AN IMAGE
15 Sept–
18 Dec, 2016

Statement

…The development of computer vision techniques seems to indicate a turn towards what we could call post-human operatively:’ while the imminent task at hand is to perfectly simulate how humans see and make sense of the world, the ultimate goal are fully autonomous systems of image creation, analysis and action, capable of substituting human observers and operators altogether. But by then we will need a radically new definition of the image (or have no more need for it).1

The reality we live in, Hito Steyerl contends, consists of images. Images surround us; they are part of our environment, second nature: they are three dimensional objects and forms. This is because at a certain point images “have started crossing the screen and materializing.” During a talk in 2013 on political agency and photography at The New School, Steyerl charted the ways in which images have made this crossing and, in the process, have been transformed. They have been transformed, bruised, affected by crossing over into our reality. They have crossed over and have begun to catalyze events.2 Underneath Steyerl’s assertion is the suspicion regarding the power of images that has haunted culture and society since the beginning of historical time. Idolatry, iconoclasm, iconophilia, and fetishism, all of these were rooted in an anxiety about a world overrun by images. The suspicion that they may, as W.J.T Mitchell describes, “finally destroy even their creators and manipulators” has guided much discourse around what images say, what they want, and what they do.3 One need only, as Mitchell reminds us in What Pictures Want, “invoke the names of [Jean] Baudrillard and [Guy] Debord to remind ourselves that the image as a pseudo-agency, a power in its own right, is alive and well. Martin Jay reminds us that the history of theories of visual images, indeed of vision itself, is largely a history of anxiety.”4

Today, in the wake of developments in digital technology and computing, what images do has been normalized into a process where images are5 codified and executed as the basis of new systems of value6 by a variety of stakeholders.7 Miami, for example, is a place where past, present, and future have been rendered and informed by the proliferation of these imaging processes. Sultry sunsets, pink flamingos, and glistening bodies aren’t just images that fester here, they are imaginaries that motivate geopolitical and colonial fantasies of a Latin American capital or the nirvana of Boundless Markets™.8 Here, advertising and architectural renderings fuel real estate speculation, class divides, racial inequality, false centers, and shadow economies; flattening the once polar distinctions between the virtual and the actual along the way. The logic implies that images move capital, mirages of abstraction mediate into form.

AN IMAGE reflects and attempts to mimic this logic in order to reveal how images mutate, supplant, or intersect with reality and scale their effects across a gamut of impact zones and temporalities. The title, borrowed from Harun Farocki’s film under the same name, references an acute awareness of these image logics and as a result the exhibition—in the shape objects, lectures, screenings,reading groups, and the texts in this volume of small format—highlights the inherent political project at the core of this observation. The purpose of this investigation, then, is to rethink the notion of the image and its impact in order to speculate on what can be done, catalyzed, and produced with images. That is, to contemplate retooling even the anxiety surrounding vision. In this way, AN IMAGE explores how mutating, scaling, and retooling the image isn’t just at the disposal of a few stakeholders. Instead, the exhibition proposes that images are coded by different cosmologies in order to reconfigure the politics of visibility and presence.

1 Ingrid Hoelzl, “The Operative Image: An Approximation,” The New Everyday: A Media Commons Project, February 3, 2014 [http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/tne/pieces/operative-image-approximation].

2 Hito Steyerl, “The Photographic Universe II | Photography and Political Agency? With Victoria Hattam and Hito Steyerl,” YouTube, April 24, 2013 [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqQ3UTWSmUc].

3 W. J. T. Mitchell, Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 23.

4 W. J. T. Mitchell, What Do Pictures Want?: The Lives and Loves of Images (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 96.

5 The teleological and ontological designations of the image have been sought after for a long time in a never-ending quest to answer what images do and want. Much art historical discourse has oscillated between the ontological distinctions of picture and image. They have focused on the image as a contained, delineated, limitful thing (material or immaterial) that does instead of a process of doing; a process that delineates spatiotemporalities advantageously. Here, the image is neither Hard (John Haugeland) nor Soft (W.J.T. Mitchell). So what, then, could the logic of the image be? We could think of it as a hard material image that is the result of a disembodied process; it is a process where the image softens in order to recompose itself as something else ad infinitum.

6 A system of valorization could be understood as the effect of several cross-cutting systems—such as culture, real estate, hospitality, finance—which establish, maintain, or assign value.

7 Stakeholders: For us by us + all of its non-anthropocentric considerations.

8 See [https://ayrni.wordpress.com/#jp-carousel-2530]; [https://ayrni.wordpress.com/#jp-carousel-2532].

Stage

  • AN IMAGE (installation view).

  • Harun Farocki, An Image (still), 1983, 16mm film transferred to video (color, sound), 25:21 minutes

  • Laurinda Spear and Bernardo Fort-Brescia (ARQUITECTONICA) The Pink House, Miami Shores, 1976-9 © Robert Lautman Photography, National Building Museum

  • From left to right: Harun Farocki, Alan Gutierrez

  • Alan Gutierrez, Untitled (lighting), 2016, LED & fluorescent video lights, tungsten stage light, lighting gels, gobo, light stands, gaffer’s tape, Dimensions variable

  • AN IMAGE, view from the outside of ArtCenter/South Florida on Lincoln Road, Miami Beach

  • AN IMAGE (installation view)

  • Barbara Kasten, Construct NYC 19, 1984, Polacolor photograph, 17×19 inches (framed) Jorge M. and Darlene Pérez Collection, Miami

  • Enrique Castro Cid, Black Nude, 1980, Acrylic on canvas, 72×78 inches Courtesy of Lynne and Daniel Gelfman

  • AN IMAGE (installation view) with Suzan Pitt's Asparagus (1979) in the background; table designed by Brian Booth

  • (Human) Learning Reading Group (Part 1 of 3) with Federico Perez Villoro

  • (Human) Learning Reading Group (Part 1 of 3) with Federico Perez Villoro

Public Programs

Deborah Levitt: Animation and The Medium of Life
Thursday, September 22, 7pm
ArtCenter/South Florida, 924 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach

ArtCenter/South Florida is pleased to present Deborah Levitt: Animation and The Medium of Life. Her talk will address our contemporary image ecology through what she calls the age of the animatic apparatus. The animatic apparatus marks the emergence of animation as the dominant medium of our time coinciding with developments in the biological sciences that open possibilities for producing living beings. While these might appear as disjunct cultural fields, with no causal and little conceptual relation, understanding the link between Dolly the cloned sheep and her progeny (metaphorically speaking) and the multimediated bodies of cinema and video are a key to understanding the time in which we live.  Today, the horizon of possibility offered by simulation in both art and science—from cartoons and the animatic effects of CGI to various dreamt and incarnate potentials of biological production—are shifting the reigning cultural paradigms of life in significant ways, moving away from questions about ontology, category, and being, to ones of appearance, metamorphosis, and affect.

Deborah Levitt is Assistant Professor of Culture and Media Studies at Eugene Lang College, The New School, in NYC.  She is a media historian and theorist, and her publications include articles on media and biopolitics, contemporary film theory, and affect and immersion in digital cinema.  Her article, “Animation and the Medium of Life: Media Ethology, An-Ontology, Ethics” appeared in Inflexions (2014) and her most recent essay, “Doll Parts (or Mamoru Oshii’s Kleist Crisis),” appears in the edited volume, Waking Life: Kino zwischen Technik und Leben (Berlin: b_books, 2016). Her book, The Animatic Apparatus, is forthcoming from Zero Books.

(Human) Learning Reading Group (Part 1 of 3)
Saturday, September 24, 11am
ArtCenter/South Florida, 924 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach
RSVP

(human learning) is a study group focused on technology and aesthetics with shifting participants, locations and collaborators. For AN IMAGE, they will organize three sessions: on September 24, October 22, and November 19. The sessions of the study group will focus on the intersection between images and the concept of uncertainty and indeterminacy. The sessions are free and open to the public and participants are expected to commit to all three sessions and actively engage in the analysis of the readings and materials. Readings for the first session are available below.

Synopsis

If images have served as evidence of the past we are now at a time dominated by its algorithmic manipulation and corruption in real time. The separation between reality itself and its representation is increasingly more difficult to sustain. Even if algorithms are created on human ontologies, they perform tasks with efficiencies beyond human power, thus rendering their analysis and evaluation on the verge of the impossible. Contemporary image-making is both constrained by human cognition and liberated by programmatic processes.

Uncertainty is a concept commonly perceived with negative implications, it points to the insecurity of the unknown. However, as we continue to incorporate algorithms to our systems of production and social interactions, uncertainty is key to enhance technology and increasingly crucial to understand human behavior. It is not only productive but also necessary to embrace uncertainty as an axis of knowledge. In a time of rapid changes we might be better preparing for the unknown than making efforts to unveil the future.

