It can’t only be me that is intrigued by people watching. I do it all the time, on the train, on the street; in galleries I find myself observing reactions to certain artwork just as much as the work itself. How people are when they don’t have their social shield on. To show a genuine reaction, one has to be alone, in one’s own mind or physically; being alone is key.
At the Whitney Biennial, Michel Auder’s “I Was Looking Back To See If You Were Looking Back At Me To See Me Looking Back At You”, the work doesn’t need an explanation. A 15:12 minute film, compiled with over 30 years of recordings of overlooking into the night and dusk windows of various neighbors.
I watched as strangers cooked, sang along, wondered, with their lovers, on their own, on the phone, in their homes. Then I started to watch the other spectators. The artwork triggered my own voyeuristic senses as I watched how people entered and left the room.
I watched for more than the 15 minutes. Some people were there longer, 5 minutes, most left before 1 minute. When a the widows were empty, people stopped watching. At the sight of a naked body, more people than would admit stayed. I watched them watching. Then… there were those that quickly left when they realized the neighbors were having sex. On one hand they leave because they are taken back. But mostly, there is a sudden awareness of communal voyeurism. Exposing our curiosity for the lives of others. This reaction was not only for the nude episodes but also for the emotional scenes. Seeing someone sad, angry, lonely, one begins to connect to fundamental human emotions simply by watching.
Michel Auder, Still from Untitled (I Was Looking Back To See If You Were Looking Back At Me To See Me Looking Back At You), 2014. © Michel Auder