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I Watched This Guy’s Dad Sleep in Japan from a Tent at an NYC 'Internet Market'

The exhibit was one of the most perplexing at the first installation of the IRL market known as Internet Yami-Ichi.

Kari Paul

Kari Paul

The tent where attendees could watch Qanta Shimizu's father sleep. Image: Kari Paul/Motherboard

Of all of the IRL manifestations of the internet on display at New York's first Internet Yami-Ichi (loosely translated to '"Internet Obsessive Market') on Saturday, web artist Qanta Shimizu's product may have been the best advertised.

The giant tent at the center of the market was hard to miss and covered in flyers imploring visitors to pay $1 to watch Shimizu's dad sleep in Tokyo "as much as you want."

"Do you want to watch my dad sleep?" he asked me as I approached. "It's really boring."

Sold on that enthusiastic pitch, I forked over a dollar to figure out what was going on inside the tent. Shimizu was right: it wasn't much. The artist had convinced his 70-year-old father to set up a camera in his room in Tokyo and informed him people might be tuning in, but didn't tell him he'd be a feature at an internet market.

Image: Kari Paul/Motherboard

The video continued to stream live as lullaby music played in the background. Glue was provided to users who were instructed to put it on their hands and wait for it to dry "to pass the time." I sat down next to two other attendees who were waiting for that process to finish.

Image: Kari Paul/Motherboard

The exhibit was one of more than 120 at the Yami–ichi Internet Black Market, where attendees could buy cross-stitched emoji, books of sad internet poems, or pay an "internet dude" to scream your Tweets at people (an IRL RT, he calls it). Other internet products sold included memes, automatic reblogging machines, and a variety of internet inspired-clothing.

So what is the goal of Shimizu's addition to the sprawling Yami-Ichi installment? To open our eyes to internet surveillance? To call attention to the voyeuristic aspects of social media? To observe the feeling of being increasingly watched online? Shimizu said it's not that complicated, and at a market that celebrates the "chaotic mixes of the amazing and the useless" that appear at flea markets, that's not surprising.

"I'm trying to commercialize my dad," he said. "That's my objective."