2 May 2021

‘Sunlight’ is a collection of cyanotypes of essential medical equipment, drugs and other supplies and services which were badly needed in the early stages of the pandemic but were either in short supply or were entirely inadequate and below standard. These are paired with screen grabs of some of the government ministers and advisers who stand accused of having pre-existing connections and conflicts of interest, some of them undeclared, with companies hired at great expense to provide these supplies and services.

Noting such relationships do not imply politicians concerned directly profited from these relationships, but that is not the point. A conflict of interest exists, whether or not the persons involved profit from it, or are even aware of it. As the ministerial code, which binds all serving ministers notes ‘Ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their public duties and their private interests’.

This is exactly why such relationships must be disclosed, laid bare in the light of day for discussion and judgement. As the lawyer and justice Louis Brandeis (1856 – 1941) wrote of the vast and largely unconstrained power of the nineteenth century robber barons ‘publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.’

11 November 2020

Photographs are no longer natively physical nor even visual, but are composed of various forms of hidden data, a situation with a wide range of repercussions. In collaboration researcher Lewis Bush and creative coder and generative artist Matt DesLauriers have been developing an algorithmic system designed to transform inputted photographs into new visual forms.

The new images this system outputs appear highly abstract and at times even random, but contain essentially the same information as the source image, only re-rendered and re-presented in new ways, ways which are largely unrecognisable and unintelligible to human visual cognition. They are still, in a very literal sense, photographs, but in rendering them in this way we want viewers to appreciate the enormous differences in the ways that digital systems like computer vision technologies ‘see’ images. (see a wider set of images from this project here).

For the Photoworks commission, I propose using this system to generate a series of images based on familiar Christmas motifs. These could be highly abstracted, or like the examples included here, more or less recognisable. The first image in this series is the source image, the following four are various forms of reworking.

Ways of Seeing Algorithmically
(2019 – ?)

In 1972 a small book changed the way the public thought about visual culture. Ways of Seeing made ideas from fields like structuralism, feminism and Marxism widely accessible, and in the process changed popular discourse about art.

However, since it’s publication a paradigmatic shift in seeing has occurred, and this is that humans no longer hold a monopoly on interpreting, understanding and acting on what they see. When Berger wrote his book the field of computer vision was in its infancy, but today this technology is increasingly advanced and is rapidly advancing into ever more areas of our lives. Ways of Seeing Algorithmically uses Berger’s book as he intended, as a starting point for a process of questioning what those changes mean.

At the core of the project is an augmented reality application. When combined with a copy of the original Ways of Seeing book, this app uses computer vision to bring into being a new virtual text, which exists digitally between the pages of Berger’s original book. The aim of this new text is to draw into focus a new narrative about the relationship between technology, culture, vision and power, which builds on some of Berger’s original thinking, while also at times diverging from it.

From this central element, other sub-projects radiate off like spokes from the hub of a wheel. These include video pieces, long form writing, generative visual systems, expert interviews and other approaches, each designed to examine different facets of this enormous and complex subject. Begun in 2009 under the auspices of the BMW residency at Gobelins, Ecole de l’image, Paris, Ways of Seeing Algorithmically now runs in parallel with my ESRC funded PhD research into the implications of computer vision and artificial systems for visual journalism and democracy.

17 August 2020

Published as an outcome of the BMW Residency 2020, this book consists of an extended essay exploring themes related to the rise of computer vision, the nature of art, and the failures of capitalism.   Published by Editions Trocadero 2020, designed by Audrey Templier. Soft cover, perfect bound with card dust cover, 21 x 25cm, 78 pages on uncoated paper.   More information about Ways of Seeing Algorithmically      

22 June 2020

Latent Labour

Once mundane activities now seem to carry a deadly risk. The fear, justified or otherwise, of carrying infectious residues of the Covid-19 virus into one’s home is a very real one for thousands of people, both those with underlying health vulnerabilities and those without. In response to this  I began to approach shopping from the perspective of a forensic investigator.

During my weekly shop and when receiving deliveries by post, I handled everything with latex gloves, relaying these items to an improvised fingerprinting lab in my home. I then dusted these items with forensic fingerprint powders, which revealed the invisible or ‘latent’ prints of others who had handled these products at different stages between their production and delivery.

What began as an inquiry into fears about contamination has also become one about the traces left behind by the labourers who make our modern economies possible. Shop workers, parcel delivery people, warehouse workers, and the like are both amongst the most poorly paid, and also often most exposed in a time of social distancing. That vulnerability in large part stems from their invisibility to the rest of us, even when they, and their traces, are in fact right in front of our eyes.

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The Migrant Archive (ongoing) The Migrant Archive is an examination of Britain’s attitudes towards it’s imperial history. Centrally it examines the ways that records of repressive actions in the colonies were systematically erased as part of the process of decolonisation. More broadly it examines the way that cultural conditioning in the United Kingdom has given rise to a profoundly distorted sense of the empire’s character and purpose, and links the consequences of these things to contemporary issues including long standing immigration policies, Brexit and the Windrush scandal.

3 January 2020

The vast majority of the images we encounter each day are natively neither physical nor even visual, but are composed of various forms of hidden textual data. This has a wide range of implications, not least for the development and understanding of computer vision systems. In collaboration with creative coder and generative artist Matt DesLauriers, we are developing a system which transforms recognisable photographs into new visual forms. These outputs appear highly abstract and at times even random, but contain essentially the same data as the source image, only re-rendered into new forms, largely unrecognisable and unintelligible to human visual cognition. The outputs from this system are still, in a very literal sense, photographs, but in rendering them in this way we hope that human viewers will start to appreciate some of the ways that computer vision is very different from our own. In particular the way that these systems see images not as a series of symbolically significant visual elements adding up to sum greater than their parts, but as an impersonal aggregation of tonal, chromatic and spatial information.          

Various self-published zines and other small publications.

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14 September 2019