Overview participating photographers
For many American soldiers, their dispatch abroad consists of a 40-minute car journey, after which they move a mouse back and forth whilst sat in front of a computer. At a distance they control an RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft), which destroys military targets in a far away country, rushing home afterwards to take their little boy to football training. This abrupt transition, from the brutal reality of operating a drone in a war zone back to family life, is often referred to by the pilots of the drones with the term whiplash transition. The lack of separation between the theatre of war and home contributes to the rise of work stress and burnout. In her series WHIPLASH TRANSITION, Lisa Barnard examines these complex relations, using images from both the US and Pakistan.
New media such as YouTube have made it possible, at an almost alarming rate, for people to express themselves. The promise of contemporary, democratic, participative media fits seamlessly with the human desire for attention. However, no new technologies have emerged that enable us to listen to all these new public speakers. The installation HELLO WORLD! by Christopher Baker shows how thousands of people are able to address a potential public of billions – alone, and from their kitchen, bedroom or other private retreat. Are they heard, or is their voice lost in a cacophony of other voices?
In her series STRANGERS IN THE LIGHT, Catherine Balet examines the complicated relationship between humans and their technology. Her photographs show the new posture of the ever-reachable, contemporary human, absorbed in the white, digital light of his device. The individuals she has photographed are solely illuminated by the light on their smartphone, laptop or tablet, thus creating a 21st century chiaroscuro effect which seems to refer to classical paintings and the old masters. At the same time, it refers to the historical break with the past, brought about by modern means of communication.
The installation, IT’S NOTHING PERSONAL, is set in the space between what global surveillance firms promote in their self-representation, and what the testimonies of those directly affected by these technologies disclose.
In the past decade, the industry that satisfies governments’ demand for surveillance of mass communications has skyrocketed, and it is one of today's most rapidly burgeoning markets. A variety of products sold include ready-to-use monitoring centers that are able to silently access, process, and store years of electronic communications of entire countries.
While most of these products are undetectable by design, those who sell them have developed a strong corporate image. Branding concepts applied in promotional materials emphasise protection against vague but potent threats. Access to intimate details of correspondence is presented as impersonal data, petabytes stored and packets inspected.
The detached technical jargon and sanitized clip-art aesthetic work to obscure a deep-rooted partiality. Communication surveillance is a fundamental part of law enforcement operations meant to benefit those it vows to protect, in as much as it is a weapon for preserving power by infringing on the privacy of those who oppose it.
Up until 2014, the New York police had a Demographics Unit, a secret programme to spy on Muslims. Undercover detectives infiltrated neighbourhoods where Muslims lived to listen in on conversations and compile detailed records on Islamic entrepreneurs – where they ate and did their grocery shopping, and which mosques they visited. In his installation INFORMATION OF NOTE, Josh Begley combines photographs and notes from police records, exposed by Associated Press. Of each monitored premises, Begley shows a photograph of the exterior, the address and telephone number, and the ethnicity of the owner. The banal observations of the detectives sketch a remarkable image of the daily lives of those who were spied upon. The programme has never led to a clue. However, it is held partly responsible by many groups for creating an overall atmosphere of fear.
In his installation SEAMLESS TRANSITIONS, James Bridle shows that which must not be seen: the assessment, detention and deportation of refugees in Great Britain. He used techniques stemming from investigative journalism, eyewitness accounts and other research to form a picture of each of these links in the refugee chain. Using this research as a basis, Picture Plane, a company that visually brings to life the designs of architects, has created a film in which the viewer can walk through spaces that would normally remain hidden behind legislation and indifference.
For fifteen years, Kurt Caviezel has been scouring webcams in public and private spaces. From the endless stream of stills, he selects photographs with razor-sharp intuition that cover every aspect of life. His archive, accumulated by clicking his mouse, now consists of over three million images. In doing so, he has created an album of the globalised world, without ever having been to the places where the webcams are installed.
