I've taken the 56 or 57 bus into Newcastle city centre from my flat in Gateshead every day I've been in the studio.
I get off the bus at New Bridge Street and walk around the corner to Commercial Union House, seeing the Vision Express across the street (see header image). Looking back at the experiments I've been carrying out over the course of this residency I've registered that they were all very focused on looking, seeing and being seen. Given this interest in seeing, their advert for 'Free Retinal Photography' kept pricking my interest.
I have long been interested in eye imagery. Over the last year I've been collecting photographs in which human eyes are used to illustrate surveillance. Some can be seen here:
I have for a while been thinking about making my own such posters, using a detailed image of my iris, such that the poster would both threaten surveillance and offer up my own body identification as part of the deal. I have attempted to photograph my own eye, but this is obviously quite difficult. My best attempt is here:
The Vision Express sign has also triggered a new project idea involving iris recognition technology. My plan is that if I can get an accurate enough image of my iris I could develop a coloured contact lens matching my iris exactly, so others could 'wear' my eyes.
Pursuing both these ideas, I visited Vision Express and asked them if the imagery accompanying their offer was accurate; the picture shows an iris, but the text says a retinal photograph, which would be a very different thing.
Sadly this was just another instances of capitalist misleading; the photographs would indeed be of my retinas, unlike the illustrating image. But a retinal photograph in itself is something interesting, a potential bodily identifier that I would not have access to otherwise. So, I paid my £25.00 and undertook an eye test, in order to get the photographs.
Here they are.
They are strange, almost alien images. And definitely images I will use for things in future.
Most obviously in the next incarnation of my ever-developing performance 'Simon Farid now, right now, live, codified in numbers, traces, digital and biological, publicly owned, private enterprise, free and regulated' in which I present myself in terms of all the data, biological and administrative, that I have access to.
The actual outcome of the eye test is relevant for this performance too, my prescription being another biological identifier. Here is the outcomes for both my eyes:
Apparently I'm slightly short sighted, but its nothing too pressing so I shan't be getting glasses anytime soon. I was told I should check my cholesterol with my GP though, my eyes indicated it was too high.
Anyway, I'll get thinking what else I can use the retina photographs for...