The sessions of the study group, are transcribed live on the project’s website employing Holly—a custom software. Holly neutralizes individual voices by rendering conversations as single discourses. Through reinterpretations and misinterpretations, the ever-evolving software embodies the increasing disconnection between complexity in technology and human cognition—further problematizing the relationship between reality itself and its digital construction.

Hyperstition film screening and Q&A with Armen Avanessian
Saturday, October 1, 12–3pm
ArtCenter/DOWNTOWN, 1035 N Miami Ave #300, Miami
RSVP HERE

  • Christopher Roth with Armen Avanessian, Hyperstition, 2015
    (Film Still)

A film on time and narrative by Christopher Roth with Armen Avanessian

Hyperstitional thinking hijacks the present-forming daring interventions into conditions of cybernetic governance that foreclose contingency. Hyperstitions are not imaginary, they are virtual fictions situated in the chaotic unfolding of the Real. Philosophical hyperstitions bring about their own reality. Hyperstition materializes the future as it leaks from beyond the threshold of comprehension.

Christopher Roth’s and Armen Avanessian’s HYPERSTITION is a filmic involution into the narratives and temporalities that both condition and resist the accelerating tempos of global capitalism. It is a film about time and narrative, speculative realism and accelerationism, transmodernism and xeno-feminism (featuring Ray Brassier, Iain Grant, Helen Hester and many others). Tread carefully: the deterritorializing intensity of machinic desire and speculative thinking may not be safe for some viewers.

Featuring: Armen Avanessian, Elie Ayache, Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant, Helen Hester, Deneb Kozikoski, Robin Mackay, Steven Shaviro, Benedict Singleton, Nick Srnicek, Christopher K. Thomas, Agatha Wara, Pete Wolfendale, and Suhail Malik (2026).

Appearences: J.G. Ballard, Nick Land, Philipp Lahm, Quentin Meillassoux, Reza Negarestani, Patricia Reed, Tom Streidl, James Trafford, Jeanne Tremsal, Alex Williams, and Slavoj Zizek

Film Christopher Roth with Armen Avanessian
Drawings Andreas Töpfer

Intermissions 2026: Diann Bauer
Music Cosimo Barnet

Manuel Shvartzberg: The Architectural Image in the Age of Financial Capital
Wednesday, October 12, 7pm
ArtCenter/South Florida, 924 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach

If the history of architecture is the history of making images (as opposed to making buildings), then the history of architectural modernity coincides squarely with that of post-modernity—in the sense that the repetitions of modern architecture (classical orders, typological forms, standards, norms, rules and regulations, etc) always create and proliferate representations, translations, and mistranslations, each of which both produces, and is haunted by, its many “others”—from unrecognized sexualities to non-standard families, post-colonial subjects, illegal aliens, and more. These refractions, however, are not merely signs of the endless spectacle of cultural relativism; post-modernity as an ever-fragmented “hall of mirrors”. Rather, each refraction is constructed geopolitically, intermedially, and in quite material ways.

This talk will therefore seek to ask an apparently simple question: what is an architectural image? And how might they, understood as modern media, shed light on those crucial questions of periodization that continue to structure our horizons of thought and politics, for over two centuries—those “ages” of modernity and post-modernity—today seemingly scrambled and diffused by a nebulous, totalizing embrace of “financial capital”?

To ask this question, then, requires historicizing financial capital by re-thinking the architectural image as part of a broader power-knowledge infrastructure that would comprise the extension of markets over real and imaginary territories—turning architectural images into, among other things, instruments of data codification and aggregation. In other words—how have architectural images reconfigured that object called “modernity” into its close relatives—post-modernity, post-Fordism, financial capitalism—and their many others?

Manuel Shvartzberg is an architect and writer, currently serving as Director of Strategy and Research for The Architecture Lobby, an organization advocating for the value of architecture in the general public and for architectural work within the discipline. Previously, he worked for OMA, Barozzi/Veiga, and was project architect for David Chipperfield Architects in London. In 2014 he represented the United States at the Venice Architecture Biennale with OfficeUS. His scholarly work focuses on the intersection between architecture, technology, finance, and the law, with special attention to the ways architecture configures the factuality of markets and other modes of political economy. Recent publications include: “Contracts” (The Art of Inequality: Architecture, Housing, and Real Estate, Buell Center, 2015); “Foucault’s ‘Environmental’ Power: Architecture and Neoliberal Subjectivization” (The Architect as Worker, Peggy Deamer, ed., Bloomsbury, 2015); andThe Politics of Parametricism: Digital Technologies in Architecture, (Ed., Bloosmbury, 2015). He has published and exhibited his work internationally and has taught at various institutions, including CalArts, University of Southern California, and Columbia University. Shvartzberg is currently based at Columbia University in New York City where he is a researcher at The Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, a candidate in the PhD in Architecture program, and a Graduate Fellow of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society.

Screening of Thom Andersen’s Los Angeles Plays Itself and
Oliver Laric’s Untitled 2014-15
Sunday, October 16, 8pm
Miami Beach Cinematheque | 1130 Washington Ave, Miami Beach

  • Oliver Laric, Untitled, 2014-15 (still)

Join us at the Miami Beach Cinematheque for a screening of Thom Andersen’s classic “Los Angeles Plays Itself” and Oliver Laric’s piece “Untitled 2014-2015”. Admission is free for ArtCenter/South Florida patrons with Eventbrite RSVP

From its distinctive neighborhoods to its architectural homes, Los Angeles has been the backdrop to countless movies. In this dazzling work, Andersen takes viewers on a whirlwind tour through the metropolis real and cinematic history, investigating the myriad stories and legends that have come to define it, and meticulously, judiciously revealing the real city that lives beneath. Newly remastered and finally available to own, “Los Angeles Plays Itself” is an extraordinary documentary, unlike any that has come before or since.

Oliver Laric’s “Untitled 2014-15″ re-draws sequences of humans morphing into animals from found footage culled from hundreds of animations, from countries including Japan, South Korea, China, Austria, Germany, the U.S., and more. The film addresses larger questions about the transubstantiation of figurative form in animation and continues Laric’s exploration of ideas of versioning with contemporary culture, focusing on the way images are mined, remixed, and adopted in new and unexpected contexts in today’s creative production.

(Human) Learning Reading Group (Part 2 of 3)
Saturday November 5, 11am
ArtCenter/South Florida, 924 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach


(human learning) is a study group focused on technology and aesthetics with shifting participants, locations and collaborators. For AN IMAGE, they will organize three sessions: on September 24, nOVEMBER 5, and November 19. The sessions of the study group will focus on the intersection between images and the concept of uncertainty and indeterminacy. The sessions are free and open to the public and participants are expected to commit to most sessions and actively engage in the analysis of the readings and materials. Readings for the second session will be distributed after REGISTERING HERE.

Synopsis

If images have served as evidence of the past we are now at a time dominated by its algorithmic manipulation and corruption in real time. The separation between reality itself and its representation is increasingly more difficult to sustain. Even if algorithms are created on human ontologies, they perform tasks with efficiencies beyond human power, thus rendering their analysis and evaluation on the verge of the impossible. Contemporary image-making is both constrained by human cognition and liberated by programmatic processes.

Uncertainty is a concept commonly perceived with negative implications, it points to the insecurity of the unknown. However, as we continue to incorporate algorithms to our systems of production and social interactions, uncertainty is key to enhance technology and increasingly crucial to understand human behavior. It is not only productive but also necessary to embrace uncertainty as an axis of knowledge. In a time of rapid changes we might be better preparing for the unknown than making efforts to unveil the future.

The sessions of the study group, are transcribed live on the project’s website employing Holly—a custom software. Holly neutralizes individual voices by rendering conversations as single discourses. Through reinterpretations and misinterpretations, the ever-evolving software embodies the increasing disconnection between complexity in technology and human cognition—further problematizing the relationship between reality itself and its digital construction.

(human learning) is a study group focused on technology and aesthetics with shifting participants, locations and collaborators. For AN IMAGE, they will organize three sessions: on September 24, nOVEMBER 5, and November 19. The sessions of the study group will focus on the intersection between images and the concept of uncertainty and indeterminacy. The sessions are free and open to the public and participants are expected to commit to most sessions and actively engage in the analysis of the readings and materials. Readings for the second session will be distributed after REGISTERING HERE.

Synopsis

If images have served as evidence of the past we are now at a time dominated by its algorithmic manipulation and corruption in real time. The separation between reality itself and its representation is increasingly more difficult to sustain. Even if algorithms are created on human ontologies, they perform tasks with efficiencies beyond human power, thus rendering their analysis and evaluation on the verge of the impossible. Contemporary image-making is both constrained by human cognition and liberated by programmatic processes.

Uncertainty is a concept commonly perceived with negative implications, it points to the insecurity of the unknown. However, as we continue to incorporate algorithms to our systems of production and social interactions, uncertainty is key to enhance technology and increasingly crucial to understand human behavior. It is not only productive but also necessary to embrace uncertainty as an axis of knowledge. In a time of rapid changes we might be better preparing for the unknown than making efforts to unveil the future.