Sinds vijftien jaar struint Kurt Caviezel webcams in publieke en private ruimtes af. Uit de oneindige stroom stills selecteert hij met haarscherpe intuïtie foto’s die elk aspect van het leven bestrijken. Zijn archief, door het klikken van zijn muis vergaard, bestaat inmiddels uit meer dan drie miljoen beelden. Zo heeft hij een album van de geglobaliseerde wereld gecreëerd, zonder dat hij ooit op de plekken is geweest waar de webcams staan opgesteld.
Many public places in Great Britain are being privatised, in the course of which surveillance is put in place as a means of control. The latest hi-tech equipment is able to respond ‘smartly’ to events in the vicinity – lampposts can record sound and switch on whenever they ‘hear’ upheaval, dustbins can follow passing smartphones and register movements in a marked out area. The surveillance systems, however, are designed to be inconspicuous and continually contribute to a sense of false insinuation. In his series FRIENDLY PROPOSALS FOR HIGHLY CONTROLLING ENVIRONMENTS, Max Colson shows the potential of a more playful and therefore less threatening manner of surveillance.
With his three-dimensional, printed masks, Sterling Crispin examines the functioning of biometric surveillance technologies and the mathematical analysis of biological data. With the masks – shadows of people that have evolved from the algorithms of biometric recognition software – Crispin holds a mirror up to the software: he confronts the surveillance machine with his own fabrications. The masks are completely recognisable for the algorithms of facial recognition software, yet in our eyes they are deformed. At the same time, Crispin protests against the boom of surveillance technology and the manner in which people communicate with their ‘technological other half’, the globally active super organism comprising all machines and software.
Anita Cruz-Eberhard & David Howe
In the series SECURITY BLANKETS by Anita Cruz-Eberhard and David Howe, security is a warm blanket, not only in the figurative but also in the literal sense. Their security blankets, of incredibly soft fleece, are printed with images that were found on the Internet and refer to the notion of ‘security’. The softness and warmth of the fleece, however, form a sharp contrast with the disquieting imprints on the blankets; Cruz-Eberhard and Howe thereby evoke the confusing positive and negative emotional connotations of the word ‘security’.
After the attacks on 11 September 2001, Anita Cruz-Eberhard saw a rapid increase in the number of surveillance cameras in her place of residence, New York. But do all those cameras make our lives safer? Doesn’t our right to privacy disappear just as quickly as the technology emerges? Has it not transformed us into a police state? And doesn’t our obsession with cameras have just as much to do with our culture of voyeurism as it does with safety? By converting the technology that watches over us into art, Cruz-Eberhard examines the global, surveillance-saturated culture with an aesthetic dimension.
For her continuing series WATCH THE WATCHERS! #02, she created patterns using images of surveillance cameras which she pulled from shops and catalogues on the Internet.
The Economy of Appearances by Mark Curran elaborates his long-term ethnographically informed transnational project, THE MARKET (2010-) focusing on the functioning and condition of the global markets. Incorporating photographs, film, sound, artifacts and text, themes include the algorithmic machinery of the financial markets, as innovator of this technology, and long-range consequences of financial activity disconnected from the circumstance of citizens and everday life. Profiled sites include London, Dublin, Frankfurt and Addis Abeba. The installation for Data Rush furthers the enquiry to Amsterdam.
Curran filmed in the new financial district of Zuidas on the southern periphery of the Dutch capital – a global centre for algorithmic trading. Adapted from a text by Brett Scott, a former trader, the film, Algorithmic Surrealism, questions the hegemony of HFT and how the extinction of human reason in Market decisions will perpetuate more extreme power relations of minority wealth in globalised capitalist systems. The Netherlands is also pivotal in the global Shadow Banking system, therefore, the installation soundscape is generated through the transformation of data using an algorithm to identify the application of the words, market’ and/or ‘markets’ from public speeches by the Dutch Minister for Finance, Jeroen Dijsselbloem. The installation incorporates a 3D visualisation of this soundscape – The Economy Of Appearances – representing the functioning of financial capital through the conduit of the nation state. With his project, Curran raises the market from its state of abstraction and demonstrates that the market is a real and intrusive force that is paramount in shaping our lives.
