CHAPTER ONE

SURVEILLANCE & CONTROL

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?

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.

© 2014 by LBBDSS