Brian Alfred (American, b. 1974)
Video; color, sound; 5:30 min.
Courtesy of the artist
In the empty desk-scapes of Brian Alfred’s Conspiracy, an unknown centralized intelligence control center collects and transmits coordinates in spite of their absent human counterparts. Streaming data marches on through airwaves while headsets make announcements in an air traffic control tower, but what precisely is the business at hand in this automated vigil? Surveillance is the shot heard around the world today, it’s quite literally a ubiquitous matrix of corporate and government efforts that encircle the globe as very recent Wikileak documents have proven. Panning past an endless succession of monitors, the pivot and spin of an office chair moves us unknown distances as urban skylines and aerial shots of rural landscapes come into monitor frame. Alfred’s flatly rendered depictions of places assert an uncanny feeling; everything is familiar universality, allowing viewers just enough space to find their own déjà vu. Occasionally we’re given precise narrative moments when maps come into focus, shaky footage of nuclear signage suggests ecological danger, or the American flag comes into frame to contextualize a large group of protest signs that mechanically rise and fall. This psychological video portrait of the USA, produced eight years ago, seems almost prophetic considering how quickly Alfred pinpoints our current national preoccupations by simply removing the human figure and laying bare the activities that keep us awake at night.