Nonsense Lab

Zach Blas
Facial Weaponization Suite
2011-13
wearable art

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Facial Weaponization Suite produces forms of protest 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. The masks are used for public interventions and performances. One mask, the Fag Face Mask, is a response to scientific studies that link determining sexual orientation through rapid facial recognition techniques. This mask is generated from the biometric facial data of many queer men’s faces, resulting in an amorphous mask that cannot be detected by biometric facial recognition technologies.

U.R.A. / FILOART
I.-R.A.S.C.
2002-2007
infrared device

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"The I-R.A.S.C. is an infrared device, which protects against infrared surveillance cameras. It can be made by anybody; no special skills are required. The device radiates infrared light disrupting the reception of infrared surveillance cameras. A sphere of light covers the face of the person under surveillance and as the interaction is invisible to the human eye (at a frequency between 780nm and 1mm), the individual is unaware of what is going on i.e. they don’t see the infrared rays emitted by either the surveillance camera or the I-R.A.S.C."

Gary Schneider
South African Handprint Portraits
2011
sweat and heat imprints on film emulsion

Department of Biological FlowPinkeye2012sculpture and closed-circuit video installation

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Electricity is Magic presents:

“Brazil”

Lee BlalockLauren HallSean Smith / Department of Biological Flow

Opening Reception:
24 May 2012, 7-11pm
EiM Gallery
715 Richmond St. W.

Gallery Hours:
Sun/Mon/Tues 12-5pm

www.electricityismagic.com

Department of Biological Flow
Pinkeye
2012
sculpture and closed-circuit video installation

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Electricity is Magic presents:

Brazil

Lee Blalock
Lauren Hall
Sean Smith / Department of Biological Flow

Opening Reception:
24 May 2012, 7-11pm
EiM Gallery
715 Richmond St. W.

Gallery Hours:
Sun/Mon/Tues 12-5pm

www.electricityismagic.com

Bunker Archaeology

A Nonsense Lab Artist Con-fessional, Part One

"Thinking involves the microperceptions that are the virtual content of the not-yet out of which potential worlds are composed. Thinking exposes the overlappings of the actual and the virtual, their complex inadequation. Research-creation works at this in-between of immanence and actuality where multiplicities converge into affirmations. Creativity folds out of thought even as it proposes thought to itself. Thought is an untimely proposition."

          — Erin Manning, “Creative Propositions for Thought in Motion,” 2008

"See and be seen. Interpolate and interpellate. In a gesture of fragility and exhaustion, the Department of Biological Flow considers questions of tempo, intensity and ethics in public space and interrogates opportunities for movement in the contemporary vision machine."

          — advertisement for D S NFORMAT ON exhibition

 



D S NFORMAT ON
Threnody from the Vision Machine
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Sean Smith and
Department of Biological Flow
2001-2046

 

1. Bunker Archaeology

Where does a process begin? When does it begin? How?

Is there a starting point? If so, one cannot be easily identified in this case. There is no neat and tidy cause and effect to this story, that much is certain, no neatly ordered program of experimentation. There is no hermetically-sealed laboratory of controlled thought from which hypothesized results emerge — though there is a white cube involved.

We are describing the smooth white cube of a university art gallery, uniquely marked by its inscription within the concrete white cylinder of an institutionalized exoskeleton. From a god’s eye perspective — which is to say when viewed from straight above, perpendicular to terra firma and flattened — it appears as a square inscribed within a circle — and are these two forms not irrevocably bound together within the precise numerics of royal science? Circle within square within circle, and so forth: centrepoints and radii and equidistant segments and entirely too rational tangents — the latter which get their name from the Latin tangere or touching. Circles and squares are precise only insofar as how they come into touch with one another.

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A tangent: Humans cannot perceive “perfect” versus “imperfect” circles, nor can we create one of the former, materially, in the absence of technical assistance. We’re always on the move. Rather, we’ve extrapolated a concept of the circle from the morphogenetics of matter-flow as they concresce into semi-stable patterns of an apparently perfect roundness. We locate this concept in mathematics and then in our instruments, which return the favour by producing perfect circles in our thought.

But matter-flow isn’t perfect: it is turbulent and distorted and always decaying imperceptibly. Our circles, both those we perceive in “nature” and those we reproduce in embodied “social” forms, are always delightfully misshapen as their particles push one another in ways both predictable and unpredictable. This isn’t to say these circles are any less significant and powerful, save their inability to be god-like. Instead they make explicit that their power derives not from their ideal mathematical form-as-such, but rather because they participate in generating the future-past of a certain intensity.

Our perceptions and gestures can never quite reach the concept, but our circles are still precise insofar as how we come into touch with them — or insofar as we perceive the intensity of the approach.

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Where were we then? Right, the map. This gallery and its institution aren’t just any square inscribed within any circle: the eye in the sky perceives its likeness in the form below, the narrow corridor that connects the concrete perimeter to the rest of the curriculum a sort of optic nerve that channels objects of information into and out of the enclosure, canals or conduits to this smooth gleaming white space and those processes given the label “art”.

Or change the channel, god-like. The eyeball sits spherically in its ocular socket and the surface can be sliced in so many ways. Perhaps the map is an orthogonal projection and one sits on the gray matter, looking out with that orientation we call “forward”. The god’s eye view stares directly through that which is rocklike and solid to find the liquid abyssal beyond.

In return, the critique of ocularcentrism shifts fluidly away from the iris (with its colour and aperture) and towards the retina (with its pattern and exposure). The latter is not only a primary locus of biometric identification but the threshold at which light information is converted to electricity, which is to say, converted to the network mode of circulation.

