Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Seminar 4 Position Statement Zach Blas, Goldsmiths, Univ. of London

Informatic Opacity
 By Zach Blas

Artist and writer whose work engages technology, queerness, and politics. 
Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, Univ. of London

Confronting the rapidly increasing, worldwide reliance on biometric technologies to surveil, manage, and police human beings, queer, feminist, and anti-racist practices of opacity have gained in popularity as a means of political struggle against surveillance and capture technologies in the 21st century. Utilizing biometric facial recognition as a paradigmatic example, I argue that today’s surveillance requires persons to be informatically visible in order to control -or capture - them, and such informatic visibility relies upon the production of technical standardizations of identification to operate globally, which most vehemently impact non-normative, minoritarian populations. Thus, as biometric technologies turn exposures of the face into a site of governmentality, activists and artists strive to make the face biometrically opaque and refuse the political recognition biometrics promises through acts of masking, escape, and imperceptibility.

I broadly theorize such refusals to visually cohere to digital surveillance and capture technologies’ gaze as “informatic opacity,” an aesthetic-political theory and practice of anti-normativity at a global, technical scale whose goal is maintaining the autonomous determination of alterity and difference by evading the quantification, standardization, and regulation of identity imposed by biometrics and the state.

During this talk, I will also discuss two art projects I have recently completed: Facial Weaponization Suite, a series of masks and public actions, and Face Cages, a critical, dystopic installation that investigates the abstract violence of biometric facial diagramming and analysis. 

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