This installation was commissioned by Noorderlicht in collaboration with the British North East Photography Network (NEPN) at the University of Sunderland. The commission was made possible with the financial support of the NEPN
Algorithm Design & Sound Composition Ken Curran, Data Visualisation Damien Byrne, Film Editor Lidia Rossner, Voice Claudia Schäfer, Collaborator Helen Carey.
Giorgio di Noto
On the black markets of the dark web, the anonymous vaults of the Internet where nothing can be traced back to individual users, adverts for drugs are often illustrated using stock photos, yet some advertisers take their own photographs. Giorgio di Noto presents these exotic images, which are made by the advertisers themselves, and are predestined to delete themselves once they no longer have a function, like invisible objects. They are printed with special ink which only reveals the image when it is lit with ultraviolet light – the same light used to find traces of drugs. With this, Di Noto symbolises the anonymous and temporary nature of the photographs, which can’t be seen on the ordinary, above-board web.
After a six-month FBI investigation in which he was mistakenly identified as a terrorist, Hasan Elahi decided to help the FBI by monitoring himself voluntarily. Elahi is for complete transparency and wanted, by his own account, to be certain that the FBI knows he’s not making any ‘sudden movements’. Moreover, Elahi says he can keep a better and more detailed eye on himself than the FBI. His car surveillance project has resulted over the past ten years in no less than seventy thousand photographs. Elahi trusts that the FBI has seen them all.
Dutch-born Arantxa Gonlag went in search of the physical locations of her digital data. Her quest brought her, amongst other places, to beaches where intercontinental Internet cables reach the shores, and to the almost invisible data centres of Facebook and other Internet giants. At the same time, Gonlag endeavours to obtain an answer to her questions concerning our digital identity and the importance of privacy. Who has control over this, and how secure is that control? Her diary in text and image, DATA DIARY, is a tangible reflection on her search in a virtual world.
In order to portray the construction of a new community, the project developer installed a camera on top of an antenna for mobile phones; the images of which were made public. It is just one example of the many non-secured devices which actively and haphazardly pump information onto the Internet. For his series THE NEW TOWN, Andrew Hammerand uses images from this camera as though it were his own. Because he had full access to non-secured controls, he could point the camera himself, zoom in with it and focus. The result is a voyeuristic gaze on the village, a play with the visual language of surveillance, amateur footage and insinuation.
Textual updates on sites like Twitter and Facebook make it possible to create virtual personas that differ greatly from the physical reality. In her series STATUS SYMBOLS, Lori Hepner makes portraits based on updates on social media, using rotating LEDs. With the aid of specially developed soft- and hardware, the words are translated into flashes of light – the on and off of the binary code that forms the basis of digital communication. Each portrait represents a fleeting moment of identity, until the next update becomes a fact.
Hannes Hepp’s photomontages portray the invisible, global, digital espionage activities of the NSA and other security forces, but also the continuous alienation and isolation of ordinary citizens in the virtual world. The portraits in the series come from public chat rooms, where the persons depicted tempt visitors with the prospect of more explicit sexual images so as to entice them to pay for ‘private time’. The viewer is therefore simultaneously a voyeur and an object of voyeurism. Just as the photographer may have been spied on by security forces whilst making the photomontages in his studio.
During our work, our studies, and relaxation we find ourselves physically outside of the computer, but our attention and consciousness are at one with the digital world. As such, according to Roc Herms, we must accept our hybrid state of ‘being’, somewhere between the physical and virtual world, and document our digital banalities in order to assimilate and understand our own nature. That’s why Herms replaces the photograph with a screenshot - pantallazos in Spanish – as a quick and intuitive means of storing visual information from the virtual world. With the aid of small algorithms that automatically collect the screenshots from different digital devices, Roc Herms compiles and has published the chronicle of his everyday digital life.
With the smartphone and wearable sensor technology accessible to all, users can measure everything about themselves: from the amount of movement, sleep, and the precise shape and measurements of the body to moods and the number of drinks consumed. Once the domain of scientists and nerds, self-tracking is rapidly developing into a new trend. Although most self-trackers want to get better acquainted with or improve themselves, Travis Hodges shows in his series THE QUANTIFIED SELF that individual considerations can vary just as much as the data collected.
