Reception: September 12th > 5-8 PM

Download screening invitation

Download screening concept

Re-convergence (Algorithmic Archaeology)

Excuse me, I said. I thought you were a trout stream. I’m not, she said.

– Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America.

‘Sometimes classified as secret, private or public, […] draft or proof’, Sean Snyder’s exhibition originates from a fragment of the Wikipedia entry for the word “document”. Furthermore, it is defined as ‘any concrete or symbolic indication, preserved or recorded, for reconstructing or for proving a phenomenon, whether physical or mental.’

The exhibition addresses the status of a document and consists of a matrix of disparate elements registered in the artist’s memory. It attempts to address the status of image production at present. DOCUMENT’s circumstance as a gallery and a commercial digital service entity is inscribed in the mental conception and physical presentation of the exhibition, which generates an internal production – distribution loop. Simultaneously converting and re-converting a digital and a physical, a real and an ephemeral, a high art and a consumer product, the presentation questions the very stability of the lines of divisions, yet sketching the ground plans of something that can be reactivated and used as evidence. Through actively engaging with public institutions, the artist excavates historical data that would otherwise remain invisible.

Convergence, a Jackson Pollock painting from 1952, reproduced as a puzzle was purchased via ebay. The scattered pieces of the puzzle are displayed on a surface of horizontal structure (Horizontal Propagation, 33 cm height x 119 cm length x 99 cm width). The structure is scaled to 50 percent of the size of the original painting that hangs in the Albright Knox Art Gallery. The painting’s political dimension and its being an element of Cold war propaganda as a representative of ideology of freedom and American exceptionalism with alleged CIA involvement in promotion of Abstract Expressionism is now more than a rumor of art history, but is not yet documented. In order to produce a (framed) document, Snyder contacted the CIA via email and asked a question regarding the utilization of art as a weapon during the Cold War. A print of the automated response confirming the reception of the question is dis-played in Question To The CIA (Abstract Expressionism), (black and white archival pigment print on matte paper, 53 x 67 cm, 2015).

A vertical video projection traces the location of an intervention by Daniel Buren, Watch The Doors, Please!, commissioned by the Art Institute of Chicago. The intervention was active from October of 1980 and continued for nearly two years. The project is not only credited as in situ, but in motion.

Snyder’s projection Vertical Traces, (HD data file, 1 minute 20 seconds, 2015) documents the location of the intervention visible from the exhibition space juxtaposing the images accessible at present via the online remote viewing technologies. The Google Earth searches represent the location as a rigid topographic scheme while the Bing search playfully animates the route of the transportation network with the rail lines rendered in gray and white, ironically reminiscent of Buren’s iconic stripes. Parallel to the projection, Snyder presents a transcript of a telephone conversation with METRA (Chicago’s public transportation network), inquiring about records of the process involved in arranging of the intervention by Daniel Buren. A number of departments were contacted before an inquiry was made to customer service main number. Transcript of Inquiry To METRA (Chicago Urban Transport), (black and white archival pigment print on matte paper, 42 x 29.7 cm, 2015).

An experiment in what might be speculatively referred to as institutional a(na)rcheology, a slide projection Three Incidents of Syncopic Analysis, (projected images, digital data transferred to 35mm slides, 2015) consists of the visual data (some images were loaned from the MCA-Chicago) of documentation of three selected iconic art installations and interventions that took place in Chicago in the 1960s and 1970s as well as present evidence of their locations. Despite that DOCUMENT is a commercial gallery, the process oriented experiment Three Incidents Of Syncopic Analysis is not for sale.

Audio from an MRI scan, Radiographic Search (MRI), (13 min 21 seconds,  mp3 audio in mono, 2015) intertwines sound with image throughout the exhibition space. Snyder references binding of projected images with the repetitive machine noise of the image producing medical apparatus to a work by James Coleman (Slide Piece, 1972-1973). Devoid of any linear structure, the matrix of re-representations is intended to generate an echo of audiovisual memory from multiple perspectives as if it existed previously.

According to online data, the location of the former MCA and the AIC is 180 meters above sea level, while the location of DOCUMENT is 179 meters above sea level. A printed image of an iTunes offer to purchase John Cage’s 4’33” for 99 cents. 0.99€ (black and white archival pigment print on matte paper, 53 x 67 cm, 2015).

Exiting the elevator that leads to DOCUMENT’s exhibition space, viewers are confronted with an automated sequence from the video game Adventure. The data has been reformatted for a 16:9 monitor, the duration altered, and the beginning and end omitted to emphasize the maze-like structure of the game. (Adventure Fragment. Atari (Algorithm), (HD data file, 1 min 01 second, 2015). Conceived in 1979, Adventure contains a secret room or an ‘easter egg’ as it is now known in media theory, crediting the game’s programmer. The secret message that had been hidden by Warren Robinett in the already widely-distributed game challenged the Atari corporation’s policy of anonymity.

Another layer of displacement involves the data for the entire exhibition, which is digitally backed at an underground data center known as the Swiss Fort Knox. Embedded in the Swiss Alps, the hermetically sealed cache claims it’s resistance to any existing threat and is lauded as one of the preeminent IT-infrastructure facilities on earth. According to the company’s online profile it is known as Europe’s most secure datacenter.

