2.1 DARK REQUEST
Dark Request (Demanda Oscura) was based on an Instagram account, created months before, in which completely black photographs were constantly published. In a counter-response to the first chapter, the second part was a call for digital privacy, a rebellious proposal against systematic lucrative vigilance practiced by corporations. Even though abusive practices in social media were a known fact, a failure in Facebook’s system revealed, all of a sudden, a fact impossible to deny: artificial intelligence analyzed, in an autonomous and organized manner, the content of the images published and shared by the users of Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp. The @negroimago Instagram profile used social network dynamics to dismantle the dangers of practices corrupted by profit. Buying likes and fake followers potentiated an account in which image analysis threw negative results (without light there is no photograph, without photograph there is no data, and without data there is no vigilance) thus preventing future events of profiling, digital marketing, and machine learning.
As part of the activation of the exhibition, 300 lithographs with a grid of nine black squares were printed, which referenced the @negroimago Instagram account. The graphic pieces were distributed to the viewers in exchange for a publication of a photograph in which the work was visible. Just like an advertising or teaser campaign, the viewer was placed under a spotlight (coming from the intervened security cameras) and had a picture taken that had to be shared on their personal Instagram profile. The idea was to circulate key concepts relative to vigilance through numbers and hashtags. The deal was simple and replicated the mechanism of social media diffusion: views, comments, and likes in trade for a print. Quid pro Quo.
Three paintings were displayed on the larger wall of the room and the floor was covered with mineral charcoal, that corresponded to the deep black color of the paintings and recalled the importance of the color black. In digital image theory, level 0 of a histogram (absolute black) is equivalent to the absence of information. The fabric was texturized with a vinyl mixture that assembled an embroidered tapestry. However, in this case, the pattern was designed from the four combinations used by the Haar Like Features. These patterns tried to scan the image for information, but the attempt was frustrated by the black paint that absorbed 98% of the electromagnetic spectrum – the material used to cover the fabric was Black 3.0, launched in 2019 by Stwart Semple through a Kick Starter. In addition to being a concrete reference to Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square, and his research on the function of the image/icon, these paintings are an exact copy of the black grid generated on the Instagram profile. Imago is the etymological root of the word “image,” but it also is a concept used in entomology to reference the last evolutional state of the metamorphosis process (an adult insect.)
2.3 WORLD RECORD EGG
Against all prognosis, the most popular publication in the history of the internet was incarnated by a chicken egg. This advertising campaign, which managed more than 50 million likes in one photo, ousted in no time pictures of Kylie Jenner or Cristiano Ronaldo. The egg, that pretended to be a publication against celebrity hierarchy and the dynamics that define social media tendencies, ended up becoming another example of the strange behavior of digital mass. Nonetheless, the image of the egg became, because of the discursive purposes of this exhibition, a metaphor to talk about vigilance and online privacy. A lightbox that turned off and on with the proximity of the viewer evocated the importance of distance and respect in digital communities, concepts that have been eradicated from the collective imagination as a result of the growing anxiety to show and share intimate and private events. The print was edited in Photoshop with a filter that allows digital devices to overlap subtractive and additive color models; the perception of the actual colors of the egg – the white background and the orange of the shell – were only visible when the lightbox was on, evoking the dim division between analog and digital realities.
What’s inside the egg? What’s going to come out? These were questions raised by millions of users while following the egg teaser campaign. In the end, the wait led to the breaking of the egg, revealing absolute black, a metaphor for non-information, for privacy. Aligned as antisystem cells in lines of six – in popular culture eggs are cells – more than 60 eggs were emptied, filled with plaster, painted black, and then displayed in acrylic urns for this exhibition. The show concluded with five boxes of 12 eggs exhibited on a shelf. If the mechanisms of social media are as effective, immediate, economical…How can we use them in our favor? How can we slow down the rhythms that are imposed on us? How can we make digital scenarios into more habitable spaces for the human spirit?