X

Reception: Friday, November 2nd

DOCUMENT is pleased to present THE LAUGHTER, an exhibition of new works by Sara Greenberger Rafferty, the artist’s second solo show with the gallery.

Using images pulled from from archival, stock, and dis­carded commercial film, primarily purchased via eBay, Rafferty’s works in plastic and silver gelatin prints present both colorful and achromatic versions of images which invoke the senses: hands, eyes, lips. These include scans of positive film, specifically slides, representing photographic exercises by teachers and students alike. While the imagery is quite historical, the evocations are quite contemporary. As Johanna Fateman recently noted in The New Yorker, Rafferty’s works [give] “random cultural artifacts the heft of major archeological finds.”

Sara Greenberger Rafferty has exhibited widely since 2001, including solo exhibitions at MoMA PS1, New York; The Kitchen, New York; Eli Marsh Gallery at Amherst College, Massachusetts; Fine Arts Center Gallery at University of Arkansas; and a commissioned sculpture for the Public Art Fund. Gloves Off, the first traveling survey of her work with accompanying fully illustrated catalogue published by SUNY Press, completed a three-venue tour last year.

The artist was included in the 2014 Whitney Biennial and the 2014 Hammer Biennial in addition to group shows at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Oregon; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, California; and The Jewish Museum, New York, among many others. Her work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Rafferty is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Photography at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

Phillip Maisel

Phillip Maisel (b. 1981, Chicago), lives and works in San Francisco. Maisel graduated from McGill University in Montreal with a BS in Psychology, and from California College of the Arts in San Francisco with an MFA in Visual Arts. He has exhibited at Gregory Lind Gallery, San Francisco; Right Window and Southern Exposure in San Francisco; The William Benton Museum in Connecticut; Heaven Gallery in Chicago; and DeCordova Museum in Massachusetts. Maisel has lectured at the San Francisco Art Institute and California College of the Arts, and currently teaches photography at The Nueva School in San Mateo, California.

Jeanne and Claude (3943), Cut archival pigment print, 28 x 22 in, 2016

Jeanne and Claude (3983), Cut archival pigment print, 28 x 22 in,

Jeanne and Claude (4008), Cut archival pigment print, 28 x 22 in, 2016

Desert Hot Springs (4846), Archival pigment print and colored filters, 30 x 20 in, 2016

Desert Hot Springs (4699-4), Archival pigment print and colored filters, 30 x 20 in, 2016

Desert Hot Springs (4699-2), Archival pigment print and colored filters, 30 x 20 in, 2016

Desert Hot Springs (4699-1), Archival pigment print and colored filters, 30 x 20 in, 2016

Serengeti Green (1786), Archival pigment print, 24 x 17 in, 2015

Serengeti Green (1800), Archival pigment print and neutral density filter, 20 1/4 x 15 1/2 in, 2015

Serengeti Green (1823), Archival pigment prints and color filters, 24 x 17 in, 2015

Serengeti Green (1832), Archival pigment print, 24 x 17 in, 2015

Serengeti Green (1834), Archival pigment prints, 24 x 17 in, 2015

Serengeti Green (1836), Archival pigment print and scrim, 24 x 17 in, 2015

Serengeti Green (1837), Archival pigment print, 24 x 17 in, 2015

Serengeti Green (1840), Archival pigment print, 24 x 17 in, 2015

Serengeti Green (1842), Archival pigment print, 24 x 17 in, 2015

Serengeti Green (1854), Archival pigment print, 24 x 17 in, 2015

Serengeti Green (1860), Archival pigment print, 24 x 17 in, 2015

Serengeti Green (1871), Archival pigment print and neutral density filter, 24 x 17 in, 2015

Serengeti Green (1824), Archival pigment print, 24 x 17 in, 2015

What Role Do Photographers Play in an Increasingly Automated Image Culture?

by Hettie Judah |  November 8, 2018

At the Photographers’ Gallery in London, a show examining the increasingly ubiquitous images produced by machines

Who areWho are photographs for? Who are photographs by? Increasingly, the answer to both questions is, more or less, machine: images are captured by autonomous, or semi-autonomous devices in the act of gathering data for artificial intelligences.

Reading the world of the internet through human eyes, this devolved, machinic image-capture seems ubiquitous. Whether tracking down a building through Street View, reading an academic text on Google Books or locating an artwork through a search engine, there is little sense of authorship to the photos we consume online. For all our sophisticated understanding of image manipulation – from Snapchat bunny filters to movie special effects – we are remarkably trusting of many of these apparently unauthored images, as if the question of intent or agenda was removed alongside human agency.

