JAMIE ALLEN / MUSHON ZER-AVIV / ZACH BLAS
Eastern Bloc presents the second segment of our 2015-2016 three-part cycle of exhibitions and activities, BPLTC, on the general theme of biopolitics. This cycle is divided into three segments: Cellular Control, Identity Control, and Food Control. The development of computer and digital technologies enables important command of human activities, responding to major financial, corporate and political interests, sometimes for better. Advances in research and its technical applications raise complex issues that are central to communities, and are located at the heart of current political challenges. Many new media and digital contemporary artists are now incorporating theses questions into their work.
IDENTITY CONTROL: 5 - 25 November 2015
The second part of the BPLTC cycle 2015-2016 will focus more specifically on the issue of identity control as it relates to individual biometric data. One could describe the phenomenon of biometric identification as the set of scientific methods seeking to certify the identity of a person from reading fixed body data. This principle, derived from 19th-century anthropometric science, is far from new, but has grown dramatically in recent years with the rapid development of computer science, the enactment of state security control policies and the financial interests of large corporations. The works presented in this exhibition are concerned with the use of biometric data in relation to the ethical questions they raise about the control of citizens and privacy protection.
The Lie Machine (Jamie Allen) is a recreation of an early instrument for the processing of voice with Voice Stress Analysis (VSA) algorithms. The highly contested vocal micro-tremors detection technique can be applied surreptitiously, even posthumously, to vast sources of live and recorded spoken audio. The archive chosen for this analysis is a set of audiobook autobiographies, each read by its author — such as «Decision Point»s by George W. Bush, «Going Rogue: An American Life» by Sarah Palin, and «A Journey: My Political Life» by Tony Blair. "The Lie Machine" title is taken from a 1973 Playboy Magazine article of the same name, on the subject of a VSA-based instrument “designed to fit into a Samsonite briefcase.” The algorithm gained notoriety recently in the U.S. Trial of George Zimmerman for the charge of the second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman successfully passed a CVSA test (Computer Voice Stress Analysis), and was subsequently cleared of charges.
Jamie Allen (Canada) is an artist, researcher and teacher who likes to make things with his head and hands. He lives in Europe, works all over the world and is an institutividual and a para-academic. His interest in technology and media comes from their radical and contradictory potentials to reveal while obscuring, to empower and undermine, to rationalise and ironise.
The Turing Normalizing Machine (Mushon Zer-Aviv) is inspired by Alan Turing's life and research, a British mathematician who cracked the Nazi Enigma code, laid the foundations for computing and artificial intelligence, and who was chemically castrated because of being convicted of homosexuality and abnormality. the work seeks to finally crack the greatest enigma of all: "Who is normal?” The Turing Normalizing Machine is an experimental research in machine-learning that identifies and analyzes the concept of social normalcy. Each participant is presented with a video line up of 4 previously recorded participants and is asked to point out the most normal-looking of the 4. The person selected is examined by the machine and is added to its algorithmically constructed image of normalcy. The kind participant's video is then added as a new entry on the database. As the database grows the Turing Normalizing Machine develops a more intricate model of normal-appearance, and moves us closer to our research goal: to once-and-for-all decode the mystery of what society deems “normal” and to automate the process for the advancement of science, commerce, security and society at large. Conducted and presented as a scientific experiment TNM challenges the participants to consider the outrageous proposition of algorithmic prejudice. The responses range from fear and outrage to laughter and ridicule, and finally to the alarming realization that we are set on a path towards wide systemic prejudice ironically initiated by its victim, Turing.
Mushon Zer-Aviv (Tel Aviv, Israel) is a designer, an educator and a media activist. His work and writing explore the boundaries of interface and the biases of techno-culture as they are redrawn through politics, design and networks. Among Zer-Aviv’s collaborations, he is the co-founder of Shual.com—a foxy design studio; YouAreNotHere.org – a tour of Gaza through the streets of Tel Aviv; Kriegspiel—a computer game version of the Situationist Game of War; the Turing Normalizing Machine—exploring algorithmic prejudice; the AdNauseam extension—clicking ads so you don’t have to; and multiple government transparency and civic participation initiatives with the Public Knowledge Workshop. He also designed the map for Waze.com. Zer-Aviv is an alumni of Eyebeam—an art and technology center in New York. He teaches digital media as a senior faculty member at Shenkar School of Engineering and Design.
Facial Weaponization Suite (Zach Blas) protests against biometric facial recognition–and the inequalities these technologies propagate–by making “collective masks” in community-based workshops that are modeled from the aggregated facial data of participants, resulting in amorphous masks that cannot be detected as human faces by biometric facial recognition technologies. The masks are used for public interventions and performances. These masks intersect with social movements’ use of masking as an opaque tool of collective transformation that refuses dominant forms of political representation.
Zach Blas (United States) is an artist and writer whose work engages technology, queerness, and politics. Currently, he is a Lecturer in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. Blas has exhibited and lectured internationally, most recently at Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City; the Institute of Modern Art Brisbane; the Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; 2014 Museum of Arts and Design Biennial, New York; 2014 Dakar Biennale; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Queer/Art/Film LA; transmediale, Berlin; and Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, Liverpool. In 2013-14, he was a resident at Eyebeam, New York; the White Building, London; and the Moving Museum, Istanbul. His work has been written about and featured in Artforum, Frieze, Art Papers, Hyperallergic, Mousse Magazine, The Atlantic, Al Jazeera America, Wired, and Art Review, in which Hito Steyerl selected him as a 2014 FutureGreat. Blas is currently producing two books, Escaping the Face (Rhizome at the New Museum and Sternberg Press, 2016); and Informatic Opacity: The Art of Defacement in Biometric Times (solicited by Duke University Press). He has published writings in the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest; You are Here: Art after Technology (Cornerhouse Books); and DIS Magazine. Blas holds a PhD from the Graduate Program in Literature at Duke University.