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Schermafbeelding 2016-06-28 om 06.46.49

On 28th June 2016 Mireille Hildebrandt will speak at contemporary art centre Wiels on her recent book ‘Smart Technologies and the End(s) of Law. Novel Entanglements of Law and Technology’ (the paperback just came out with Edward Elgar). The lecture will discuss the implications of the ‘new digital unconscious’ that forms the playground for both cowboys and spies, rummaging through our secrets and trivialities to feed into new business models or to detect the patterns of predictable dangers.

BTW check out the exhibition of Simon Denny on the cusp of art, politics and silicon mountains.

Snowden          Loesje geheim

 

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pic by manuchis (@flickr)

This year’s Computer’s, Privacy and Data Protection (CPDP) Conference brings to Brussels a series of notable side events. On Tuesday 26 January 2016 at 20:20 (yes!) will take place a PechaKucha, co-organised by Architempo and CPDP: 10 speakers, each speaker has 6 minutes 40 seconds for a presentation in 20 images. Each image is on screen for only 20 seconds. No more, no less. 20 images x 20 seconds each. Tempo, story, tension, show-and-tell. The Brussels format includes designers, architects, artists, scientists, fashion designers photographers, musicians, and creative entrepreneurs. Many will discuss technology and its implications. Some will not. More info here: PechaKucha 26 January 2016.

Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, the ultimate surveillance image, is the main theme of this new episode of our MUSIC & SURVEILLANCE series. Panopticism is here explored through the aural lens of Paul Baran’s ‘Panoptic’, which combines elegant improvisation with a touch of electronics. 

Paul Baran is a Glasgowian artist operating sometimes alone and sometimes as a member of The Cray Twins. While The Cray Twins seem to devote themselves primarily to inventing unusual electronic instruments, on his own Baran appears especially concerned with linking music and thinking. ‘Panoptic’, Baran’s only solo record for the moment, was published in 2009 by Fang Bomb (a new one is apparently imminent). It is a conceptual album about creativity under surveillance, dedicated to thinkers such as Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek.

The album’s opening track is a slow motion ode to forgetting, being undocumented, and self-erasure. Titled ‘Scotoma Song‘, it hints that Baran’s ‘Panoptic’, just like Bentham’s Panopticon, is as much about what is seen (and heard) as about what is no longer seen (or heard). The record then unfolds slowly and gently, at least at the beginning.

Love Under Surveillance‘, co-authored and performed with Andrea Belfi (percussions) and Werner Dafeldecker (at the double bass) offers a ten minutes promenade through surveillance threats. The mood is melancholic and at the same time spine-chilling, but eventually the record becomes progressively infected with more and more disruptive glitches. During To Protest In Their Silence‘ (again with Belfi, and now also with Gordon Kennedy) electronics go all over the place: it is certainly more about protests than about silence, like a tribute to the art of banging pots, pans, and other utensils in order to express dissent wordlessly.

The human voice reappears in Jackson and Lee’, painfully singing ‘and back, and forth‘, like an unmotivated pendulum. In ‘Pomerol’, it closes ‘Panoptic’s exploration with some apocalyptic mumbling floating on Keith Rowe’s prepared guitar and a sighing calculator. A worthwile conceptual experience. Text by Gloria González Fuster

Industrial music has always been attracted to dystopian worlds and apocalyptical aesthetics. The new episode of our MUSIC & SURVEILLANCE series explores the work of Skull:Axis, an artist self-described as ‘paranoid, delusional industrial’ that has devoted a whole record to ‘The Transparent Society’.

Skull:Axis is actually Jason B. Bernard, from Brighton, who is also responsible for the record label Peripheral, officially ‘the home of all things Dark’. Bernard plays intricate electronic music combining metalic and synthetic sounds, somewhere between obscure ambient and uncomfortable experimentation.

‘The Transparent Society’ is originally the title of book published in 1998 by David Brin, in which this science-fiction author tried to argue in favour of extreme social transparency. Skull:Axis’ record, also titled ‘The Transparent Society’ and published by Peripheral in 2013, takes a critical approach to transparency by offering eight dark tracks with eerie sounds and threatening voices repeating numbers. The artwork is black and white and retro, but the surveillance practices sketched out are rather contemporary.