The sessions of the study group, are transcribed live on the project’s website employing Holly—a custom software. Holly neutralizes individual voices by rendering conversations as single discourses. Through reinterpretations and misinterpretations, the ever-evolving software embodies the increasing disconnection between complexity in technology and human cognition—further problematizing the relationship between reality itself and its digital construction.

Film screening organized by Black Radical Imagination and conversation with curator Amir George and filmmaker Jamilah Sabur
Sunday November 6, 8pm
Miami Beach Cinematheque | 1130 Washington Ave, Miami Beach

Join us at the Miami Beach Cinematheque for a series of film screenings organized by Black Radical Imagination. Followed by a Q&A with curator Amir George and filmmaker Jamilah Sabur.

This selection of films curated specifically for the exhibition “An Image,” explores concepts of existence through themes of post humanism, migration, and mythology to continue the conversation towards shifting the way in which Black Identity is defined on screen and how these stories affect our ever-changing global culture.

____________

FILMS
The Golden Chain, 2015, 13 min
Directed by Ezra Claytan Daniels and Adebukola Bodunrin

In the distant future, a Nigerian space station in a remote corner of the galaxy orbits an artificial pinpoint of matter so dense that it cannot exist in our solar system. It is a recreation of the birth of the universe itself and overseen by Yetunde, the sole crew member on the space station Eko.

Field Notes, 2013, 17 min
Directed by Vashti Harrison

Field Notes is a visual and aural field guide to paranormal activities on the island nation of Trinidad told through the voices of one family.

Medical Gaze, 2013; 13:43 min
Directed by Jamilah Sabur

Medical gaze, is a piece about a part of Jamaican identity that is so ingrained in the cultural identity on an almost pathological level; the fear of lizards, especially the croaking lizard, a lizard from the Gecko family. A figure finds themself in a space where they are afraid to check their mail, because they’re afraid to see the lizards in the mail box. It becomes a whimsical portrait of a single consciousness engaged in a non-linear, self-reflective act of overcoming fear. Thinking about the subconscious residue of sound and voice, getting inside this residue; Sabur composed a soundtrack with the key of creating subconscious voice. This work includes moments of speech, singing and a chant-like recitation of the verses from a popular 1976 Jamaican reggae song by Max Romeo and Lee “Scratch” Perry called “Chase the Devil,” (another version of the song was redone by The Upsetters and Prince Jazzbo called “Croaking Lizard”).

About Black Radical Imagination

The notion of the Black Radical Imagination stemmed from a series of discussions around the boundaries and limitations that are historically given to people of colour in the realm of the cinematic. Since 2013, Black Radical Imagination started an internationally touring program of visual shorts that delve into the worlds of new media, video art, and experimental narrative organized by curators Amir George and Erin Christovale. Focusing on new stories within the diaspora, each artist contributes their own vision of postmodern society through the state of current black culture. An artistic movement and school of thought, Black Radical Imagination focuses on the aesthetics of afrofuturism, afrosurrealism, and the magnificent through the context of cinema.
Erin Christovale is a curator based in Los Angeles focusing on film/video within the African Diaspora. She graduated with a B.A. from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and is the curator at Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery.

Amir George is a motion picture artist and film programmer born and bred in Chicago. Amir creates work for the cinema, installation, and live performance. His motion picture work and curated programs have been screened in festivals and galleries nationally and internationally. Amir is the founder of Cinema Culture, a grassroots film programming organization. He is currently manifesting his latest short film Decadent Asylum.

Gerald Nestler: The Politics of Resolution in collaboration with Parallax Drift Faculty member Victoria Ivanova
Thursday, November 10, 7pm
ArtCenter/South Florida, 924 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach

Gerald Nestler is an artist and writer, and sometimes curator, who combines theory and text with video, installation, performance and speech to explore what he terms the “derivative condition” of contemporary life in which finance-based models, methodologies, narratives and fictions form a world-producing apparatus that shapes the experience of the present by preconfiguring the future. He is interested in an “aesthetics of resolution” as a potential counter-strategy that includes the figure of therenegade—a traitor within (black box) systems and an educator beyond their confines. She embodies a marginal and ambivalent but concrete move from dissent to individual forms of insurrection that open up potentials to revolutionize social and technological relations between individuals, groups and institutions.

Nestler graduated from the Academy of fine arts Vienna (1992). Subsequently, he focused on digital media and the Internet, which led to a growing interest in the economy as a pervasive field of social relations. As a consequence, Nestler pursued artistic fieldwork in financeial markets as a broker and trader (1994-97), an experience that has formed his artistic and theoretical practice ever since.

Nestler has shown his work internationally and among other grants and awards received the Austrian State Scholarship for Visual Art (2003) and Austrian AIR grants for Beijing (2008), Krumau (2010), and New York (2016). He is a practice-based PhD candidate at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmith, University of London.

Recent artistic and curatorial projects include:

The Trend Is Your Friend (with Sylvia Eckermann, steirischer herbst 09, MedienKunsLabor, Kunsthaus Graz); Breathe My Air. A paradoxical conversation piece(with Sylvia Eckermann, Beijing, Hangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Vienna); Superglue. artistic research on scientific research (with Gerald Straub, Academy of Sciences, Vienna Art Week 11); scientific board for Declining Democracy. Rethinking democracy between utopia and participation, CCCS – Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence (2011); On Purpose. The New Derivative Order (kunstraum Bernsteiner, Vienna, 2012), Glitch (Kunstraum Innsbruck, 2013); Les Rencontres International, nouveau cinema et art contemporain (Gaité Lyrique, Paris, 2014);Parallel Vienna (by invitation of kunstraum Bernsteiner, 2014); FORENSIS (Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 2014); HEDGE AVANTGARDE. renegades, traitors, educators. Inquiries into an aesthetcis of resolution (Kunstraum Bernsteiner, 2015);Les Rencontres International, nouveau cinema et art contemporain (Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin, 2015); SOCIAL GLITCH. radical aesthetics and the consequences of extreme events (kunstraum NIEDEROESTERREICH and other venues in Vienna, 2015). TRACING INFORMATION SOCIETY – A TIMLINE, exhibition + workshops by Technopolitics Research Group (MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art, Vienna. June, 2016). THE PROMISE OF AUTOMATION, group show, curated by Anne Faucheret (Kunsthalle Wien, 2016).

(Human) Learning Reading Group (Part 3 of 3)
Saturday November 19, 11am
ArtCenter/ South Florida, 924 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach

  • Holly, 2016, Algorithmic intelligence software in perennial beta testing phase, Dimensions variable

(human learning) is a study group focused on technology and aesthetics with shifting participants, locations and collaborators. For AN IMAGE, they will organize three sessions: on September 24, October 22, and November 19. The sessions of the study group will focus on the intersection between images and the concept of uncertainty and indeterminacy. The sessions are free and open to the public and participants are expected to commit to all three sessions and actively engage in the analysis of the readings and materials. Readings for the third session will be posted on this page in the coming weeks.  RSVP Here.

Synopsis

If images have served as evidence of the past we are now at a time dominated by its algorithmic manipulation and corruption in real time. The separation between reality itself and its representation is increasingly more difficult to sustain. Even if algorithms are created on human ontologies, they perform tasks with efficiencies beyond human power, thus rendering their analysis and evaluation on the verge of the impossible. Contemporary image-making is both constrained by human cognition and liberated by programmatic processes.

Uncertainty is a concept commonly perceived with negative implications, it points to the insecurity of the unknown. However, as we continue to incorporate algorithms to our systems of production and social interactions, uncertainty is key to enhance technology and increasingly crucial to understand human behavior. It is not only productive but also necessary to embrace uncertainty as an axis of knowledge. In a time of rapid changes we might be better preparing for the unknown than making efforts to unveil the future.

The sessions of the study group, are transcribed live on the project’s website employing Holly—a custom software. Holly neutralizes individual voices by rendering conversations as single discourses. Through reinterpretations and misinterpretations, the ever-evolving software embodies the increasing disconnection between complexity in technology and human cognition—further problematizing the relationship between reality itself and its digital construction.

Delirious Machines
Sunday, November 20, 8pm
Miami Beach SoundScape Park| 500 17th Street, Miami Beach

  • Suzan Pitt, Joy Street (still), 1995

Delirious Machines is a one-night, outdoor screening of short video and animations organized as part of the ArtCenter/South Florida’s exhibition An Image. The 100-minute program will feature 10 works by a variety of filmmakers: from historical figures to some of the most compelling contemporary artists working with moving images today. Each of the films address the capacity of images to mutate, supplant, or intersect with reality and scale their effects across a gamut of impact zones (from the temporal to the spatial). The aim of this program is to foster a sense of literacy and encourage a critical engagement with a contemporary moment saturated by images. Featuring works by Sally Cruikshank, Chuck Jones, Étienne-Jules Marey, Adam Kaplan, Sondra Perry, Suzan Pitt, Seth Price, Lucy Raven, Oskar Schlemmer, and others.

