Creative Capital Roundup: James Coupe

A couple weeks ago I was invited to be a consultant at the Creative Capital Artist Retreat. Not only did I get to meet a slew of talented and inspiring people, but I left the four-day sojourn eager to experiment with my own work. A large part of the weekend consists of seven minute artist presentations, which range from the visual arts to “innovative literature” to dance to “emerging fields” to everything in between. Cross-platform and socially conscious projects seem to be favored, though the work did span quite an impressive range of topics. I’m going to highlight some of my favorites in upcoming posts.

Today I’m focusing on James Coupe, a Briton currently living in Seattle. He previewed his new work Surveillance Suite, but by way of introduction I want to show you the incredible (re)collector. Coupe took scenes from Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966) and programmed CCTV cameras around Cambridge to record when passersby mimicked the scenes’ action. What you get are people performing a kind of “accidental cinema,” reliving a film without explicit endorsement or knowledge. If Big Brother can watch us for the purposes of criminal deterrence, why can’t artists watch us for the purposes of art? Of course, I’m being a tad flip – Coupe’s work goes straight to the heart of problematizing our culture’s paradoxical relationship with surveillance and exhibitionism.

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