Monday, January 28, 2019

HUMAN: Recognition, Identification, Targeting

HUMAN Oil on linen 30 x 30 cm 2019


In both these paintings I play with ideas of algorithmic human identification, and reasons for this identification. Clearly, as the cross-hairs indicate, I am thinking about targeting. However, reasons for targeting can range from orders to kill, to targeting by entities such as advertisers, pollsters, corporations, and governments. These seemingly benign entities target to seduce buyers, persuade voters, and to muster people into standardised behaviour [particularly online]. In this interconnected and networked age, the data that is collected, however, could/can be used to aid identification and targeting for more deadly purposes.

In both paintings I have appropriated the appearance of a computer screen or lens, giving a sense of removal from the scene eg: similar to remote airborne drone operations. But, is the operator human or machine? The algorithm of binary code 'instructing' HUMAN at the bottom of each painting references the use of machine learning to assist in target identification. Global debates about whether autonomous systems should go further and make the ultimate 'kill' decision have regularly occurred since 2013, eg: CCW at UNOG. However, politics and the law, are fast outpaced by enhancements in technological applications and systems developments.

HUMAN/HUMAN BEING
I purposefully did not 'instruct' HUMAN BEING because I wanted HUMAN to suggest that algorithms identify using data derived characteristics of humankind. While individuals are certainly targets, humanity is also in the cross-hairs, but do we realise it? Also, while individuals are targeted standardisation of characteristics leads to bias and mistakes, and the possibility of further standardisation. Here, a possible existential threat!

TREE-OF-LIFE
I have painted the shadows of the seemingly targeted figures as trees-of-life. For me this indicates something the algorithm cannot access. Each tree-shadow is an individual, representing life in all its array of personal history, biology, spirit and soul. Can these all be reduced to data? But, the tree-of-life represents another kind of 'code' of life, one that also speaks to humanity as a whole. The tree-of-life with its array of branches, twigs and leaves, stands in contrast with the zeros and ones. I am reminded of Jean Baudrillard's observation about a digital destiny where it will be "possible to measure everything by the same extremely reductive yardstick: the binary, the alternation between 0 and 1". (1)

LANDSCAPE
HUMAN and Where to Hide? are part of my ongoing quest to represent landscape in ways that pose questions about human future and planetary future. I  think about computer graphics, imaging technology, invisible signals that enable networks and undersea cables that also enable networked operations. They impose new kinds of topographies onto landscape. These topographies are not necessarily visible, but they are either militarised or militarise-able. They net and wrap the planet, in ways that make us all target-able.

There is more to say, but I will leave that up to you.

Cheers,
Kathryn




[1] Jean Baudrillard, Passwords, trans. Chris Turner (London and New York: Verso, 2003), 76.


Where to Hide? Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2019

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