The Otolith Group: Public Talk
Saturday, December 3, 2pm
ArtCenter/South Florida, Miami Beach
RSVP HERE

 

ArtCenter/South Florida is pleased to host a talk with The Otolith Group as part of the exhibition AN IMAGE during Miami Art Week. The program will start with a screening of the short film The Radiant followed by the talk moderated by Graham Eng-Wilmot,scholar of visual culture at UC-Irvine.

This talk is free and open to the public, but please RSVP HERE.

After Miami Art Week, The Otolith Group will be leading an intimate workshop on December 5th & 6th from 12-6pm.   

Otolith 1 Otolith 2

Photo credit: David Heischrek / DHPA.com

The Otolith Group was founded in 2002 and consists of Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun who live and work in London. During their longstanding collaboration The Group have drawn from a wide range of resources and materials. They explore the moving image, the archive, the sonic and the aural within the gallery context. The work is research based and in particular has focused on the essay film as a form that seeks to look at conditions, events and histories in their most expanded form.

 

Jonathan Beller, The Programmable Image
Thursday, December 15, 7pm
ArtCenter/South Florida, 924 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach
RSVP HERE

ArtCenter/South Florida is pleased to host a lecture with Jonathan Beller. Beller is one of the foremost theorists of the visual turn and the attention economy. He works on the history of cinema and the way in which the screen-image has altered all aspects of social life. These alterations range from the lived experiences of gender, sexuality and race, to the socio-economic reorganization of peoples, governments and the environment. His research and pedagogy is undertaken with a commitment to those struggling for social justice in what he calls “the world-media system.” Books and edited volumes include The Cinematic Mode of Production: Attention Economy and the Society of the SpectacleAcquiring Eyes: Philippine Visuality, Nationalist Struggle and the World-Media System; and Feminist Media Theory (a special issue of The Scholar and Feminist Online). His current book projects are entitled The Rain of Images and Computational Capital. Beller also serves on the Editorial Collective of the internationally recognized journal Social Text, and is the current director of The Graduate Program in Media Studies at Pratt, New York.

 

Jonathan Beller

La Victoria Sobre el Sol ***POSTPONED***
TBD
Koubek Center at Miami Dade College (2705 SW 3rd St, Miami, FL 33135)
PURCHASE TICKETS

La Victoria Sobre el Sol is a multimedia site specific opera directed by Alan Poma and based on a re-interpretation and cultural translation of the Russian futurist play under the same title. The opera cannibalizes Andean and Russian Futurism in order to tell the story of the last moments of the solar system. The opera is performed in Quechua by a team of musicians, singers and actors.

Tickets are $10 on Eventbrite (Advanced purchase highly encouraged).

Please note: Parking is available at Koubek Center for $5, cash only.

***THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED UNTIL SPRING 2017***

Resources

Gallery Guide (PDF)

To Imagine
Villem Flusser

The split in the life world between object and subject happened some two million years ago somewhere in East Africa. About forty thousand years ago, no doubt in a cave in southwestern Europe, the subject withdrew further into its subjectivity to get an overview of the objective circumstances in which it found itself. But at such a remove, things were no longer tangible, manifest, for no hand could reach them anymore. They could only be seen. They were merely appearances—objective circumstances turned into apparent, “phenomenal,” and therefore deceptive circumstances: in pursuit of an apparition, hands can miss the object. The subject is once again in doubt about the objectivity of its circumstances, and out of this doubt come observations and images.

Images are intended to serve as models for actions. For although they show only the surfaces of things, they still show relationships among things that no one would otherwise suspect. Images don’t show matter; they show what matters. And that allowed the hand to probe further into the circumstances than before. Image makers faced two obstacles, however. First, every observation is subjective, showing one instant from one standpoint, and second, every observation is ephemeral, for the standpoint is in constant motion. If images were to become models for actions, they had to be made accessible, intersubjective, and they had to be stabilized, stored. They had to be “published.”

The earliest image makers known to us (e.g., at Lascaux) fixed their observations on the walls of caves to make them accessible to others (to us as well); that is, they acted (for hands are required for this fixing), and did so in a new way, inasmuch as they used their hands not to grasp objects (e.g., bulls) but to manipulate surfaces to represent objects (e.g., bulls). They sought symbols, and the activity was about symbols, about a gesture in which the hands moved back from the object to address the depths of the subject in whom, so stimulated, a new level of consciousness was emerging: the “imaginative.” And from this imaginative consciousness came the universe of traditional images, of symbolic content, the universe that would henceforth serve as a model for manipulating the environment (e.g., hunting bulls).

Symbols that are linked to content in this way are called codes and can be deciphered by initiates. To be intersubjective (to be decoded by others), each image must rest on a code known to a community (initiates), which is the reason images are called “traditional” in this essay. Each image must be part of a chain of images, for if it were not in a tradition, it would not be decipherable. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily always work. That is what it means to “publish:” to put a subjective observation into the symbols of a social code. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily work. Because every observation is subjective, each new image brings some sort of new symbol into the code. Each new image will therefore distinguish itself to some small degree from the previous one and so be an original. It will change the social code and inform society. That is just what the power of imagination is: it enables a society informed by images to generate continually new knowledge and experience and to keep reevaluating and responding to it.

Yet it is a dangerous anachronism to regard these constant changes in the image code as a developmental process and to speak of a “history of images” (e.g., from the bull paintings at Lascaux to those of Mesopotamia and Egypt) or to suppose that such a history unfolds slowly in comparison to our own. For what makers of images set out to do was exactly not to be original and to inform society but rather to be as true as possible to previous images and to carry their tradition forward with as little noise as possible. These makers tried to reduce their subjectivity to a minimum, an attitude that can be observed in so-called prehistoric cultures in the present. The African mask and the Indian textile are concerned with an unchanging, eternal code, a myth. To the extent the mask or the textile is original, it has failed.

The universe of traditional images is a magical and mythical universe, and if it nevertheless changed constantly, this was through unintentional coincidence, by accident. This is a prehistoric universe. Only since linear texts appeared, and with them conceptual, historical consciousness—some four thousand years ago—can one rightly speak of a history of images. For only then did imagination begin to serve (and oppose) conceptual thinking, and only then did image makers concern themselves with being original, with deliberately introducing new symbols, with generating information. Only then was an accident no longer an oversight but rather an insight. Images of our time are infected with texts; they visualize texts. Our image makers’ imaginations are infected with conceptual thinking, with trying to hold processes still.

The universe of traditional images, not yet sullied with texts, is a world of magical content. It is a world of the eternal return of the same, in which everything lends meaning to everything else and anything can be meant by anything else. It is a world full of meanings, full of “gods.” And human beings experienced this world as one permeated by trouble. That is the imaginative state of mind: everything carries meaning, everything must be appeased. It is a state of guilt and sin.

At first glance, technical images seem similar to the prehistoric images just discussed. But they are on an entirely different level of consciousness, and among them life proceeds in an entirely different atmosphere. Visualization is something completely different from depiction, something radically new, and will now be taken under consideration.

Vilém Flusser, “To Imagine,” In the Universe of Technical Images, introduction by Mark Poster; translated by Nancy Ann Roth (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011) 11-13.

Originally published as Ins Universum der technischen Bilder. Copyright 1985 European Photography.

English translation copyright 2011 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota.

The Renegade; An Aesthetics of Resolution.
Gerald Nestler

REPRESENTATIONAL AESTHETICS IN FINANCE

The following brief analysis focuses on developments in finance and their impact on wider social realms.1 However, they are not restricted to markets, as similar schemes appear in other fields as well (such as big data or surveillance programs). These operations combine areas like cybernetics, technology, mathematics, probability theory, data mining, and psychology into schemes of evaluation and decision-making that are increasingly programmed to act autonomously. Autonomy, here, exceeds informed decision and accountability. The concept of cybernetics per se is based on self-regulation by feedback and control; implemented on the level of social relations, it becomes a self-governing force whose automated processes are prone to interfere with (non)human relations and activities.

As regards the subject of this paper, my contribution traces a concrete practice engaged in an aesthetics in the field of consequences. This implies an origin—an event, a course of action, a mode of application—which at first provokes queries, dissent and even scandal before it subsequently leads to analysis and investigation. In the case presented, which draws on the analyses of the Flash Crash on May 6, 2010, finance is the provocation. Not only from an artistic standpoint the provocation is as fundamental as it is opaque: finance is the agency of a power that not only resists the classical forms of representation; rather, it tends to operate by stealth, below the radar of common knowledge, perception and thus public interest; the public is not informed. Ironically, this also applies to the industry, as finance whistleblower Haim Bodek remarked: “90 per cent of finance doesn’t know how the US stock market works.”2

Instead, finance reformats representation by forward activating it: the (derivative) pricing system calculates myriad trajectories for investing in expected powers to be. Here, representation serves as a professional tool invested in navigating shifting states rather than controlling a fixed state: price is situated in the future, not in the present—the latter’s incremental convergence due to technological armament of algorithmic trading operations notwithstanding. Thus, price discovery has ushered in a surprising turnaround of the notion of risk: risk is less about insuring against than producing the future. In other words, risk is turned from scandal to precondition to quantitatively calibrate volatility (by stochastic calculus or other means), which in turn is the market’s measure of risk. In a sense, prices look back on us, from the future onto the present; derivatives constitute operations nested inside the future as a contingent dictate (a legal contract) to be fulfilled at present. Here, activated representation is virtual (and viral) in the sense that actualization creates a blank, a utopos, a nowhere; an aniconic present without significance per se.

