“The basic human need to be watched was once satisfied by God”
I read this quote before watching Sevdaliza’s music video for Human. Before even pressing the play button I started thinking of it’s implications. Now bear with me, because what follows is simply my thought process, and may or may not follow the exact narrative of the video.
Humans seem to have always had this desire to be a spectacle for some audience; be it God or our peers. Perhaps it’s written in our DNA, have we evolved this way? Surely, I can’t be the only one who has experienced those moments when no one was there to clap at a random strike of genius, or to witness a minor victory. Like that one time you haphazardly threw a wad of notes over your shoulder and it landed in the waste basket ~ somehow. That stunned feeling of, Oh shit!! I just did that, and the frantic guffawing at yourself as you look over your shoulder, hoping, praying someone else saw that too.
Maybe it stems from our desire to share our lives with one another, to feel connected and not so alone. Social media wouldn’t be such an important part of our daily life if sharing wasn’t one of our most profound needs.
But moreso, why is it that being watched, and more specifically being a spectacle seems to be intrinsically ingrained with our shadowy depths? With guilt, and shame?
Think back to one of the most accessible examples of this: Santa Claus. As children we were coerced into “appropriate" behaviors because somewhere out there, some hurly burly man with a cotton candy beard was watching our every move. And if we succeeded in hiding our ugly and primal impulses, we would be rewarded, right?
The spectator is usually (and predictably so in this video) male. If you’ve taken a single art history course, you’re very familiar with the term the ‘male gaze’ and how it supposedly objectifies women. The women depicted in copious scenes throughout art history, lie about lackadaisically with their most desirable parts exposed to the viewer. In these scenarios the gaze always implies some sort of overt sexuality, which yet again is that taboo part of women that is expected to be hidden; admired by men, but not enjoyed by the woman herself.
But what I love most about Human, is that Sevdaliza seems to be exposing her sexuality and is completely aware of her male audience. At some point in the video I realized that she too is a spectator. She represents the female gaze and is watching the men just as intently. In this moment, she’s in full possession of her power, and her sexuality. She seems to have the gaze of Medusa herself.
But lets take a moment to break away from the typical argument, because that’s never been what’s interested me. Sure, there are men watching this beautiful woman coil and sway, but it also beckons us to break the third wall, and call attention to ourselves. Aren’t we the voyeurs in this case? And what the hell are our motivations for watching this video?
I won’t lie, I watched it because a dear friend of mine recommended it to me. But contrary to what I’ve written thus far, I wasn’t attracted to it for it’s darkness, esoteric references, or blatant sexuality. My deepest interest was in what was hidden beyond the skin of the woman, beyond the physical, and apparent. What is it that was trying to break free through this performance?
I am admittedly an optimist, but what I saw was a woman bringing all that darkness out into the light for her spectator to see, and being transformed in the process. I saw her pointing a finger not only at her audience, but also at herself, and saying, I too see you, and in the dialectic of us seeing each other, we can be lifted.