Stephanie Kneissl and Maximilian Lackner, Stop The Algorithm, 2017. Courtesy: The Photographers Gallery, London

In ‘All I Know Is What’s On The Internet’ – an exhibition at London’s Photographers’ Gallery, ominously titled after a Donald Trump quote – artists mine online content for evidence of human intervention. These often present themselves as glitches of one form or another. Winnie Soon’s video Unerasable Images (2018) shows how heavy-handed censorship causes even a Lego rendering of the 1989 protests at Tiananmen Square in Beijing to pop in and out of visibility on online platforms in China.

Andrew Norman Wilson’s Scanops prints (2012–ongoing) reproduce lone images found among Google’s Books pages that unwittingly reveal the role of human beings in the data extraction process. Fingers and hands wearing latex anti-contamination gloves are seen holding pages flat for scanning. A series of goofy, mangled, circular portraits by Emilio Vavarella – The Google Trilogy 3: The Driver and the Cameras(2012) – turn out to be accidental shots harvested from Google Streetview, capturing the drivers adjusting the cameras on their vehicles

Eva and Franco Mattes’s series Dark Content(2016) explores the covert role of content moderators – the humans performing the role of censors commonly attributed to algorithms – some working freelance for social media, others for the comments section of news sites. All participate in the videos anonymously, their voices and likenesses transferred to generic avatars. A moderator hired by a third party for a social media site worries that, after blocking a video containing child pornography, the censure might go no further. Will anyone help the child? Will the video be reported to the police? Caught in the web of the automated service economy, she can find no way of contacting the client company to check. Moderators for the news sites are horribly disturbed by suicide videos, and likewise haunted by unanswerable questions about how the footage made its way to them online.

Degoutin & Wagon, World Brain, 2015, HD Video. Courtesy: The Photographers Gallery, London

Sebastian Schmieg and Silvio Lorusso’s suite of leporellos Five Years of Captured Captchas (2017) are a reminder that more often than we realize, the humans caught in that web are us. ‘Captcha’ puzzles (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) used on online forms serve a double function: having identified us as non-robot, we are offered text or images that are troubling the optical character recognition tasked with digitizing them. Unbeknownst to us, our human eyes and brain become harvesting tools for non-human intelligence.

The artists point out that Google was once slapped with an (unsuccessful) class action lawsuit for this unpaid labour. The ethics are certainly twisty. On the one hand, what harm is there in crowdsourcing interpretation of documents and images that become sources of public information? On the other, if they are the property of Google – a global for-profit company that extends its post-national stance to its attitude to taxation – how public are they, really? And why do it covertly?

This vision of humankind as sentient servants of a giant artificial intelligence is extended in Stéphane Degoutin and Gwenola Wagon’s World Brain (2015). A feature-length film work split between scenes in giant data centres, and a neo-survivalist forest camp populated by tech intellectuals, World Brain suggests that external observers of our present earth would see a planet colonized by a super brain that we are collectively dedicated to nurturing. The internet is presented as a highly successful superorganism, within which we all live, both virtually – the details of our day-to-day captured as data – and physically, surrounded by the cables, wires and transmissions of its infrastructure.

Andrew Norman Wilson, Scanops The INsland Printer, 2018. Courtesy: The Photographers Gallery, London

While not directly referenced in the exhibition, the spirit of James Bridle’s recent book The New Dark Age hovers over ‘All I Know …’ The exhibition brings illustrative focus to many of the issues raised by Bridle. The visual economy with which these works raise complex questions about control, surveillance, trauma, manipulation and agency is, in itself, a sharp reminder of the power of the image in relation to the word.

If an artificial intelligence learns what kinds of pictures you favour, why should it not assist you in optimizing photographs of your family? If an algorithm can predict what pleases you in an image feed, why should it not boost your happiness by showing you more of them? If cameraphones are already ubiquitous in conflict zones, why do we need war photographers? If we’re already broadcasting ourselves all of the time, what’s the point of documentary filmmakers? Is it wrong to have content moderators removing images intended to traumatise us? For the Photographers’ Gallery – an institution hitherto dedicated to images transmitting the vision of one human eye to another – these enquiries are pressing. They carry in their wake deeper questions about who a ‘photographer’ is, and what their role might be in an increasingly automated image culture.

‘All I Know Is What’s On The Internet’ runs at the The Photographers’ Gallery, London until 24 February 2019.

Main image: Miao Ying Lan, Love Poem, 2014-15. Courtesy: The Photographers’ Gallery, London

Owner
Aron Gent
aron@documentspace.com
Director
Sibylle Friche
sibylle@documentspace.com
Gallery and Print Studio Assistant
Renata Cruz Lara Guerra
info@documentspace.com

Gallery hours:
Tuesday-Saturday: 11am-6pm

Private Works Login
DOCUMENT is a commercial gallery located in Chicago that specializes in contemporary photography, film and media based art. The gallery has organized more than 40 solo exhibitions since its opening in 2011 and actively promotes the work of emerging national and international artists. Operating conjointly as a professional printmaking studio, DOCUMENT facilitates the production of works by artists from Chicago and the US. At this time we do not accept unsolicited submissions.