Exhibition Hall -1
“These images are devoid of social intent. They are not for edification. Not for reflection”, says Harun Farocki in 2001 and coins the term “operational images”. He refers to images made by machines for machines, where no human agency is apparently involved in the process.
Today, while PEOPLE use machines constantly to capture almost everything, they can also be photographed by machines without even knowing it. Their faces, emotions, habits, beliefs, images and data can be collected, stored and valorized in massive and invisible ways, serving warfare, surveillance, global capital, and various risk management systems whose aim is to predict the future. The world nowadays often feels like an enormous crystal ball absorbing everything visually and at the same time projecting its predetermined game plan back to us. Digital images feel too omnipresent and too invisible to allow for reflection and for the transformative power of the human imagination and have been transformed into shrunk traces of Big Data’s hidden ocean.
What is the cultural significance of such visual artefacts and computational devices, compared to the contents of NASA’s 1977 Golden Records, projecting into space and into the future an utterly idealized version of the human world? Back then, humans hoped to communicate with extraterrestrial life through what they deemed beautiful and important enough to be preserved in a Vacuum. Today, this Vacuum refracts back on us its scattered particles, the infinite digits and pixels comprising a new era, a world picture that does not appear as linear, ordered and bright.
A new visual grammar emerges, and the deep digital texture of the new image (devoid of textuality), that brings about a new aesthetic, new semiotic mechanisms, and therefore new ways of representing and interpreting the world. Are these meta-images? Are they images at all? Or are they just data maps and digital objects? In place of photographs, human stories and subjective theories of the once modern era, in this exhibition we try to examine tactical media and black boxes; hidden algorithms and all-seeing eyes that record everything.
But we also detect new possibilities that these technologies open up, examples of radical uses encouraging critical understanding, social engagement and action. Together, collective historical witnessing and contested testimony, communal synchronicities, evolving counter-surveillance practices and the rise of counter-images, revert the image back to its inherent contextuality and thus against its brutal instrumentalization.
Exploring the politics of resolution and Big Data—both often disguised as images—we hope to display the tension between the eye of the machine and the never-ending desire of humanity to seek meaning and freedom. Can you see it?