Hence, the perspective is to reflect on what a political art amounts to—and which tools it demands—by looking behind a veil spun from economics, mathematics, physics, economics and market ideology. In order to work out narratives that counter the ‘invisible’ fictions of financial biopower and to chart passages that take us from mere dissent—caused by the provocation—to actual forms of insurrection. The multifaceted semantic field of the term resolution and its technological as well as social significance—ranging from visualization, discrimination, and intelligence to intention, purpose, (common) initiative and (joint) decision-making—seems to me to offer a collectivity that presents a conceptual basis for re-thinking socio-political constitutions as well as the conditions that in the name of proprietary and other interests make the ruptures and breaches of social contracts possible. It could thus play a crucial role in the effort to trace aesthetic, ethic as well as political consequences—in other words to move from mere aesthetics to a poietics (making) of dissent.

At first, the term resolution might denote a means to an end in the service of visualization, a detail in the chain of technological operations. At the same time, however, it is a tool that combines technology with supervision, exclusion, and agency. Focusing on resolution is not simply a question of technical specifications or layers of visualization. Rather, resolution techniques embody powerful and ambivalent contraptions of technowledge, a term I use to describe the fusion of technology and knowledge in the age of algorithmic automation. For one, resolution serves the construction of enclosures typical for the differentiation machine of information capitalism. It enables the generation of scarcity and allows parceling materials into specific restrictions that belong to a category we have become used to call commodity; and which can be unlocked, i.e. sold and distributed, to consumer classes of varying affluence. By developing artificial senses and at the same time restricting access to their data, resolution techniques are an instrument of power to capitalize on visibility, or, as it were, invisibility—on what we are able, i.e. offered, to see/know; and by implication on what we are not able, i.e. not offered, to see/know. Increasingly, we ‘lose sight’ of what there is we ought to see, i.e. what we ought to perceive, comprehend and make informed decisions on. The commodification of significant and relevant meaning—something resolution practically provides us with in a technological as well as political sense—produces competitive advantage.

Resolution has thus become a pharmakon, to borrow Jacques Derrida’s term, a cure and a toxin at the same time. Let’s first address the poison before we look at a possible remedy. The realm we will look at might seem far removed from art but I hope to make up for this with a radical aesthetics of perception. First, however, let us briefly go back to a beginning when space, and not time, seemed paramount.

 

FROM MACRO-SPACE TO MICRO-TIME

Algorithms are not new to markets. They first appeared in the late 1960s and early 1970s in derivatives trading. At that time, the common utopian topos was about colonizing our solar system and the vast stretches of cosmic space. Millions of people watched the Apollo 11 mission and the landing on the moon. Star Trek, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey were popular examples representing imaginations of how we might live in and after the year 2000. Rich in fantastic imagery, such narratives heralded a new age and a desire for new life worlds and habitats.

At that time, however, another project emerged: the economic colonization of micro-time. And with it, a very different utopia emerged, which started to attract brilliant engineers, physicists and mathematicians—and thus the specialists who were supposed to furnish the knowledge and accelerated architectures that should make life on earth easy and take us to the stars in a not so far future. When the Black-Scholes-Merton model for derivative pricing and its algorithm appeared on the scene (1973), it revolutionized financial markets. Together with computation and political, economic and institutional changes, such as the end of the Bretton Woods system or the establishment of the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the formula led to an enormous increase in derivatives trading and the founding of new derivative products and markets. For the first time, conceptual economic modeling changed the way financial markets operate and this, among other things, changed the way capitalism has since operated: from industrial to financial (information) capitalism, from labor and production to debt and credit. Even though the 1987 stock market crash was considered the model’s “proof of failure,” financial markets have proliferated by reverse-engineering Black-Scholes to compute option prices. This has lead to a condition in which the pricing regime at the core of global finance not only define markets but every field in which expectations and anticipations of future outcomes rule.

Such a “technology of the future” (as the financial engineer and philosopher Elie Ayache calls derivatives) produces the future not simply by anticipating it, that is, by pure prediction. Rather, the derivative pricing of contingent expectations serves as a resolution regime to move along (in parallel with) the uncertainty of the future. Hence, mathematical recalibration computed to render prices for any conceivable outcome, i.e. risk potential, “creates” the future at any present moment of trading. The present as we know it has no bearing here; at the moment when it emerges (every moment), it arrives as price and instantly turns into historic data to enter a new cycle of calculating profit probabilities. The past succumbs to a probabilistic reservoir for the quantification of future events, while the present vaporizes in the actualization of the one price realized from the myriads of virtual prices that “inhabit” these volatile “galaxies” of risk options (to note, these quickly fading “stars” increasingly include a commodity called human capital). Thus, in what I term the derivative condition of social relations, not only those contingent futures “collapse” that emerge from subjectivities and their relations; what decays in microseconds is the present as the moment in which subjectivity and agency are born in the first place.

While the derivative markets’ mode of production generates risk options that quasi-materialize every conceivable future at present, algorithmic trading, as it originated in the mid-1990s, commenced with an emphasis on automated trading routines and arbitrage opportunities—more or less risk free profits gained from instant price differences between markets and exchanges. Here, depending on strategy, speed and volume matter. As in derivative markets, profound specialist knowledge and intellectual property are the condition sine qua non for capitalizing on these strategies. This has attracted a large number of so-called “quants” (engineers, mathematicians, physicians) that have subsequently substituted open-outcry markets and human market makers (usually of low-income backgrounds) with electronic trading and bots.

Hand in hand with the emergence of a new financial elite we witness an increase in electronic resolution methodologies both technically as well as socially. In its wake, the paradigm of resolution shifted from colonizing macro-space to exploiting micro-time; a move that under the auspices of free-market ideology has had a tremendous impact beyond markets on the way we experience agency, security and decision-making in society. Space travel through the vastness of cosmic space remains popular fiction in which we are unconscious—in a state of induced low resolution of sense perception. What has become reality, however, is a presence in which we are unconscious in the sense that (without resolution-enhancing devices) we are incapable of experiencing a present that evaporates in moments where future and past collide. This is not to say that technological progress is intrinsically corrupt. Nevertheless, self-governing proprietary interests are prone to blur our shared vision of realities that affect us profoundly. As a consequence of such an aesthetics, there is urgency to invigorate the notion of resolution across all the term’s semantic registers. In the following, I will briefly address an example, which on the one hand highlights the complexities and intricacies of such an endeavor as well as its achievements and failures. On the other hand, it outlines an instance of artistic practice in the realm of an aesthetics of resolution.

 

THE FORENSIC ANALYSIS OF A MARKET CRASH

“We present this Flash Crash Summary Report using a time-line graph to distinguish the events that caused the crash from those that were effects of the crash. The main chart covers from 14:42:30 to 14:52:00 in 1 second intervals, and the inset covers from 14:42:43 to 14:42:46 in 25ms intervals.” “Nanex Flash Crash Summary Report,” Nanex, September 27, 2010. Image © Nanex, LLC.

“We present this Flash Crash Summary Report using a time-line graph to distinguish the events that caused the crash from those that were effects of the crash. The main chart covers from 14:42:30 to 14:52:00 in 1 second intervals, and the inset covers from 14:42:43 to 14:42:46 in 25ms intervals.” “Nanex Flash Crash Summary Report,” Nanex, September 27, 2010. Image © Nanex, LLC.

The Flash Crash of May 6, 2010 was the biggest one-day decline in the history of financial markets. In less than 5 minutes the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged by about 1,000 points—9 per cent of its total value—only to recover the losses almost immediately. When markets hit record lows, shockwaves went through the economic system and CNBC-live—initially debating the Greek austerity crisis—shifted its broadcast to the trading floor of the New York Stock exchange: “what the heck is going on down here? … I don’t know… this is fear, this is capitulation.”3

Technically, capitulation means panic selling due to pessimism and resignation. But the live TV-coverage and subsequent investigations attested to a much deeper impact. The Flash Crash constitutes a watershed event in markets, as it gave evidence to the fact that algorithmic trading had taken center-stage and produced a hostile environment for many human traders who not only lost their bearings in the event, as a live-broadcast for professional traders illustrates: “this will blow people out in a big way like you won’t believe.”4 Hence and apart from financial losses, capitulation means liquidation of unmediated human perception and collective resolution.

