Montreal-based artist Jon Rafman’s 9-eyes project is a collection of images culled from plenty of careful looking through Google Maps’ Street View feature. Following an idiosyncratic logic that is governed by both aesthetic taste and psychic compulsion, the excerpted images perform a sort of inventory of modern life. Many of the images Rafman draws out of the glut feature people in various states of address to the nine-eyed camera, and obviously, also, so many buildings and roadways, a sort of survey of contemporary architecture and infrastructure. There is much to be said about the project, from an articulation of its motivation to its “capacity to delimit and regulate particular subject and citizen positions through everyday life.” Since I began looking at Rafman’s collection, it has been hard to stop, and as my lover peers over my shoulder or as I read through comment threads, I am surprised by a repeating, incredulous reaction, something along the lines of, “No way. That is not an image from Google Street View. No no no.” What is behind this disbelief? Is it a discomfort with the images captured, a shying away from the truths of violence and poverty? Is it a shock at the beauty? Is it just the strangeness? Or is it a fear around performance, observation and privacy? And what would change in our reading of the images if they were not legitimately made by the impassive cameras of a corporation, but were instead scenes consciously framed and captured by a photographer?


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