Subjecte 020063867, retinal scan, right eye: “Due to its unique and unchanging nature, the retina appears to be the most precise and reliable biometric. Advocates of retinal scanning have concluded it is so accurate that its error rate is estimated to be only one in a million.” (Wikipedia)

The blood vessels that give the biometric identifier its differentiating pattern trace branchlike back to the origin and scotoma of the optic nerve, portal to contingent authority and integrated spectacle. Punctum caecum ēlectricus. Perhaps the focal point of the gallery should be viewed from slightly off-centre, then, where the optic nerve would be located in this orthogonal perspective? Perhaps this is where the story will unfold and be told, with the blind spot as zone of political action.

Did I mention this space looks like a military bunker — or maybe a nuclear reactor?

This was my artlab for four days in January 2012. This is where the experiment took place.

Department of Biological FlowRGB (Retinal Ganzfeld Bitcast)(re)mixed media sculpturein process

Department of Biological Flow
RGB (Retinal Ganzfeld Bitcast)
(re)mixed media sculpture
in process

Shade

In her Cyborg Manifesto [1985/1991], Donna Haraway sees in the emergent “informatics of domination” a shift from “heat” to “noise” as the friction or entropy within the social system. SHADE seems to offer us a cool respite from a certain insatiable heat that bounds down upon us, unchecked — that is, shade runs contra heat. But doesn’t a flip take place in the age of bioinformatics, with noise becoming precisely that which offers a shady cover?

#dsnformaton

Shade

In her Cyborg Manifesto [1985/1991], Donna Haraway sees in the emergent “informatics of domination” a shift from “heat” to “noise” as the friction or entropy within the social system. SHADE seems to offer us a cool respite from a certain insatiable heat that bounds down upon us, unchecked — that is, shade runs contra heat. But doesn’t a flip take place in the age of bioinformatics, with noise becoming precisely that which offers a shady cover?

#dsnformaton

Pierre HuygheOne Million Kingdoms2001colour video installation with sound7min.

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"What do you store in a bank? You store time. But is the money that is stored in the bank my past time—the time that I have spent in the past? Or does this money give me the possibility of buying a future?" — Franco (Bifo) Berardi, ‘Time, Acceleration, and Violence,’ e-flux journal

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Is the money we store in a bank a proxy for time? Or has it increasingly become a proxy for identity — both as a consumable product (“guard against identity theft!”) and in regimes of authentication for passage to spaces or access to resources? Does biometric data become the new gold standard(s) in the age of financial capitalism?

In this sense one is tempted to contemplate further on Pierre Huyghe’s collaboration with Philippe Parreno, No Ghost Just a Shell, in which the two purchased the rights to a manga figure for $428, who they subsequently named ‘Annlee’. After inviting several other artists to produce animated works using Annlee (including One Million Kingdoms, above), essentially bringing her to life and “investing” her with fresh identity, they transferred the character’s copyright to the Annlee Association — a legal entity owned by Annlee.

In this gesture Annlee was freed from a system of self-referential representation, simultaneously ensuring her death.

Pierre Huyghe
One Million Kingdoms
2001
colour video installation with sound
7min.

_____

"What do you store in a bank? You store time. But is the money that is stored in the bank my past time—the time that I have spent in the past? Or does this money give me the possibility of buying a future?" — Franco (Bifo) Berardi, ‘Time, Acceleration, and Violence,’ e-flux journal

- - -

Is the money we store in a bank a proxy for time? Or has it increasingly become a proxy for identity — both as a consumable product (“guard against identity theft!”) and in regimes of authentication for passage to spaces or access to resources? Does biometric data become the new gold standard(s) in the age of financial capitalism?

In this sense one is tempted to contemplate further on Pierre Huyghe’s collaboration with Philippe Parreno, No Ghost Just a Shell, in which the two purchased the rights to a manga figure for $428, who they subsequently named ‘Annlee’. After inviting several other artists to produce animated works using Annlee (including One Million Kingdoms, above), essentially bringing her to life and “investing” her with fresh identity, they transferred the character’s copyright to the Annlee Association — a legal entity owned by Annlee.

In this gesture Annlee was freed from a system of self-referential representation, simultaneously ensuring her death.

"Although retinal patterns may be altered in cases of diabetes, glaucoma or retinal degenerative disorders, the retina typically remains unchanged from birth until death. Due to its unique and unchanging nature, the retina appears to be the most precise and reliable biometric. Advocates of retinal scanning have concluded that it is so accurate that its error rate is estimated to be only one in a million.”

- - -

"During a retinal scan, the user must remove glasses, stare at a specific point, and hold their head still for the 10-15 seconds it takes to complete the scan. A retinal scan is very difficult to fake because no technology exists that allows the forgery of a human retina, and the retina of a deceased person decays too fast to be used to fraudulently bypass a retinal scan.”

"Although retinal patterns may be altered in cases of diabetes, glaucoma or retinal degenerative disorders, the retina typically remains unchanged from birth until death. Due to its unique and unchanging nature, the retina appears to be the most precise and reliable biometric. Advocates of retinal scanning have concluded that it is so accurate that its error rate is estimated to be only one in a million.”

- - -

"During a retinal scan, the user must remove glasses, stare at a specific point, and hold their head still for the 10-15 seconds it takes to complete the scan. A retinal scan is very difficult to fake because no technology exists that allows the forgery of a human retina, and the retina of a deceased person decays too fast to be used to fraudulently bypass a retinal scan.”