Wilderness of Mirrors

Chase Barnes

2017 - Ongoing

Washington, D.C., United States

Wilderness of Mirrors ​is a photographic survey of an emerging cybernetic landscape. The series  endeavors to visualize current mechanisms of surveillance and control that employ technology,  anxiety, and images as a means to destabilize and restructure belief. These discrete social and  technological systems are embedded into the fabric of everyday life, and serve to reinforce and  advance dominant structures of capital and power. 

The sequence presents these conditions as a veritable wilderness– a landscape of images and  devices that infinitely deflects, replicates, and distorts any information within its borders. The architecture of this wilderness sustains and conceals among many things a predominantly white, male hegemony. The sequence aspires to visualize a mechanism which hides in plain sight, and to this end it is populated entirely by white male figures.

The  integration of various technologies into all facets of contemporary life has rendered us stateless,  both totally surrounded and utterly alone. Our devices pull us away from the here and now,  producing endless trails of algorithmically sortable data and fueling a hyper-partisan fever, all  against the ominous backdrop of domestic mass-surveillance and psychographic advertising. 

We make and consume pictures in the ways we were taught, a ritualized vision we adopt without question. By utilizing a plurality of photographic languages and methods– ranging from formal scenes composed with a 4x5 view camera, to black and white reportage shot with harsh on-camera flash reminiscent of crime scene photography– this project positions technological sight as a means which serves and conceals an oppressive social architecture.

Ultimately ​Wilderness of Mirrors​ aspires to locate the intersections of simulation, power, and  concealment in order to disentangle the mesh of our personal, political and digital selves;

it  describes an urgent need to reclaim the agency we have traded away for convenience. The work seeks to question default realities and reframe our relationship to this digital landscape before it  is completely determined for us. 

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  • A protester on the National Mall with wool coat, red novelty hat, vape pen and iPhone 6s.

    A Trump supporter on the National Mall with wool coat, red novelty hat, promotional drawstring backpack and iPhone 6s.

  • A large monitor is calibrated ahead of the 2017 presidential inauguration.

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  • Kudzu and trees obscure a view of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

  • A corner in the Cyber Security room at the National Cryptologic museum in Maryland. The museum is located down the road from the National Security Agency headquarters at Fort Meade, and serves as a rare public face to an otherwise opaque organization.

  • Riot police at the women's march.

  • A display at the National Cryptologic Museum, Ft. Meade, MD