In November 2011, I began talking about the Arab Spring in my classes and found myself looking out at blank stares. I asked my students to raise their hands if they had not heard of the term Arab Spring. Surprisingly, all the students’ hands in two classes went up, except for one, a member of the military. As he sat there looking down shaking his head, I realized that my students were completely unaware of the current global political and economic unrest almost a full year after it had started. Most, at that point, were also oblivious of the three-month-old Occupy Movement that was spreading across the U.S.
Because of this, I began to ask why it was, in the age of social media and instant information, that many people in this country, not just my students, were unaware of current global events — events that included economic collapses, toppled governments, mass civilian deaths, and the overwhelming use of force against civilians. I observed that American mass media, specifically the network news shows, provides a minimal, glossed-over account of world conflicts, restricting the viewer’s knowledge and understanding of events beyond their television screen.
Focusing on the conflicts and uprisings of the past year in Greece, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Bahrain and New York, PreOccupied brings to the forefront how consumers of American mass media are distracted by entertainment and disconnected from empathy.
These particular images were appropriated from first person videos that were shared via YouTube and social media outlets in order to serve as eyewitness accounts of the conflicts occurring in their respective countries.
The installation features live, broadcast television in which the viewer is free to “channel surf”. The sound projected in the space is a mash-up of the audio that accompanied the selected YouTube videos. The viewer’s experience of watching American television is challenged by the gunshots and screams that play on a continuous loop.
PreOccupied will be featured at the Rebecca Randall Bryan Art Gallery at Coastal Carolina University May 19 – June 28, 2014. http://www.coastal.edu/bryanartgallery/
Michael Dickins is an interdisciplinary artist whose work is created with a variety of media including photography, printmaking, drawing, installation, sound and video. His balance of both digital and material processes allows him to create pieces that are both expressive and engaging.
Dickins is interested in the impact that the technological advances of photography has had, and is having, on our visual culture. His current work focuses on the importance of the snapshot and vernacular video both as art and as an influential medium in historical and contemporary societies.
Dickins holds a BFA in photography/printmaking from Georgia Southern University and an MFAIA from Goddard College. He is currently the gallery manager of the Curtis R. Harley Art Gallery and an adjunct professor of art at the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg, South Carolina.