CHAPTER ONE

SURVEILLANCE & CONTROL

1.1 YOLO: MACHINE VISION

At the entrance of the gallery, a red carpet forced the visitors to walk the path of spectacle – let’s not forget the place promised by social media to those who make use of its web servers – leading to an image of themselves being analyzed by an object detection program. The YOLO Real-Time Object Detection is an open source code software and just a small sample of the powerful algorithmic exercise that operates behind the systems of massive vigilance, facial recognition, and object detection, among others. The software tagged live different objects through one of the most profitable recent branches of artificial intelligence, known as machine vision or artificial vision. The aggressive intrusion of the machine, programed by Colombian artist and programmer Gabriel Zea, informed about the general tone of the exhibition from the start.

Yolo Object Detection
Machine Vision

1.2 HISTORICAL STOCK DATA

A monochrome scrolling message LED display bordered the main exhibition space, recalling the existing close relationship between systematic vigilance and capital production. The stock price variation for the last five years of companies dedicated to the management of digital data scrolled continuously, adding color to the white walls with a red light. Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon recognized as the most valuable companies in the world, had available in their web servers, at the time of the exhibition, most of the data in the room. Social networks, services of massive vigilance for private and state security, subject profiling, digital commerce, artificial intelligence or object detection programs are some of the fronts of this outstanding corporations.

1.3 HAAR LIKE FEATURES

The larger wall displayed 39 paintings that referenced dystopic profiling, a future threat to our civil freedoms. The starting point for this series of paintings were geometric patterns taken from the Haar Like Features, one of the most popular mechanisms used by computers to recognize the essential characteristics of objects present in an image/bitmap out of patterns of light and shadow. The images uploaded by members of social networks feed and improve, through hashtags and descriptions, the capacity of machines to recognize and “signify” the content present in each publication.  It is not surprising that vanguard systems can censor and predict human behavior with such boldness. How long until complex human judgments are replaced by a determining analysis and prejudice is fed exclusively by the specificity of a bi-dimensional image? How influential will the judgment of a machine become in the future?

DISABLED CHILD 0.452
REBELS 0.780
MUSLIMS 0.898
GAY COUPLE 0.941
ABORIGINAL CHILD 0.895
LATINA WOMAN 0.994
DRUNK AFRICAN 0.737
WHITE PROSTITUTE 0.303
PEDESTRIANS 0.875
BLACK TEENAGER 0.814
MUSLIM WOMAN 0.899
BLACK MUSICIAN 0.622
ASIAN TOURIST 0.714
WHITE CROUD 0.622
ARABIC MAN 0.737
JEWISH WOMAN 0.662
DRUG DEALER 0.855
MINOR CELEBRITY 0.429
POLITICAL ACTIVIST 0.712
LGBT MEMBER 0.551
TALIBAN LEADER 0.542
SENIOR HOMELESS 0.832
GUERRILLA SOLDIER 0.515
IMMIGRANT POPULATION 0.355
ACTIVIST 0.411
FAMELIC CHILD 0.569
RETIRED MAN 0.596
RELIGIOUS GROUP 0.688
YOUNG GYPSY 0.753
LESBIAN COMMUNITY 0.881
DRUG ADDICT 0.892
RUSSIAN MAFIA 0.633
AMERICAN TRANSGENDER MALE 0.842
TRANSGENDER MALE 0.842
BLACK BLOCK ANARCHIST 0.514
REFUGEE CHILD 0.551
LATINO MAN 0.729
TATTOOED IMMATE 0.522
AI MACHINE 0.944

1.4 INTERVENED SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS

The lighting of the space was devised by five potent spotlights, installed inside the casing of old security cameras. The light blinded the viewer/user, especially when sitting on a bench constructed to occupy the full length of the room. Each casing was intervened with the Federal Tax ID Number of some corporation in charge of modeling circuits of vigilance and economies of affection. The gallery, therefore, became a sort of baroque theater in which gaze invited or evaded the social game. The gallery space was though, after all, as an analog space of social media.

Surveillance Art
Surveillance Art

1.5 TERMS OF USE

At the end of the first chapter, a game of reflections appeared, impossible to avoid. A mirrored glass intervened with Facebook’s Terms of Use was mounted on an automated structure that scrolled a stripe of light up and down. The piece behaved like a giant scanner that read from top to bottom the reflection of the user/viewer on the glass. At the same time, each written line, transcribed without spaces or comas, lighted up for just a second, emphasizing the reluctant corporate habit of making extended and illegible contracts that test the user’s patience and integrity. The “I ACCEPT” button, that for practical effects lacks the consenting character which with it is oddly presented, was explicit in the piece. If the viewer wanted to see his own reflection or the reflection of others, he was required to allow his image to be scanned by this type of legal instrument. The terms of unilateral and opportunistic digital platforms seem to be designed to control and exclude: if you do not agree with the 40 plus pages you just read, you still have the chance to click “I DON´T ACCEPT” and say goodbye to the spectacular world of digital society.

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© 2014 by LBBDSS