2019 - 2020
In Retained Reports I question our relationship with data originated from our private human experiences, gathered and fashioned by surveillance capitalists into prediction products, which are sold in behavioural futures markets, and I invite us to imagine an alternative economic and social logic.
I turned the surveillance capitalism’s “means of production” against itself, by training an AI algorithm to hallucinate portraits of imaginary individuals based on an analysis of the public-domain archive of Costică Acsinte, one of Romania’s most prolific early-20th-century photographers.
Many of Acsinte’s fragile glass plates have sustained damages over the years due to heat and moisture. The delicate silver gelatine emulsion has peeled off, and the glass has cracked or splintered.
Worn down by time and elements, the portraits in the Acsinte’s archive are allegories of the impermanence of human artefacts. Their counterparts in Retained Reports, though, are, like personal-data in the hands of the surveillance-industrial complex, permanent artefacts of computational processes and visual antiphrases. It is very hard for citizens to delete all their data, even when they decide to stop sharing them. I am presenting these portraits as images retained on electronic-ink screens, chosen in lieu of traditional archival photo-paper, or NFTs permanently linked on the blockchain.
When asymmetries of knowledge between citizens and the surveillance capitalists translate in asymmetries of power, what will be the consequences for democracy? When we lose our private realm, how do we assert our moral autonomy? When predictions of future behaviours are enabled by knowledge and end up with control, what control do we retain over our lives if companies know more about us than we know about ourselves or than we know about them? Or, ultimately, when all our future behaviours are predicted, what does it mean to be human?