The subsequent investigation resulted in a joint official report by the US regulatory authorities, the SEC and the CFTC. It was published a few months after the incident and put the blame on human trading. In contrast, an analysis of the event conducted by a small financial data provider claimed that the crash was in fact caused by orders executed automatically by algorithms. Nanex LLC, a financial service provider, records trading data and was therefore in the position to examine the event on their own account. They soon realized that conventional market data records did not show any material traces of what might have initiated the rupture that tore the intricate fabric of market prices. Therefore, they decided to go deeper and look at shorter time-intervals. Step-by-step, they enhanced the resolution and developed custom-made bots to analyze the Flash Crash at dizzying depths of time. Finally, they noticed material evidence of market activity at fractions of a second. As the founder and CEO of Nanex, Eric Hunsader, stated:

The SEC/CFTC analysts clearly didn’t have the dataset to do it in the first place. One-minute snapshot data, you can’t tell what happened inside of that minute. We didn’t really see the relationship between the trades and the quote rates until we went under a second.5

At first glance, it looked like a glitch. But what emerged were the material traces of an elaborate scheme. But although Nanex found evidence of activity, the actuator(s) of this spasmic reaction could not be exposed. In order to support their claim, Nanex had to win access to proprietary and therefore secret trading records to match the data and verify the facts. This unlikely situation arose when Waddell & Reed—the mutual fund that was blamed for the crash—decided (passed the resolution, as it were) to share their trading data for comparison—a remarkable decision, as such an act contravenes the implicit rules of the financial industry. It could shake shareholder confidence—the holy grail of neoliberalism—and jeopardize reputation if done publicly. As a consequence and in contrast to the official report, the forensic analysis exposed that the official culprit could not be held accountable. In their final statement Nanex concluded: “High Frequency Trading caused the Flash Crash. Of this, we are sure.”

 

ARTISTIC RESEARCH. AN AESTHETICS OF RESOLUTION.

The findings concerning the Flash Crash result in specific consequences of which some are associated with the analysis while others are part of the artistic research.6 The former include the fact that even though material traces of before invisible quotes and trades were uncovered and provided evidence they did not open access to knowledge. Only the full disclosure and investigation of secret proprietary data records would allow attribution. Up to this day, the actual catalysts of the Flash Crash are unknown.

The artistic research, in turn, exposed a further disturbing consequence: In the current legal and technological frameworks, which privilege property rights and self- regulation (a premise not only of the law but of cybernetics), an effective analysis of market events depends on insider knowledge. It is contingent on a double figure of the expert witness, when an informant joins the investigation.

Only crisis—a scandal, a counter-provocation—can disrupt affiliations and break the veil of secrecy. What this exposes is an ambivalent, contingent and marginal figure: the renegade. A traitor and defector inside systems, she becomes an educator for regulatory authorities and the public at large. Moreover, the renegade in fact constitutes an act that proceeds from mere dissent to concrete insurrection. To give but one example of this figure, the whistleblower is an expert acting from a point of no return, a risk taker at the point of ultimate crisis who rises up against wrong. By speaking out and sharing proprietary data or classified information, she not only discloses what was excluded from public debate but also manifests noncompliance is an act of civil courage for the greater good. Her renegade act—essentially a violation of current custom, rule or law—produces a host of viable resolution materials across the semantic field ranging from shared visualization, discrimination and cognition to decision-making.

cnbc-1

Still from CNBS News, May 6, 2010. Image © CNBC.

Given the power of capitalist markets over public interests, “investors” are not the only ones affected. Capitulation, the term expressed on CNBC, points to a destination where speculation engulfs political power. Taking action in concert with those who put their reputation (and more) at risk requires the cultivation of renegade solidarity,7 an activist politics uncovering, transforming and institutionalizing “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance” into knowledge and decision-making in the public interest. Consequently, such an approach opens a field for multifaceted, trans-disciplinary practices engaged in unearthing, narrating and visualizing instabilities that coagulate dissent into insurrection. Re-calibrating, re-assessing, and re-evaluating concrete but opaque material events and operations—to use both technical and financial terms that denote frequency, depth, and consequence of inquiry—reveals evidence (by constructing and establishing truth as a past forever present in the future) that in turn may radically reorient critical discourse and common action.

1 This paper is based on research that resulted in the video COUNTERING CAPITULATION. From Automated Participation to Renegade Solidarity [https://vimeo.com/channels/aor] and the text, “Mayhem in Mahwah. The Case of the Flash Crash; or, Forensic Reperformance In Deep Time,” in: FORENSIS: The Architecture of Public Truth, ed. Forensic Architecture (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2014), 125-146.

2 Marije Meerman, The Wall Steet Code, 2013, 32:00: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEAGdwHXfLQ], accessed May 24, 2015.

3 See: [http://youtu.be/IJae0zw0iyU].

4 To qualify, human traders ultimately (a matter of minutes) had to enter the site of devastation and rescue the market and the market place. Algorithmic trades had triggered and intensified selling but did not revert to buying.

5 See: [http://www.sify.com/finance/u-s-flash-crash-report-ignores-research-nanex-news-insurance-kkfiEjeciij.html].

6 Due to the limitation of space, this research is not further described here. Please see footnote 1 for reference and links.

7 The urgency of renegade solidarity is implied in a recent case of financial whistle-blowing. See: Matt Taibbi, “The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JP Morgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare,” The Rolling Stone Magazine, November 6, 2014, accessed May 24, 2015, [http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-9-billion-witness-20141106].

This text first appeared in the The Journal for Research Cultures, Issue 1, December 2015, [https://researchcultures.com/].

You Promised Me Primer and You Gave Me Gossip Girl
Diann Bauer

I am going to talk about hyperstition.

To briefly summarize what it is I will quote Nick Land from an interview by Delphi Carstens. Land defines hyperstition as:

‘… a positive feedback circuit … It can be defined as the experimental (techno-)science of self-fulfilling prophecies. Superstitions are merely false beliefs, but hyperstitions—by their very existence as ideas—function causally to bring about their own reality. Capitalist economics is extremely sensitive to hyperstition, where confidence acts as an effective tonic, and inversely. The (fictional) idea of Cyberspace contributed to the influx of investment that rapidly converted it into a technosocial reality.’1

A big part of hyperstition’s seduction and why I wanted to understand it, was that it seemed to be a way to think time outside of its perceived linearity, and how that could have real effects. Time can be understood as a system to measure rates of change and/or the experience of duration (among other things, depending on what context you are speaking about it). It can be a very tricky thing to define, as St. Augustine said in the 5th century, “If nobody asks me, I know; but if I were desirous to explain it to one that should ask me, plainly I know not.”2

But the ways in which we act in the world—these actions appear to have agency and appear to happen in time, in one direction; we take action, it has an effect, we have linear causality. This thing in the present is happening because of that thing that happened in the past; this thing I am doing now, will effect things tomorrow and so on. Hyperstition is this linearity springing out of joint; it alludes to time travel and time bending, retro-causality; it alludes to alternate temporal directions, and the ability to produce effects in the wrong order—an order that runs counter to our daily lived experience of time.

So do we leave hyperstition in the realm of fiction or is it worth looking at in the real? Or is the very point of it that it functions as a fiction that fabricates the real? If this is the case, I would argue it can only happen under certain conditions. I will come to this side of the argument in a moment, but if we think about the real possibilities of time springing out of joint, which is where my curiosity about the concept of hyperstition began, I would like look briefly at the sciences.

There is substantial argument that time does in fact, independent of the human, function in some very counter-intuitive and counter-experiential ways. For example, on a very fundamental level, if one is to look at the basic laws of physics, ‘(they) are symmetric with respect to time—namely, they remain unchanged if we reverse the flow of time.’3

Physicist Julian Barbour presents the idea that time does not exist at all but is instead, an infinite number of instances all co-existing, memory being a quality of a particular instant rather than a causal remnant of a past event.4 So hyperstition, if we are to follow it into some sort of ‘stranger than fiction’ type of thinking with regard to science, it would seem to fit best with in Barbour’s conception of (non)time—that hyperstition could exist as some sort of special privilege of hacking into other instances in the giant block of the universe and that somehow you could hack your way in or out of these laws of physics. It doesn’t really hold up though; it all starts to look like a house of cards. Just because the laws of physics are symmetrical with respect to time does not mean that one can hack one’s way in and out of them like some sci-fi dark web anti-hero (as appealing as this scenario may be). And though science does indeed get very odd and counter-intuitive (and this, in my opinion, is where it can be very interesting/exciting), it does not mean that things that are experientially intuitive are necessarily not the case, or the persistence of time’s appearance is an illusion preventing us from understanding its reality.