On an April day in 2010, Simon Høgsberg sat by a supermarket entrance to take photographs of people approaching and walking away from him. He kept returning the following eighteen months, taking a total of around 97,000 shots. With the aid of basic facial recognition software, he was able to identify 1,100 faces. Many faces turned out to be the same – hundreds of people turned out to appear on several photographs spread out over a period of time. Høgsberg placed the photo sequences of 457 people into a matrix, providing insights into how they pass through one another’s lives. The result is a study into the way in which humanity consciously and unconsciously presents itself, and, at the same time, an artwork full of emerging and fading patterns.
In 1969, the archetype of the Internet was developed for the American Ministry of Defence. In the almost half a century that has since passed, the application of the network has been extended from military purposes to all kinds of conceivable forms of interaction between billions of people around the world. But what exactly is this network of networks? Is it a physical place that you can visit? Over the past two years, Heinrich Holtgreve has been taking photographs of the Internet. His search for the Internet’s core has brought him to the North German coast, Egypt and Frankfurt.
With his series DARK BLUE, Thiemo Kloss visualises transformations and changes that shape society. His images offer a personal point of view in which the collective consciousness, data, online behaviour, and computer usage are contemplated against the backdrop of transparency, anonymity and disintegration. Each image is constructed out of numerous cut out vertical lines, derived from photographs of one and the same person in different positions. By first painstakingly arranging the lines per shot, Kloss creates a set of more or less transparent images, which are subsequently slid into each other.
In Arnold Koroshegyi’s electroscopes, landscapes and data merge. He falls back on the practise of nineteenth-century geology investigations, where photography and scientific expeditions went hand in hand to discover the topography of the world. By integrating surveillance software in a layered photographic process, Koroshegyi was able to make a visual interpretation of the electromagnetic data in the atmosphere surrounding geographic formations. In ELECTROSCAPES the invisible flow of data, which ceaselessly trickles in remote, natural environments has been made visible with an aesthetic of abstract elements.
Nate Larson & Marni Shindelman
With their collaborative projects, Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman examine the data that we generate on online communication networks. For GEOLOCATION, Larson and Shindelman used publicly accessible GPS information in Twitter messages in order to track the physical location of the tweet. Each photograph was taken in the exact same spot where the message was sent into the world, quoting the text of the message. The photographs anchor and commemorate the fleeting online data in the real world. At the same time, they also question the expected privacy of these online networks.
Since she started to take photographs a few years ago of the New York nightlife in all its different manifestations, Dina Litovsky has seen a change in clubbers: the focus has shifted from partying to taking photos of the parties. Litovsky became fascinated by the often exhibitionist behaviour of women who rather remarkably use their personal control over their image formation simply to confirm stereotypes. In UNTAG THIS PHOTO, she examines how public behaviour is influenced through the embracement of digital cameras, smartphones and online social networks in domains that were once private.
Internet access from our mobile phones is a veritable revolution. Having all possible knowledge in the world within hand’s reach at all times, however, has also changed our bodily experience and social behaviour in the city. Whilst walking on the street, we may be physically present, but mentally absent. In Hong Kong, Bas Losekoot witnessed the way in which people on the street use their phones as masks, resulting in dismal shields of indifference. Paradoxically, the smartphone thus seems to disconnect us from one another and from reality. Hong Kong is one of eight megacities in the world which Losekoot is visiting for his work in progress, IN COMPANY OF STRANGERS.
In 2011, riots broke out across London and other English cities after police brutality resulted in the loss of a life. Months later, the London police were still distributing flyers featuring the faces of the youths allegedly involved in the riots. Although we know nothing about the persons on the flyers, Daniel Mayrit believes that we presume they are guilty because they were captured on surveillance cameras. Mayrit appropriated this very same visual language in order to portray the top one hundred most powerful people in the City, the financial heart of London. Many people hold them responsible for the economic crisis, yet they are still able to go through life in a comfortable anonymity. As is the case with the youths, we don’t know whether or not the people in Mayrit’s photographs are guilty or not.
