Things will appear the same – unless you know how to look

Things will appear the same – unless you know how to look
A talk for Les Ateliers
Nantes, France, 27 March 2013

When asked what the future would look like, the Finnish author and mathematician Hannu Rajaniemi said: “Things will appear the same – unless you know how to look.”  This might seem like a trivial statement, but in fact it embodies one of the biggest challenges that we face when navigating the future – that is, how to look.  Seeing the digital world for what it is – tangible, material, and made by us – is essential for understanding how it is developing.  In this talk, I outlined how media artists, critical engineers  and speculative designers are giving us tactics, tools and prisms to see the world around us more clearly, and muse on how art made in technologised times, can be a source of weak signals about how our technolgised world might be shaping up.

Credits and References

Sincere thanks to: José Luis de Vicente, James Bridle, Julian Oliver, Trevor Paglen, Adam Rutherford, Timo Arnall, and all the other artists, scientists and technologists cited.


Particle Decelerator:

Talk Title: Quote from Hannu Rajaniemi (see below)

Slide Design: Thanks to Jamie Wyld

Title Slide: Screenshot of Immaterials: Light Painting WiFi by Timo Arnall (2011) (see below)

Artworks/projects referenced in Introduction:

data.tron by Ryoji Ikeda (2010) exhibited at transmediale.10, Berlin
Swell by Anthony McCall (2006), exhibited at the Reg Vardy Gallery in Sunderland, as part of AV Festival 2006
from one to many by Yvette Mattern (2010), shown at transmediale.10, Berlin
Mesopotamian Dramatugies (Su & Mayhem) by Kutlug Ataman (2011), exhibited at Brighton Festival 2011:
Evolution of Fearlessness by Lynette Wallworth shown at Brighton Festival 2011: – Laboratory Life (2011):
– Happenstance (2012) – residencies for creative technologists:
– Hannu Rajaniemi quoted in “The Future Always Wins”, Arc 1.1, February 2012:
data.tron [8K enhanced version] by Ryoji Ikeda (2008-09):
levelHead by Julian Oliver (2008) shown at Suspending Disbelief, Lighthouse, 2010:
Genesis by Eduardo Kac (1999):
– Media art prequels website by Golan Levin:

Artworks/projects referenced in Part 1:

– Cloud computing survey commissioned by Citrix, August 2012:
– The proposed Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation, New Mexico:
– China Miéville quoted from “Alien Evasion” by China Miéville, published in Arc 1.1, February 2012: The Future Always Wins:
Invisible Fields (2011), co-curated by José Luis de Vicente and Honor Harger and at Arts Santa Monica, Barcelona:
20Hz by Semiconductor (2011):
Frequency & Volume by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
Immaterials: Light Painting WiFi by Timo Arnall and collaborators (2011) shown at Invisible Fields, Barcelona 2011-12:
– Timo Arnall quoted in No to NoUI by Timo Arnall, March 2013:

Artworks/projects referenced in Part 2:

Geographies of Seeing (2012) by Trevor Paglen, co-curated by Honor Harger and Celia Davies, at Lighthouse:
Paglen works shown:
– Artifacts (Spacecraft in Perpetual Geosynchronous Orbit, 35,786 km Above Equator) (2010)
KEYHOLE 12-3 (IMPROVED CRYSTAL) Optical Reconnaissance Satellite Near
Scorpio (USA 129) (2007)
PAN (Unknown; USA-207) (2010)
KEYHOLE IMPROVED CRYSTAL from Glacier Point (Optical Reconnaissance
Satellite; USA 1860) (2008)
After Galileo (Jupiter and Moons)
They Watch the Moon (2010)
National Reconnaissance Office Ground Station (ADF-SW) Jornada del Muerto, New Mexico (2012)
N5177C at Gold Coast Terminal Las Vegas, NV; Distance ~ 1 mile (2007)
Detachment 3, Air Force Flight Test Center #2, Groom Lake, NV, Distance ~26 Miles (2008)
Reaper Drone, Indian Springs, NV Distance ~ 2 miles (2010)
– Trevor Paglen quoted in “Secret Moons and Black Worlds”, An Interview with Trevor Paglen by Timothy Moore, Volume #25:
– Trevor Paglen quoted in, “Limit Telephotography”, Under Fire research forum, 2006:

Artworks/projects referenced in Part 3:

– William Gibson quoted in Spooky Country (2007):
Hercules Missile Landscape by Mariele Neudecker (2010), being shown at Lighthouse for Brighton Festival 2013:
Drone images:
– Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk:
– A drone pilot at the base at Hancock Field. Image: Heather Ainsworth for The New York Times:
– Untitled (Predators; Indian Springs, NV) by Trevor Paglen (2010)
– Cameras and imaging devices aboard drone aircraft. Image:
– Dronestagram (2012-12) by James Bridle:
– Drone Shadow (2012) by James Bridle:
– Under the Shadow of the Drone (2013) by James Bridle:
– James Bridle quoted in Drone Shadows, 2012:
– Julian Oliver quoted in in Rhizome, September 2012:

Artworks/projects referenced in conclusion:

– “Multi-Input RNAi-Based Logic Circuit for Identification of Specific Cancer Cells” by Xie, Wroblewska, Prochazka, Weiss & Benenson, Science, 2 September 2011, Vol. 333:
– Adam Rutherford, speaking at Lighthouse 7 February 2013: & (discusses RNAi-Based Logic Circuit 50:00 minutes in)
Victimless Leather (2004), Semi Living Worry Dolls (2000), Disembodied Cuisine (2003) by The Tissue Culture & Art Project:
– Laboratory Life (2011) at Lighthouse:
SolarSinter by Markus Kayser (2012):
Hostage pt.1 by Frederik de Wilde (2010):
Bacterial Radio by Joe Davis:
Protei by Cesar Harada (2012):
Environmental Health Clinic by Natalie Jeremijenko:
City CPU by Gordan Savicic (2011):
New Mumbai by Tobias Revell (2012):

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