With an alternative view to Barbour, physicist Lee Smolin argues for the reality of time. He claims that “Temporal naturalism holds that all that is real (i.e. the natural world) is real at a moment of time, which is one of a succession of moments. The future is not real and there are no facts of the matter about it. The past consists of events or moments which have been real, and there is evidence of past moments in presently observable facts such as fossils, structures, records, etc. Hence there are statements about the past that can have truth values, even if they refer to nothing presently real.”5

If we accept this understanding of time, hyperstition can exist exclusively as a fiction—there is no retro causality coming from a real future that already exists. But what if we flip the last sentence to read:

‘there are statements about the future than can have truth values, even if they refer to nothing presently real.’

This seems to be possible; this seems to happen. For example, when projections are made about possible futures and those projections in turn effect actions in the present then this is a case of a future having a truth value, though it is a projection of the future happening in the present, not the future itself causing effects in the present. We can see this in derivatives markets, where the agreement to buy or sell an asset in the future at a certain price (there-by determining a future price of the thing itself) effects how that thing is traded in fact today.6 This projected future takes on a truth value because it effects things in the present. But it does not exist as a truth value in the future, or not yet anyway and it doesn’t matter if that future actually comes to pass or not, because it has already had its moment of truth by altering the present (which by the time the projection is seen to become real or not, the truth value of it is in the past).

Claims for the reality of time are strong, despite the weird and wonderful paradoxes it leads to. For example, if we look at the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which is a physical law that only goes in one temporal direction, it isn’t reversible, so becomes a very good marker of an arrow of time.7 But, if this is the case, one puzzle is how complex life or any ‘thing’ at all (all ‘things’ here defined as complex objects having low entropy) came to be in the first place, arriving as they did from a high entropy soup of particles in space? If we are to believe in the existence of time, and entropy as its marker, how did this space dust coalesce into complexity, into something that can have consciousness? Why is there something instead of nothing? According to astro-physicist Mario Livio it is due to expansion of the universe itself. The entropy of the whole system increases through the expansion of space (in time?8) so order (areas of low entropy) is left by this expansion and gravity congeals it into yet more ordered bits.9

Physics and thinking of the effects of the expansion of the universe may seem remote, bearing little relation to lived experience, but this question of time’s existence as an objective reality and/or a product of consciousness lays a foundation for our convictions regarding our ability to effect the future or not. Smolin speaks at length about some of the consequences of time’s existence as an objective reality for lived experience. Clearly summing up the issue, he says:

“How can we get rid of the conceptual structure of a divided and hierarchical world separating the natural and the artificial? To escape this trap, we need to see everything in nature, including ourselves and our technologies, as time-bound and part of a larger, ever evolving system. A world without time is a world with a fixed set of possibilities that cannot be transcended. If, on the other hand, time is real and everything is subject to it, then there is no fixed set of possibilities and no obstacle to the invention of genuinely novel ideas and solutions to problems. So to move beyond the distinction between the natural and artificial and to establish systems that are both, we have to situate ourselves in time.”10

So to return to hyperstition, if one accepts the directionality of time given the evidence for its existence on the scale of the human, (despite all the paradoxes that exist within it at other scales, given our current knowledge) then hyperstition remains a utilization of fictions in the present to alter a reality in the future and/or fictions about the future to alter reality in the present (and in turn the future), some of which will be more successful than others and in many cases this will be proportional to the power and authority held by those trying to substantiate these fictions.

There are a few examples I would like to speak about that seem very close to what hyperstition does/how it operates as a fiction to effect reality. The first relates directly to my own practice as an artist and is more what hyperstition feels like than what it is. An artist having a great day in the studio, the things that get made do not feel like they are coming from the maker. It feels much more akin to archaeology, like something is being discovered, something that already exists. This I’m sure is the case for many other fields that have invention or the discovery of novelty at their core.11 Returning to the same interview of Land, quoted above, he goes on to say this:

Caption TK TK

Still, In the Mouth of Madness, 1994. Directed by John Carpenter.

John Carpenter’s (film) In the Mouth of Madness includes the (approximate) line: “I thought I was making it up, but all the time they were telling me what to write.” This line operates at an extraordinary pitch of hyperstitional intensity. From the side of the human subject ‘beliefs’ hyperstitionally condense into realities, but from the side of the hyperstitional object (the Old Ones), human intelligences are mere incubators through which intrusions are directed against the order of historical time. The archaic hint or suggestion is a germ or catalyst, retro-deposited out of the future along a path that historical consciousness perceives as technological progress.12

This is a wonderfully evocative idea, things being retro-deposited out of the future, and as a fiction it’s great, but I think it is important it isn’t understood as a program, or a way to move forward. This may be what it feels like when one is ‘in the zone’, when things you are working on are going well, but it is not really what is happening. Depending on whether the claim of these ‘intrusions’ from 5 min/5 hours/300years in the future or ‘hyperstitional objects brought into being’ are seen to happen by some external force or by a future version of the human in question (your future self telling you what to do) either way, it turns the labor of thinking, rationality and construction of a future into a mysticism. If it remains in the theological realm, rather than giving us access to understanding the reality of time slipping out of joint, it will merely be a distraction both from understanding the possible counter-intuitive/counter-experiential paradoxes within the nature of time, as well as a distraction from the possibility for human agency to change what the future is by design.

This is not to say the idea of hyperstition needs to be thrown out entirely. It can still be useful, but it makes me wonder who is best positioned to use it?

This brings me to the second example of where I see hyperstition working/operating, in fact rather than in appearance. I am arguing that it is closer to marketing or gossip or indeed hype than it is to time bending. And to use hype well and productively, it is helpful to already have some power, or agency at least. What hyperstition can do when it is coupled with power and/or capital, is create a reality from thin air, from nothing, from rumor. It is this coupling with power, though perhaps not an essential ingredient, will help change something from a fantasy projection of a future to hyperstition by actually bringing it into being. This is always easier with money and power behind you.

As an example, I turn to a journalistic anecdote from New York times journalist Ron Suskind. He describes an encounter with a (Bush) white house aide, later attributed to Karl Rove. In his article Suskind says:

“…he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend—but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’”13

So this to me sounds like Landian hyperstition; it is a making of the future, it is a future arching backwards to bring itself into being, but only because the agents in this story already have the power to make the reality they describe happen so it can be seen to be arching backward bringing itself into being. Those of us in the ‘reality based community’ have far more limited access to that kind of hyperstitional construction. Suskind says he believes that this gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency, but I think it may actually get to the heart of power more generally. It may be constitutive of what power is. The ability to make the future is power, and how wide that reality or future spans can be said to be a measure of power.

03

Caption TK TK TK

2016 Lockheed Martin Corporation ©.

An additional example of this can be seen in the promotional (some would argue propaganda) videos for Lockheed Martin (LM). [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6L5J7WcUpo]. LM is an American global aerospace, defense, security and advanced technologies company and it is the world’s largest defense contractor. It gets almost 10% of the pentagon budget and 78% of its contracts are from military sales, though they do also invest in healthcare systems, renewable energy systems, intelligent energy distribution and compact nuclear fusion.14

The video in question begins with what we presume to be father and daughter gliding smoothly along in a driverless car gazing on casually as the ‘routine flight to Mars’ goes up. We learn by the end that they are on their way to pick up who we presume to be mom, who works at the Skunk Works (LM’s advance development program), ‘harnessing the tides’ and ‘creating limitless energy from fusion reactors’, oh and also re-inventing all sorts of military craft, though these get a disproportionately small amount of air time. There is however one bit where the voiceover says: “it’s why we’re always thinking of new ways to prevent the unthinkable” paired with an image of a fighter jet being blown out of the sky. We are not sure what the unthinkable is here—are we the pilot? Are we civilians on the ground about to have our house bombed by that pilot? Either way, the implication is that this violence is for the good, as is Lockheed Martin. It is a promo-vid after all. It’s not going to show the reality of what happens with that 78%, but it is in its promo-ness that it is hyperstitional. I’m not sure who this video is for, us I guess, the public;—but importantly it creates an image of what LM do and how they make the future and make it better, and some of that might even be true (in that limitless energy is indeed more likely to come from somewhere with this type of budget;— the four geeks in a garage model, while it may be preferable, is the exception). The focus is on all these wonderful future visions that are made real through ‘physics, material science, technology and engineering’ and ‘obsessing over things most people only imagine’ and yet there is still that pesky 78% that is going towards efforts to protect this set of interests (or humans) over that set of interest (or humans).

Even culturally there is something that seems familiar and appealing about the whole Skunk Works thing. They say things like working at the Skunk Works is great because it is a ‘risk tolerant environment’ and we are encouraged to ‘look beyond the next thing’ and “We wanna do what’s radical” but this is what we as ‘creatives’ are raised on, this is what we do, we ‘think different’ right?15 Well, guess who else does? Lockheed Martin.

