[ISEA2011] Panel: Petra Gemein­boeck (moderator) — Surveillant Spaces: From Autonomous Surveillance to Machine Voyeurism

Panel Statement

Chair Per­son: Petra Gemein­boeck

Presenters:  Rob Saun­ders, James Coupe & Michelle Teran

Our every­day en­vi­ron­ment has be­come a patch­work of sur­veil­lant spaces; in­ter­lac­ing our so­cial net­works and mo­bile de­vices with CCTV sys­tems, satel­lite and other wire­less sig­nals to pro­duce an end­lessly grow­ing net­work of ‘nodes’ with never-sleep­ing eyes. As ma­chine agency grows more com­plex we in­creas­ingly be­come ac­com­plices of the voyeuris­tic spec­ta­cle. While each sur­veil­lant space may have dif­fer­ent mo­tives and tar­gets, all of them serve as more or less au­tonomous pros­the­ses that ex­tend, en­hance or pro­lif­er­ate the human eye. But what hap­pens if we push the ques­tion of own­er­ship of the gaze to a point where the ma­chine’s agency of see­ing not only aug­ments the human eye but be­comes in­de­pen­dent, gen­er­a­tive and ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing its own nar­ra­tives?  This panel ex­plores sur­veil­lant spaces from the point of view of the ma­chine. What does it see? Why does it look? And how does it re­spond? It will both crit­i­cally and play­fully in­ves­ti­gate the per­for­ma­tive po­ten­tial of the ma­chinic gaze and the agen­cies and ma­te­ri­al­i­ties in­volved. To do so, we will en­gage with artis­tic prac­tices that enact the pol­i­tics of sur­veil­lance through per­for­ma­tive in­ter­ven­tions to ex­per­i­ment with and push the con­tested re­al­i­ties they pro­duce. Ex­plor­ing ma­chine vi­sion and com­pu­ta­tional agency, we will dis­cuss the po­ten­tial for the ma­chinic gaze to de­velop a dis­po­si­tion to­wards what it sees. A sur­veil­lant space dri­ven by cu­rios­ity, de­sire and per­haps com­plic­ity both play­fully sub­verts and crit­i­cally ex­tends Vir­ilio’s (1994) dark vi­sion of the ‘au­to­matic-per­cep­tion pros­the­sis’.

  • Petra Gemein­boeck ex­plores the am­bi­gu­i­ties and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in our re­la­tion­ships with ma­chines and is in­ter­ested in mak­ing tan­gi­ble the de­sires and pol­i­tics in­volved. Her prac­tice in ma­chine per­for­mance, in­ter­ac­tive in­stal­la­tion, and vir­tual en­vi­ron­ments en­gages par­tic­i­pants in sce­nar­ios of en­counter, in which they are pro­voked to ne­go­ti­ate, con­spire with or even so­licit a ma­chine-gen­er­ated co-per­former. Her works have been ex­hib­ited in­ter­na­tion­ally, in­clud­ing at the Ars Elec­tron­ica, Archi­lab, Thes­sa­loniki Bi­en­nale, MCA Chicago, ICC Tokyo, OK Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Art, and the Cen­tre des Arts En­ghien at Paris. She has also pub­lished widely on is­sues of in­ter­ac­tiv­ity and ma­chine agency. Born in Vi­enna, Petra is cur­rently based in Syd­ney, where she is a Se­nior Lec­turer in In­ter­ac­tive Media Arts at the Col­lege of Fine Arts, Uni­ver­sity of NSW, AU.