Reference Library: Discovery Zone’s “UR EYES” Was Inspired By Personal Data Collection

“I wanted to get to the heart of this desire for self-optimization.”

It was 2021. I was in the midst of writing a commissioned multi-media performance piece called Cybernetica. I had hired a private organization to collect all of my personal data. With this data, I set out to make a power-point presentation with live music and video content about my life. Well, sort of. The narrative arc of the piece is basically that I get trapped inside of a product on the internet. I unwittingly give an unknown corporation access to all of my information — past present and future. The product I am trapped in is unclear, but I must use it to figure out what it is and what it can do. To make a long story short, I eventually figure out that I am in fact writing the script of this performance, and can change the narrative arc of my own story in this meta reality.

During the process of making Cybernetica, I felt a transformation taking place within me. There was something eerie and powerful about being presented with my life in data points. I felt like I was gazing into a twisted reflection, and it wasn’t easy to take. 

By experiencing my life through this abstracted lens, I could more easily sculpt the data into something accessible — a condensed narrative. But I felt like I was losing something too. By allowing myself and the contents of my life to be observed in this way, I was allowing a process of change to take place. 

The lyrics of “UR EYES”  are about the ambivalence of change. The paradoxical fear that underscores desire. It could be interpreted as a love song I suppose, but actually I wrote it about my own fascination with technology, and the conflicting feelings I have about going further into this posthuman portal. We seem to be at continuous crossroads — a fork at every juncture. And how do we proceed? Are we making these choices, or are they all laid out for us on a predetermined map of destiny?

The idea for the video came later. When I was making my record Quantum Web I had this concept in mind that every track would have its own “product” or “service” associated with it. I had this idea for a spiritual enhancement clinic. I have always had a fascination with plastic surgery — this idea of internal transformation by way of idealized physical perfection. I wanted to get to the heart of this desire for self-optimization. I love the aesthetic of advertisements for wellness treatments, and I wanted to take it a step further into a sort of fantastical science fiction realm. 

I worked with my friend James Barry to create the visual world for this song, who also made the videos for “Blissful Morning Dream Interpretation Melody” and “Mall of Luv.” I wrote out some copy for a ”spiritual enhancement” clinic called Ur Eyes and it ended up in this ad. James trained an algorithm on lots of selfies I sent him and created an AI avatar of me, along with lots of other AI generated characters and imagery that appear in the video. I love the singing ads especially. 

I think there is a deep existential discomfort many people are feeling now as we slowly start to merge our lives in many ways with forms of technology that become less and less visible to us. The boundary becomes more blurry, and it is in this ambiguous zone that I would like to invite you to join me. 

(Photo Credit: left, Andie Riekstina) 

Discovery Zone is an experimental pop project based in NYC. Their record Quantum Web is out now on RVNG.

(Photo Credit: Andie Riekstina)