2016 Lockheed Martin Corporation ©.

2016 Lockheed Martin Corporation ©.

So Karl Rove is not kidding when he says ‘We’re history’s actors’. The things that get made at Skunk Works are, in fact, amazing as technology and examples of what humans can do/make, but the reality of the politics involved, (which is, of course, less visible in the videos) is a disaster if you are want to build a politics of egalitarian justice or fancy yourself being ‘on the left’. The politics that is visible in these videos is propagandistic. There is a seamless swaying between this technology for the development of humans on and off the planet but also the destruction of particular pockets of humans.

These videos are hyperstional. They image a future, and they help that future come into existence in the real, and they do this not through mysticism but through making a propositional future seem appealing and even necessary enough to the right constituency to make sure they have the funding needed to bring itself into being. It of course is not done just through these videos but these videos are part of a larger program that is/does hyperstition in a way that we mere mortals can only dream of. This is hyperstition, the future seeding itself, a future fiction bringing itself into being, through and for power.

The question we are left with is what fictions get uptake and why? Is it as simple as having an enormous budget? Does it need to have the financing of the US department of defense to do it, and to have wide effects?

Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams begin their recent book Inventing the Future with a sort of lament, saying:

“Where did the future go? For much of the 20th century the future held sway over our dreams. On the horizon of the political left a vast assortment of emancipatory visions gathered, often springing from the conjunction of popular political power and liberating potential of technology. From predictions of new worlds of leisure, to Soviet-era cosmic communism, to afro-futurist celebrations of the synthetic and diasporic nature of black culture, to post-gender dreams of radical feminism, the popular imagination of the left envisaged societies vastly superior to anything we dream of today.”16

Though I agree with much of the thesis of their book which avows technology and complexity as potential vectors of emancipation and indeed claims it as a course of the left, on this point about envisioning a future, I disagree. The visions of the future they list are not more visionary than what Lockheed Martin is presenting us with. The visions Srnicek and Williams present and the politics on which they rest are closer to something one can avow and stand with, but the future defined by the LM video is not lacking in form and articulation. The problem is not the lack of vision in general but that vision belongs to a reprehensible ideology and a politics of and for power.

So where does this leave us? When constructing the future it’s good to know what you are up against. This is what we are up against, and my question is: how can we build a Skunk Works of the left?

I support Srnicek and Williams’ ideas about repurposing technology for different ends,17 I think it is possible and necessary, and I would concede that changes in the cultural field do affect how tech plays out, what is acceptable or desirable and what gets developed as a result, but I think that relying on this is insufficient, and probably becoming more so. Hacking is one route, but I don’t think that is a sufficient plan either. Changes need to be considered more structurally.

Skynet18 however, need not be the sole trajectory. I don’t see a good reason as to why these technologies cannot be used for projects that could be emancipatory, but the task is to try to think about how that could happen and I don’t just mean the leaps of imagination around what tech can do. Although that will be quite a task, it is relatively manageable.

The greater challenge is how it can be made attractive to the right constituency to support the research and development necessary to advance this kind of tech when it’s not commercially or military driven. If it does need to be state-led? (and I think there could be arguments made for why having it be state or intrastate led rather than commercially led, with regard to the potential to impose fair regulations, for example) Are there ways to change what the state is, to make it more focused on development of the human while maintaining a commitment to egalitarianism and justice rather than sinking disproportionate percentages of budgets into the future of weaponry based on an antiquated foreign policy locked in a Westphalian logic of national sovereignty?19

If we are to take seriously what is and what ought to be, how change happens and the fact that change is possible at all, then we presume temporal direction, we presume (in line with Smolin) that the future does not yet exist. Nothing is going to mystically retro-seed itself into being. If we accept the reality of time, we can accept the idea that the future can be made, it is constructed, so all the more urgent are the questions of how, by and for whom?

1 ”Hyperstition: An Introduction”, Delphi Carstens interviews Nick Land, 2009, accessed 26th of February 2016, [http://merliquify.com/blog/articles/hyperstition-an-introduction/].

2 St. Augustine. Confessions (New York: Macmillan 1912), 239. Can be accessed online: Book XI, chapter XIV, [http://www.leaderu.com/cyber/books/augconfessions/bk11.html].

3 Mario Livio, The Accelerating Universe: Infinite Expansion, the Cosmological Constant and the Beauty of the Cosmos (New York: John Meily and Sons Inc., 2000), 74.

4 Julian Barbour, The End of Time, The Next Revolution in our Understanding of the Universe (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1999), 53-56

5 See Smolin and Roberto Mangabeira Unger, The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2015), 361.

6 Suhail Malik, “Ontology of Finance,” Collapse VIII (2014), 687-688.

7 The law itself basically says that everything in the universe moves to higher entropic state, so a human, an apple, a car, would have a low entropic states compared to the same set of particles that make up these things floating around as individual particles through the vastness of space, there is however negentropy as well, but this functions under very limited cases or subsystems.

8 This is my insertion—, it is not addressed in Livio’s explanation. It represents a genuine question for me.

9 I want to include an explanation of this idea, which in short is: we can thank our existence to the fact that the universe is expanding. It is elegantly and simply articulated by: Mario Livio, The Accelerating Universe: Infinite Expansion, the Cosmological Constant and the Beauty of the Cosmos (New York: John Meily and Sons Inc., 2000), 79.

Here he explains: “The Maximal value that the entropy can attain depends on the size of the system. In a larger container, the entropy of a gas in thermal equilibrium is larger than in a small one. The expansion of the universe can allow the entropy to grow. This could explain why the cosmological and thermodynamic arrows point in the same direction— the increase in the size of the universe is accompanied by an increase in the entropy…As the universe expands, two things happen: The matter and radiation continuously become more dilute and cool down, and the maximal value that the entropy can attain is continuously increasing (with the increasing size). Due to the dilution and cooling, the rates of all that atomic and nuclear processes that result from collisions among particles are reduced, as the matter spreads thinner and the random motion of these particles becomes less and less agitated. From a certain point on these processes could not keep up with the expansion, and the actual entropy of the universe started falling behind the maximal possible entropy. The increasing gap between the actual disorder and the maximally possible disorder simply means that order could appear, on different scales. Gravity also played a crucial role in the emergence of cosmic structure. Gravity is responsible for the fact that small clumps of matter became increasingly dense…”

10 Lee Smolin, Time Reborn (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), 257.

11 Mathematics being the most extreme example. If it is accepted that mathematical truths are discovered, not invented, it would be interesting to see what the brain is up to during these moments of discovery, comparing neuro-biology during moments of mathematical discovery to similar moments of artistic or conceptual discovery/invention as a means to help to understand what we can know, what we can understand, what we have the capacity to know and how it happens.

12 ”Hyperstition: An Introduction”, Delphi Carstens interviews Nick Land, 2009, accessed 26th of February 2016, [http://merliquify.com/blog/articles/hyperstition-an-introduction/].

13 Ron Suskind, “Faith Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush,” New York Times Magazine, October 17, 2004.

14 Lockheed Martin, “We’re Engineering a Better Tomorrow”, [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6L5J7WcUpo].

15 Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, “Magic”, accessed on 26th of February 2016, [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fbgUOWVi9g].

16 Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, Inventing the Future -Postcapitalism and a World Without Work (London: Verso, 2015), 1.

17 Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, “Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics”, in: #ACCELERATE: The Accellerationist Reader (Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2014).

18 Skynet is a fictional conscious, artificial general intelligence system that features centrally in the Terminator franchise and serves as the franchise’s main antagonist (Wikipedia)

19 ‘Westphalian sovereignty is the principle of international law that each nation state has sovereignty over its territory and domestic affairs, to the exclusion of all external powers, on the principle of non-interference in another country’s domestic affairs, and that each state (no matter how large or small) is equal in international law.’ (Wikipedia)

About

An Image
September 15 – December 18, 2016

Curated by Domingo Castillo and Natalia Zuluaga and featuring artwork, public programs, and films by: Thom Andersen, Armen Avanessian, Jonathan Beller, Enrique Castro-Cid, Sally Cruikshank, Black Radical Imagination (Amir George and Erin Christovale), Harun Farocki, Alan Gutierrez, (Human) Learning (Roxana Fabius and Federico Perez Villoro), Barbara Kasten, Oliver Laric, Deborah Levitt, Gerald Nestler, Suzan Pitt, Alan Poma, Lucy Raven, Oskar Schlemmer, Manuel Shvartzberg and The Otolith Group.

Exhibition design inspired by an archival interpretation of ARQUITECTONICA’s Pink House.

ArtCenter South Florida
924 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach

Music
Heinrich Mueller-Dataphysix Renormalon
Conic Sections, 2016
Soundtrack
TRT 30:30 minutes
Commissioned by ArtCenter/South Florida for AN IMAGE

Screening presentations for Thom Andersen’s Los Angeles Plays Itself, Oliver Laric’s Untitled 2014-15, as well as Black Radical Imagination have been made possible through a collaboration with the Miami Beach Cinematheque 

Site Design
Sean Yendrys

Site Development
Julia Novitch