In 2015, 96.8% of the Earth’s population had a Mobile-Cellular telephone subscription. 47.2% had a subscription that included a broadband Internet connection.
– ITU (International Telecommunications Union)
In 2015, 64% of American adults owned a smartphone. – Pew Research Center
89% of cellphone owners say they used their phone during the most recent social gathering they attended / 35% of those 18-29 use their phone in public for no particular reason, just to do something. –Pew Research Center
Distracted driving was reported in crashes that killed 3,179 people (10% of all fatalities) in 2014.
– US Department of transportation.
Rick Wester Fine Art is very pleased to present the first solo exhibition in New York by the North Carolina-based photographer, Eric Pickersgill. Titled, Removed, the body of work on view is of such immediacy and sardonic precision that it has been covered by dozens of news sources, critics and bloggers. Reaching viral proportions online over the last several months, Removed touches the nerve of a cultural phenomenon that today knows no global boundaries and relates to the soon to be estimated, two billion users of smartphones and other devices that have overtaken our lives, concentration, imaginations and attention.
In Removed, Pickersgill has taken a portrait of a worldwide culture addicted to connectivity. The subjects in the series - which range in age, sex, and ethnicity - are depicted looking at mobile devices, but with the technology ‘removed’. In the portraits of what would be quotidian activities, Pickersgill has subjects maintain their gaze and posture as he physically withdraws the devices from their hands. A commentary on how isolating being constantly connected can be, the images call into question the societal implication in exchanging digital connectivity for corporeal reality and capture the zeitgeist of the new technologically centered reality of the 21st century.
By eliminating the source of connectivity, Pickersgill rescinds the veil of contemporary technology’s hold on our devotion. The images display a pervading disconnect between the subjects in what should be the most intimate of moments: a friendly social gathering; playtime among small children; a mother with her child. In perhaps the most iconic image from the series, a self-portrait, Angie and Me, Pickersgill and his wife are shown lying in bed. Instead of the young couple sharing the last moments of their day with each other, they lay back-to-back staring into their empty hands, leaving a feeling of isolation and despondency. The individual portraits address the extent to which these devices have captured our attention. In Head On, a woman casually looks away from the road at her extracted device as she seemingly drives unknowingly into another vehicle. Technology, it seems, has made us oblivious not only to others but ourselves.
The message in Pickersgill’s work is not a Luddite call to arms, but rather a contemporary version of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. The images call on us to appreciate the interactions of everyday life while we live them or at least to examine what we are losing in ignoring those interactions. The ultimate irony in the images is that the subjects don’t seem particularly entertained by their technological distractions. The countenance is unsettling in its familiarity- an emotionless expression that is as ubiquitous as the mobile devices themselves. Removed calls us to awaken from this technology-fueled stupor and, if only for a moment, to look up.
Pickersgill received an MFA from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a BFA in Fine Art Photography from Columbia College, Chicago. He also serves on the board of directors at the Light Factory and is a visiting lecturer at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.