Photography in the time of artificial intelligence

A collective exhibition at MoCP in Chicago tries to possibly take stock on the interaplay between art and new technologies.

If you belong to a generation which considers what happens in the net and in real life as two different things, then the title of the exhibition that has just opened at MoCP will struck a chord with you for sure. 

In Real Life (whose acronym, IRL, was commonly used in the chats to address the forementioned issue) is in fact a much proper expression by which the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College has decided to call its new collective, that sees seven artists reflect about photography in the time of artificial intelligence. 

It’s not just the attempt of framing a moment when everything, from technics to language, from topics to forms, is fluid, interdiciplinary, slippery to the point of indefinibility, but of estabilishing a model: where is — if it does actually exist — and how to represent the edge among who watches, who’s watched and the means by which this biunivocal relationship is set up. 

The process by which a machine can not only record images but also properly see the object of this operation (the physical reality) is paradoxically zen (even if — or just because — it’s by now removed from the physical reality itself) and, although in a seemingly tangential way, it deeply informs the work of the involved artists. 

Maija Tammy plays with the viewer about the overlapping/replacement of an ever less natural human and an ever more hyperrealistic robotic, while Stephanie Dinkins stresses the short-circuit between new technologies and racial biases through videos and interactive audio installations.

The sequences “filmed” by Liam Young in a dystopic future and the editing of CCTV footage dramatized by Xu Bing, cross the line between percieved and generated reality. And if Trevor Paglen builds a visual archive of real objects used to teach machines how to “see”, José Orlando Villatoro replaces the digital insubstantiality of QR codes with the organic’s detailed tangibility. Leo Selvaggio goes even further, and invites the visitors to question surveillance systems by using three–dimesional, paper–based or virtual–generated disguises that reproduce his own appearance: in the historic moment when computers so far exert their maximum of interaction with and influence on humans, art goes onto the streets and stands in defence of people’s privacy, even putting its face on the line.

In Real Life
Exhibition dates:
From 16 of January to 29 of March, 2020
Curated by:
Natasha Egan
MoCP –The Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College
600 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, USA

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