cell phone videos of my son and Nedā Āghā-Soltān, iPhone 3GS
The piece contains: 2 iPhones with looping cell phone videos.The phones are tilted into one another balancing into an upright position.
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On my phone I see my son. He is sitting on his dresser in his room. He is bathed in a white wintery light that makes his new skin pale. Sebastian’s hair and eyes contrast darkly with his skin as he peers out at me (or rather the camera).
He holds in his hand a valentines day card from his grandparents. He looks from the card to the iPhone recording him. He sees himself watching himself.
As he opens the card it sings to him in saccharine high pitched voices “I … love … you … I love you … Oooo.”
Light from the window floods in upon him as the card sings and he blanches to pure white.
He closes the card and opens it again, “I … love … you …saccharine I love you … Oooo.” He blinks, he smiles.
My wife’s hand reaches in from beyond the phone and brushes his hair away. “Do you like it?” She asks.
I do. I know she is speaking to him, but it feels as it could be to me instead. I cry.
This video kills me when I watch it.
As my son falls in love with his own image in realtime on my wife’s iPhone, I watch it later on my own from far away. I see him enamored with himself. I watch it again.
In this video he is attune and focused on his image, but also oblivious to his own vulnerability in being viewed. He is only 2 years old in this video.
In this way I can see him. I can look at him long, repeatedly, intimately, while he looks back at me fully open and in love. I can look as long as I like, as a parent without need of parenting. Craving instead glimpses of what I long to see the most, and am blinded to daily.
I promise myself I will never loose this clip. I take it out and play it when I need it. Video footage shot by my wife of the first child we made. Sebastian sees himself as himself, as it happens, and accepts himself.
As the clip finishes Sebastian looks back at himself one more time and then raises a hand to his mouth as one does often to hold back an excess of emotion (but I am not sure why he does it).
I catch myself ending in the same hand gesture as I watch it sometimes, a kind of protection. A protection I unconsciously put in deference to his image. I repeat his hand gesture as I watch so my own visible self doesn’t spill out and dilute the addictive bright gaze he beams back at me, over and over again.
Neda died today. She will die over and over again for us as long as we watch. A martyr that is forever becoming in digital displays.
It starts as as bystanders are laying her down in the middle of the street.
The camera circles around to get a better look at her face, and as it does we see her pupils. They are black and large, we see them part the white of her eyes and rest on us for one moment.
People wail on the street now that she is down and dying.
The cameraman hovers.
A spectator hovers with a blue green gingham short sleeved shirt.
People wear jeans.
We hear others scream and wail. A wailing that means someone will die soon, and that the world will go on in the wake of it.
A man cradles Neda’s head as pixelated blood streams silently from beneath her face.
A man kneels down. Unsure what to do he waits for a split second and then leans in to put pressure on her wounds.
Neda disappears beneath a radial cluster of male shoulders. Now clad in polo shirts tucked in to black belts. These men merge into a group of arms that press on Neda in the hope of holding her here on the asphalt for a little longer.
All these men fail. The video finds its last frame, and restarts.
Its not so much the image but rather the sound that causes trauma for me. The continual, potent sound of wailing, and the banal sounds of the street fused over top confused action of streets abroad.
Video is neither dead nor alive but always both. Video is not human it is the immortal vampire of the world of images. Beautiful, terrifying, powerful, enviable, and utterly un-ignorable. It has neither earned its life nor fears its death (it has none).
And so I find myself transfixed again looking between life and death. My eyes bolted to a frames per second appetizer of dying, resurrected at will on the screen of my phone.