With Re-convergence (Algorithmic Archaeology) Snyder’s constructed labyrinth of references, based on algorithmic structures may seem to follow an arbitrary logic, when it is a highly articulated orchestration of signs and interconnection of numbers. What might seemingly be floating on the surface, might turn out to be far more layered. In the book Trout Fishing In America a big sign said: USED TROUT STREAM FOR SALE. MUST BE SEEN TO BE APPRECIATED. What page it’s on supposedly depends on which copy is available.

He is represented by Galerie NEU (Berlin), Galerie Chantal Crousel, (Paris) and Lisson Gallery (London).

His current inquiries can be pursued at:

Special thanks to Olga Bryukhovetska, Pit Schultz, Darian Leader, Michael Scott Hall, Aron Gent, Sibylle Friche, Ruth Hogan, Hyun Jeung Kim, Andrea Giacobino, Will A. Smith, Karl Cool, Gilles Coudert, Daniel Buren, Steven Bridges, Bonnie Rosenberg, Robyn Farrell, Warren Robinett, Bernhard Schreiner, Matthew Pagett, Bettina Allamoda, Vesna Petresin, Alan Butler, Ina Blom, Daniel R. Quiles, and Chris Clarke.

Elizabeth Atterbury

Elizabeth Atterbury (born 1982, West Palm Beach, FL) lives and works in Portland, Maine. Recent solo and group shows include Kate Werble Gallery, New York; The Portland Museum of Art, Portland; Mrs., Queens; The Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville; kijidome, Boston; Document, Chicago; Western Exhibitions, Chicago; The Luminary, St Louis; Et al. Etc., San Francisco; Pulaski Park Field House, Chicago; Able Baker Contemporary, Portland; Ida Schmid, Brooklyn; TSA, Brooklyn; Bodega, Philadelphia/New York; KANSAS, New York; and The ICA at Maine College of Art, Portland, among others. In the Middle, An Oasis, a monograph of her work, was published by Bodega Press in 2013. She received her BA from Hampshire College and her MFA from MassArt.

Atterbury’s studio practice is fluid, fluctuating between picture making and object making. Fascinated with the autonomy of the artifact – objects disassociated from their original function and context – Atterbury’s practice considers the distinction or lack thereof between artifact, prop, model and sculpture.  Drawn to materials such as paper and sand, Atterbury constructs ephemeral tableaux specifically for the purpose of transfiguring and recording them. Both her photographs and sculpture build upon a continued interest in display and its visual structures, along with a more recent interest in language, ritual, and abstraction.

Elizabeth Atterbury, 26 Waves, 2018, Mortar, plywood and glue, 22 3/4 x 19 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Alone at night, 2018, Mortar, plywood and glue, 23 x 19 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Still life with bowl and mirror, 2018, Mortar, plywood and glue, 23 x 19 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Anonymous Old Poem, 2018, Mortar, plywood and glue, 23 x 19 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Another Poem, 2018, Mortar, plywood and glue, 23 x 19 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Calligraphy Frame, 2018, Maple, acrylic paint, glue, 60 x 40 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, The Well, Again (Pool), 2017, Beach sand, glue, MDF, 10 1/2 x 8 x 6 1/4 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, The Well, The Wall, 2016, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in, Edition of 3

Elizabeth Atterbury, Beach Woks (Marks of a Tool II), 2016, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in, Edition of 3

Elizabeth Atterbury, Still Life with Popcorn and Pits, 2016, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in, Edition of 3

Elizabeth Atterbury, Logogram III, 2016, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Logogram II, 2016, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Logogram I, 2016, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Tomb), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 12 x 7 1/2 x 5 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (The Cut), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 13 1/2 x 28 1/2 x 1 1/4 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Sunset Hedge), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 1 1/2 x 16 x 2 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Small House), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 1 x 16 3/4 x 14 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Bull Shark), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 2 1/2 x 18 x 1 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Paper Cut / Hedge), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 10 x 9 x 1 3/4 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Noguchi's Intetra, Mist Fountain), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 11 x 9 1/2 x 9 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Lawn), 2016, Enamel paint, steel 9 x 9 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Big House), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 16 x 18 x 6 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Palms), 2015, Enamel paint, steel, 17 1/2 x 11 x 16 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Relief (China White), 2015, Plywood and paint, 33 x 48 x 1 3/4 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Moonlight on the river, 2014, Chromogenic print, 14 x 11 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Slow Song, 2014, Chromogenic print, 14 x 11 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Marks of a tool, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Rake, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 24 x 20 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Ghost Tracks, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 24 x 20 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Black Beach, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 13 1/2 x 11 1/2 in, Edition of 3

Elizabeth Atterbury, Bones, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in, Edition of 3

Elizabeth Atterburym Glyphs II, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Glyphs, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Site, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sculpture Park, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Bricks, 2013 Chromogenic print, 13 1/2 x 11 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Harry, Henri, Sal, 2013, Chromogenic print, 14 x 11 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Blue Runner Night, 2014, Chromogenic print, 13 1/2 x 11 1/2 in, Editon of 3

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

Aron Gent
Sibylle Friche
Gallery and Print Studio Assistant
Renata Cruz Lara Guerra

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.