Children who play the popular computer game Minecraft sometimes appear, according to their parents, to carry on playing the game in their sleep. Whilst playing, some children move their hands, as though they’re moving stones in the real world. Even parents who helped their children with the game told Wendy McMurdo that they had dreamt about the virtual Minecraft world. In her installation INDETERMINATE OBJECTS, McMurdo examines our evolving relation with simulation and digitally generated information. In a series of films, McMurdo combines photography with the three-dimensional techniques used to create computer game environments. It raises the question as to what the impact of immersion in data is on the establishment of identity.
Cristina de Middel
An old woman looking for someone to share out her immense fortune among charities, a girl who wants to marry you in order to fulfil the requirements to collect the large sum of money her father left her, or just the message that you’ve won a new car – everyone with an email account receives these kinds of appeals and other messages that are too good to be true. Under the guise of mercy, they appeal to our greed. In POLY SPAM, Cristina de Middel creates portraits of the senders, in which she translates every detail from the emails into dramatic images of the moment in which they were sent.
The virtual world of gamers has infinite possibilities. As though in a trance, gamers detach themselves from their vulnerable bodies and enter into a world with barely any rules. Mintio combines this virtual world with images of those who move through it. Using only the light emitting from the screens behind which the gamers take cover, Mintio captured the teenagers’ limited movements – or even the complete lack of them, because in the three to ten minutes of the shoot, they barely moved. Turned 180 degrees, through the eyes of the gamer, she subsequently captured different layers of the endless matrix of the game.
In no other country, are there as many Internet users as in China – 600 million. This prosperity, however, has a dark side. Thousands of Chinese, particularly youths, are addicted to Internet gaming. They isolate themselves in their rooms or in Internet cafés, where they can sometimes play online games for days on end, with disastrous consequences for their social and family life. Some gamers even die in front of the computer resulting from exhaustion and lack of movement. Fernando Moleres followed addicted youths who are trying to kick the habit at a clinic run by psychiatrist Tao Ran, who also a colonel in the People’s Liberation Army. Ran combines psychological and medical therapy with a strict military training, which also involves immediate family members. Many parents even allow themselves to be admitted into the clinic together with their child.
Jennifer Lyn Morone
Jennifer Morone is one step ahead in the unavoidable next stage of capitalism: she hasn’t set up a company, she has become one, and has registered herself as such in the American State of Delaware. Jennifer Lyn Morone Inc has developed a model to capitalise on her health, inheritance, personality, opportunities, experience, potential, and good and bad sides. With the verdict of the American Supreme Court that ‘companies are people’ as inspiration, she wanted to ascertain the price of an individual. Even though she wants to have control over her own data, it is still impossible to stop third party apps from collecting her data. Ironically, Morone’s extreme capitalist project offers the individual precisely the opportunity to regain some control over his own personal data.
Joyce Overheul followed seventeen-year-old Rogier Hogervorst on Twitter and Instagram for a period of three months. During this time, he shared so much information about himself, in 5638 tweets and 137 photos, that Overheul was able to base a novel on him. The result, De drie maanden uit het leven van Rogier (Three months in the life of Rogier), emerged without Hogervorst possessing any knowledge of it. He wasn’t required to give permission; all the information used had been made public by Rogier himself. It was only when the book was finished, that Overheul informed him via Twitter. Hogervorst didn’t think his privacy had been breached, and he was even proud that Overheul had selected him. With her project, Overheul wants to make people aware of the amount of information they share on the Internet.
Fernando Pereira Gomes
In his series NEW WORLD OBSERVATORY, Fernando Pereira Gomes examines the relation between the real and the virtual. His photographs depict the streets of big cities in developing countries, in which the focus lies on images that appear to be staged. Yet each attempt to distinguish the real from the virtual exposes the fact that they are both a façade. The work is a commentary on contemporary society, in which we have got used to life with a distorted truth – a society in which people are pigeonholed, the financial world reigns supreme, and binary sources invisibly orchestrate everyday life.
