How Technology Sucks our Attention, Alienates and Extends Us: Antoine Geiger’s “Sur-Fake”

I am frequently haunted by the idea of how many hours I have lost to technology over the past ten years, what all I could have accomplished had I not allowed it to swallow chunks of my life. In his series “Sur-Fake” – shot in Paris in 2015 – French-Swiss photographer Antoine Geiger (born 1995) portrays this attention-sucking aspect of digital devices in a blunt manner that provokes humour and also disturbs us into a state of alertness and reflection.

Sur-Fake echoes Antoine’s former project Sur-Face, wherein he explored figures hidden behind silver umbrella-like cones. In this one, he shows the screen as an object of “mass subculture”, a devouring flatness that takes in our features and reduces them to unidentifiable blurs. The screen alienates us, severing our relationship to our own body, and more generally to the entire physical world.

Antoine Geiger

Antoine introduces Sur-Fake with a quotation from the book The Work of Art in the Age of of its Mechanical Reproducibility (1935) by the German Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892–1940):

Mankind, which in Homer’s time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, is now one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as aesthetic pleasure of the first order.

Through the screen, mankind marvels at itself, and ironically ends up diminishing itself, as in it loses touch with its own material reality. But there is another side to the story. The screen also stretches an individual.

The screen has become a biological extension, writes Antoine, “It is Omnipresent: it’s everywhere. In your pocket, your car, your apartment, your street. It is Omnipotent: it is your best fellow, you give him all your friends, your good feelings and your holiday pictures. It is Omniscient: the actual Swiss knife of the 21st century, without him we’re all lost. Through technology, humanity moved away from the position of an animal to get closer to plants. Except that man is a moving plant. We rooted ourselves in our modernity. Depending more and more on external sources of energy, we are linked, connected from all sides. With globalisation we end up looking for our roots. We plug-in our mobile phone and here we are, grafted to our pebble. Despite the sedentarisation of occidental lifestyles, the unbridled dream of nomadism remains alive.”

The photographer explains the meaning behind the name of the series: “The small anodyne object that purrs in your bag when you receive a call, that cries when its battery is low, what place does it actually occupy in your mind? The sur-face, sleek, reassuring, becomes sur-fake. This polymorphous inter-face turns into a dialogue between your neurosis and your psychosis. Who is who in this story? The screen probably incarnates our lives, and with such talent, it is soon more real than our own ‘carne’ (flesh). So what a funny plant, Man, that substitutes itself to himself in a curious ping-pong match with the pixels, terrified like a thick cloud of midges.”

Antoine mainly lives and works across Paris, London, Amsterdam and Rome. As an artist, he writes, he hopes to find himself through his work, sharpen his eye, sharpen his criticism. “Then I try to make it accessible,” he continues. “Then learn from the judgment of others, grow from it. It’s also a way to escape from my other side, which is being an architecture student. Oh also, my new goal as an artist is to make my audience understand that a lot of my work is different from SUR-FAKE, that I like very contemplative stuff and also stuff that doesn’t have such heavy meaning in it.”

Recently, Antoine finished a triptych  called “Faith, Time, Tourism”, which he made during his six-month stay in Rome. He has also been feeding into and updating a series called “Utopian Landscapes” for the last one year.

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Images used with permission.