Pedestrians looking into the windows of the Wellcome Collection science and culture venue in London now have a surprise staring back at them: an interactive and giant pair of digital eyes. Eye Contact, from Camberwell College of Arts alum Peter Hudson, is an array of 650 oversized pixels— lit by 16,000 individual LEDs— that come together to portray a partial representation of larger-than-life face.
Sourced from a set of 68 volunteers working at the Wellcome Trust, the eyes are active during the day, turning their massive irises toward London passers-by. At night, they slowly close to get some beauty rest— unless a set of sensors detect nearby walkers, in which case they burst back open, awaking from their slumber.
According to a Wellcome Collection press release, Hudson says that, with Eye Contact, he's "exploring how the digital screen mediates the way we consume images and how the emotional content is affected. Eyes are both a symbol of perception and an instantly recognizable human feature, so by presenting them through a heavily pixilated video display, I’m challenging the usually fluid process of recognition." Viewed up close, each pixel looks like its own piece in an abstract puzzle. Only from afar do the eyes make themselves visible. Thus, many Londoners are being 'watched' without even knowing it. Sound familiar? Welcome to the 21st Century.
Hudson earned Eye Contact its cushy window-side vista by winning the Wellcome Trust Windows Commission 2014. It will remain available for viewing until July, 2015. The question of who is doing the viewing, however— the eyes, or their audience— well, it's all a matter of perspective.