund it."
-PETER HOEKSTRA
Republican Congressman from Michigan and an opponent of the N.E.A.

Andrew Johnson's picture

Cool so don't address the point I made and drop a bunch of quotes from other people so you don't have to explain your point in your own words. Got it lol

Also, the first sentence has got to be one of the greatest examples of hypocritical ignorance I've ever seen.

Andrew Johnson's picture

Also if you take your own argument about the webcam footage being "raw material" let's call Anete's photos "raw material" and in your own words. "he pulled out these moments that take on new meaning when seen in a new context" my circle of life example would be something seen in a new context.

Logic is hard. If you're going to argue with me you probably shouldn't trash your own argument in the same response... but nice try i guess?

Alfonse Diantonio's picture

Mr. Johnson you are negative voting me alot but you don’t talk to me. Try being nicer and you won’t be so angry inside! If you have something to say, say it. But if you just be negative without being strong enough to explain it then your just being a baby! Just some helpful advice from your online pal Alfie! Thanks!