In thinking about avoidance I came across a service, a non-consumer revenue producing start-up it seems, it’s called Focusmate(.com). It is the contemporary version of that chatroom I showed you, except it is dogwhistling the entrepreneur and not the depressed, and weaponises visibility not anonymity – a descriptor of a general trend in internet culture since I started using that chatroom which still runs on drupal6.
On Focusmate you schedule in advance a 50 minute working session with a stranger. At the start of the session you say hi and describe what you want to do with your time, and then you work with your webcams (and often mics) turned on– the other becomes company or boss as is internally necessary. You yourself are turned into friend or scold by your ‘mate’. At the end you describe how the 50 minutes went and say goodbye. This is chat roulettes productive cousin, or perhaps child (generational cycles of inhibition and conservativeness?). These are people from all over the world, though there is no friend or add function.
Focusmate is actually the perfect tool for me, which I understand because I am already afraid both that it will go bust and also that it will become really popular and I will start to see my students on it. Here’s an image of me and a woman in Chicago working together.
[image of screenshot showing the top of a white woman’s head, her eyes are closed and on the right there is a smaller image of me with headphones, eyes also closed. To the left a chat window in which I have detailed tasks such as ‘email about rescheduling marking done’ and ‘screens ordered’]
Part of what I want to make for Flatness is a video produced between me and my friend Ashley, the one I went to see in California with the fee from Flatness. She is an old internet friend of mine, maybe it’s been 13 or 14 years that I have known her. She has always joked that we looked alike but this visit people kept mistaking us for family, twins even at one point. I can see it now. We have long faces, lots of cheeks, big foreheads and the same hair now too. We would make a split screen video of companionship, not unlike the Focusmate image above. We met as lonely young people, and now we are less lonely not-young people. Hers is my least avoidant friendship, which comes quite clearly out of meeting as pseudonymous avatars in different time zones.
What this video is I don’t know, but I am thinking about it.
Lucy Clout’s videos use technology and pop culture to examine loneliness, intimacy and kinship. The works produce and reproduce minor (disposable or insignificant) speech to examine embodiment, longing and historically gendered performance. In 2015 she was awarded the Jerwood/Film and Video Umbrella award. Recent exhibitions include Jerwood Space, London, CCA, Glasgow (2015) and Limoncello, London (2016). Recent screenings include Raven Row, Tate Britain and Anthology Film Archives, New York (all 2017). A solo show opens at Cubitt, London, in March 2019.