The hypnotic ‘Data Retention Directive evokes the EU legal instrument currently imposing the general retention of communications data of all users of telecommunications networks in Europe. ‘SORM-2’ refers to the Russian system for the monitoring of telecommunications and Internet activity. A track named ‘Surveillance I’ is mirrored by a longer piece called ‘Überwachung I. The record wraps up with ‘Hide’, the most peaceful (or empty) track of the lot. The CD is accompanied by a quote by Marc Maron: ‘Surveillance induced morality: relics of cultural retardation’Text by Gloria González Fuster

picture from Silvio Lorusso’s project Content Aware Typography

This year the Computers, Privacy and Data Protection International Conference is working together with Constant Association for Art and Media to organise at Brussel’s Les Halles de Schaerbeek and la Maison des Arts the exhibition ‘Are You Being Served’. Artists coming from all over Europe have asked themselves the question: ‘Who does that server really serve?’. The Internet has become a platform for increasing numbers of service providers that control computer use and network and data traffic. Cloud computing service providers ought to ensure security and transparency when processing your data, which are stored in unknown locations and being ‘served’ back to you where and whenever you want – but do they? The art will be exhibited at CPDP and will address – in a humorous and inventive way – the stereotypical gender relations in IT environments, the protection of sensitive medical data, interceptions of network traffic and the commercial use of user generated data, etc. More information here and here.

The MUSIC & SURVEILLANCE series takes a walk through Bandcamp music platform in search of surveillance-related tracks, and uncovers a few interesting underground artists. Here they come, carefully collected and happily reported to the wider public.

‘Days Of Surveillance’ by Quiet Loner

A gentle protest song with a touching old-school flavour. It is not easy to say in the same sentence ‘DNA data’ and ‘piece of my heart’, so Quiet Loner deserves some respect at least for trying. Billy Bragg is supposedly a fan.

‘Surveillance’ by Mike Nicolai

More folk, now with a perfectly crafted song in the benevolently cynical spirit of the Violent Femmes. The author is Mike Nicolai, from Austin, and also singer of a band called The Bremen Riot.

Grotesque (Dear Mutual Surveillance Society)by Boys Age

We move into indie territory with some floating lo-fi dream-pop, by the self-confessed false sons of Yo La Tengo. The lyrics are in Japanese or in strange English, but if they are as good as the title, they must be excellent.

Surveillance’ by Marshall Rendina

Some meta-avant-post-rock about the watchers who watch who is watching, by Marshall Rendina, who has probably listened a lot to David Grubbs, or to whoever he listens to.

‘Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act’ by The United Sons of Toil

Surveillance hurts, and the The United Sons of Toil would like to remind you about it. This nicely Unwound-like song comes from the nicely titled 2007 album ‘Hope Is Not A Strategy‘.

‘Surveillance’ by Controlled Storms

Surveillance can bring sadness. Philadelphia’s Controlled Storms sing that privacy is a luxury, but attempt to manage to make us smile nevertheless by singing it like a mix between Swell and The Beta Band.

Privacy (If You Were My Piano)’ by Elephant Micah

Joseph O’Connell, aka Elephant Micah, knows about sadness. A zero technology recording that refuses to say goodbye (to privacy).

Music selection and text by Gloria González Fuster.

Albums titled ‘Surveillance’ are under the radar of our MUSIC & SURVEILLANCE series for obvious reasons. And If they offer a musically captivating vision of how does it feel to be permanently monitored and put in pieces in large databases, it is particularly urgent to know more about them.


Painted Caves
is the new project of artist Evan Caminiti, based in San Francisco and relatively well known for his participation in the duo Barn Owl. ‘Surveillance’, his debut album under the Painted Caves moniker, offers seven tracks of dystopian landscapes, reminiscent of Basic Channel’s minimalism but with a tendency to get deeper, darker, and more focused on (American) urban life.  

Using a modular synthesizer as his prime source, Caminiti creates indeed bleak textures nevertheless inhabited by a strange corporeality, as illustrated by ‘Flesh on tape’,Stalker’ or ‘Never alone’. His music sounds like a slow motion film about a fast approaching cataclysm, and is thus a highly recommended soundtrack to think about the movements of any surveillant assemblage. The album has been published as a limited edition vinyl LP by French label Shelter Press. Text by Gloria González Fuster