For her series BORN NOWHERE, Laís Pontes has made a sequence of self-portraits, in which she created a set of new personalities using digital techniques. She subsequently posted the digitally manipulated portraits on Facebook and asked her co-users to share their thoughts on and interpretations of the persons she has created. Her alter egos gained a biography and a character based on the responses. The descriptions Pontes received are infused by what psychoanalysis calls projection. According to this phenomenon, the viewer projects his own background, reality and fantasies onto others. What one sees is what one wants to see.
We ascribe special qualities to things we hold dear. Rutger Prins sees the laptop he carried everywhere with him as a teenager as an object which, thanks to the optional Internet connection, has greatly shaped him as a person. His series PERSONAL EFFECTS is dedicated to objects which have had a big impact on his life. By completely destroying the out-dated and unneeded objects, like his old laptop, he says goodbye in a manner both violent and appropriate – just like us, the objects that define us are fleeting.
For three years Doug Rickard immersed himself in YouTube films uploaded by Americans with a smartphone. As we gather clicks and likes, the line between private and public blurs, revealing the extent to which the digital image is highly loaded with subtext. A dark and dynamic portrait of America’s underbelly emerges, in which themes such as race, politics, technology, surveillance and the ever-present cameras on mobile phones predominate. The gaze of the voyeur fuses with that of the predator. For his series N.A. – an abbreviation of national anthem – Rickard, with the camera on a tripod in front of his screen, literally worked as a photographer hunting for disruptive moments in the world of YouTube’s collective consciousness.
Direct contact between the border police and migrants in the EU will continue to decrease in the future. Not because the flow of migrants will run dry, but because advancing technology ensures that the surveillance of the EU’s external borders is becoming increasingly abstract. The new border surveillance system EUROSUR, which became operational in 2013, analyses data forwarded by satellites, radar stations, airplanes and drones. The information from participating countries is automatically and immediately exchanged with everyone through the network. Planned border crossings can thus be detected long before the border is in sight. People are thereby reduced to data, streams, points of light, and signals, and are no longer seen as individuals. Through surveillance, an infrastructure is fabricated that places the maintenance of Europe’s prosperity over a responsible way of dealing with ‘the other’.
The places where the real heart of our information society beats are in fact the opposite of it in terms of appearance. In the uniform, light grey spaces even the colour of the Ethernet cables offers no indication as to which direction the processed data comes from, let alone where it is going. The processes at play here are just as invisible as in the synapses of the human brain. This abstraction makes the photographs an allegory of the interplay and equivalence of data in the digital era.
In 2007, the world’s first public online surveillance programme was launched in Texas under the name of TBSC BlueServo Virtual Community Watch. The programme consists of a network of sensors and cameras installed along the border between Texas and Mexico. Internet users around the world can register as Virtual Texas Deputies to participate in border control. If these virtual assistant sheriffs see something suspicious, they simply send an email to the local authorities. Waltraut Tänzler uses the screenshots of the videos streamed, which were made as a virtual deputy, to protest against this dubious tactic to increase border security.
In his long-running project CENTER OF DOUBT, Ivar Veermaë visualises and examines the (in)visibility of infrastructure and representation of computer networks. With the aid of two lines of approach, he gains an insight into the complicated and opaque character of data centres and (tele)communication technologies. On the one hand, his project researches the local materiality of, and the struggle surrounding the infrastructure of cloud computing, which Veermäe sees as a turning point on the path towards a new Internet era. On the other hand, it offers an alternative visual representation for the themes connected with information technology and which usually get bogged down in cloudy rhetoric, like science fiction images in adverts or displaced military jargon.
The work xxxx.xxxfrom the series DATA AND DRAGONS by Addie Wagenknecht is an installation constructed out of specially crafted printed circuit boards (PCBs), which are bound together by cables. The work intercepts data from its environment and stores this. The information collected is processed by seemingly living servers, but the outcomes are never shared. As such, these works are a departing song for a time when surfing the Internet was an anonymous and unknown activity.