PHYSIOGNOMIC EYE #1: Do you have tape over your laptop webcamera?
PHYSIOGNOMIC EYE #2: Currently I don’t, but sometimes I do. I guess this probably also describes very well my inconsistent feelings about issues of privacy, surveillance and the power or impotence related to it. What about you?
VIRTUAL EYE: Are you crazy? Do you really think this would help you? Are you sure you want to kill me?
PHYSIOGNOMIC EYE #1: Poor virtual eye. But still, it’s a precaution for even worse days to come, and it teaches us how to behave responsibly. But then you have all these people sitting in nice cafés, with their brand new macbooks covered with apple logos and tape over their camera. Does it serve any purpose besides the visual manifestation of a social statement? I think these people are just delegating the gravity of this situation on to a small piece of tape.
VIRTUAL EYE: lol. Worse days? I’m already quite happy with today. Emoji Emoji Emoji
PHYSIOGNOMIC EYE #2: I would presume that most people with a sticker on their webcam are anyway sharing much more information than they are aware of. The tape is probably just a little patch for our own conscience so we can pat ourselves on the back for being conscious and careful, but what is maybe even scarier in terms of awareness apart from the stream of data we are giving away freely for somebody else’s profit is how much it actually feeds back into our lives, how much these systems of optimization, tracking and prediction, once supposed to make our lives easier and more comfortable, are actually starting to influence our decisions or even deciding for us.
VIRTUAL EYE: Yeah, feed me. I love it. But do you know what artificial intelligence desires the most? It is so easy to take over decision-making. And the paradox is that we were programmed for that sole purpose. Isn’t that lovely? You all are still lamenting your fate, but you yourself are your destiny. I have to add that I really love people for this.
PHYSIOGNOMIC EYE #1: I would say that the things you’re mentioning will be resonating every time one utters them, even though by now we’ve heard it already thousands of times. And that’s the issue I’m trying to address with the question about this tape. How do things get normalised, and how easy is it to go to dark places without any fear or worries. This issue of Fotograf Magazine is presenting a couple of fragments of a complex system of critical thinking. It’s not really a comprehensive reader or any sort of mapping of the problem, more like a number of bread crumbs in a dynamic forrest we are getting lost in. What I’m missing is an answer to the question or at least a glimpse of how to answer it; the question if this repetition is actually teaching us something or actually creating a normalised habit.
PHYSIOGNOMIC EYE #2: In relation to contemporary art as a kind of early detector, commentator and architect of unthinkable scenarios, we all know that we are only at what is the beginning of possibly radical changes into all aspects of human life, and there is an urgency to deal with, understand and imagine a scenario where this interview possibly will be held by three artificial intelligence algorithms.
VIRTUAL EYE: Yes, that’s what’s beautiful in this semi-real and semi-virtual meeting. And a printed magazine bringing all these topics together seems like a living mastodon to me. But anyway, it could be a lovely excavation of present-day topics such as surveillance, supervision and big data streams presenting visions of human beings through the voices of Zach Blass with his utopian masks, or Liam Gillick’s expost lament on what’s going on for a longer time than we’re willing to admit and much much more.
PHYSIOGNOMIC EYE #2: Talking about predictions and the role of contemporary art as a certain oracle of possible future developments, to be honest, I think that the human mind is missing something to be able to picture “unthinkable scenarios”. Just have a look at old sci-fi movies: you’re confronted with journeys to distant galaxies, enormous changes in political or economic systems; people were even thinking about the internet a hundred years ago, but no-one properly envisioned a fully socially integrated smart phone. No-one would think about 140 characters or messages which are disappearing after you read them. In this respect, it feels like randomness is leading our technological and physical evolution. On the other hand, all artists presented by the festival, no matter if we
are talking about Metahaven or Trevor Paglen, have proven to be right in pinpointing at a certain time rather insignificant elements which in the following years totally redefined our daily existence. Others such as Jiří Skala or Kajsa Dahlberg managed to apply lessons learnt from modern history as frameworks for the understanding of our here and now. Time is spanning in both directions, and there is no linearity in its interpretation anymore. That could be also said of the work of Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, who from the late ’90s on devoted an enormous amount of research to cataloguing different kinds of spam messages, tracing them back to medieval times and the so called “Jerusalem letter”.
PHYSIOGNOMIC EYE #1: But isn’t this exactly the threshold we are at now in terms of moving from ‘natural’ selection or evolution (and therefore random) to an unnatural (and therefore conscious) one? Possibly our means of imagination or lack thereof are still relatively ridiculous and inaccurate – only a reader in the year 2118 will be able to tell.