Zach Blas: Metric Mysticism
Saturday, January 27, 6pm
Lecture-performance presented in conjunction with Zach Blas: Contra-Internet.
In this lecture-performance, artist Zach Blas gazes into the crystal balls of Silicon Valley and charts the transmutation of big data into a magical substance that predicts—and polices—our future. This event is co-organized by Art in General and e-flux in conjunction with the New Commission exhibition, Zach Blas: Contra-Internet.
Focusing on the appropriation of mysticism and magic by Silicon Valley start-ups and governmental surveillance agencies alike, Blas suggests that the crystal ball, a transparent device that permits one to see into the future, has come to stand in as a paradigm for how tech entrepreneurs prefer to imagine the algorithmic processing of information.
Palantir Technologies, it is suggested, is at the forefront of such metric mysticism. Co-founded by Peter Thiel—and described by some as the most powerful machine for spying ever devised—the controversial data analytics company appropriates the palantir, a fictional all-seeing crystal ball used by wizards in The Lord of the Rings. Here, in the palantir, data becomes the new absolute, determining what the future is and how it should be controlled.
Yet what if one were to gaze not into a crystal ball but rather a chunk of silicon? Not transparent glass but rather an opaque, geologic material at the very core of digital technology. Blas asks, against the prediction of the future, if redirecting our gaze can offer a way to better comprehend the crisis of the present?
Zach Blas is an artist and writer whose practice confronts technologies of capture, security, and control. Currently, he is a Lecturer in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. Blas’s recent works respond to biometric governmentality and network hegemony. Blas has exhibited and lectured internationally, recently at Gasworks, London; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore; e-flux, New York; Whitechapel Gallery, London; and Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City. Blas’s writings can be found in Documentary Across Disciplines (The MIT Press and Haus der Kulturen der Welt); Queer: Documents of Contemporary Art (The MIT Press and Whitechapel Gallery); and e-flux journal. He is producing two books, an artist monograph, and Informatic Opacity: The Art of Defacement in Biometric Times, a theoretical study that considers biometric facial recognition as an emerging form of global governance alongside aesthetico-political refusals of recognition, such as masked protest. His work has been written about and featured in Artforum, Frieze, Art Review, Art Monthly, Mousse Magazine, The Guardian, and The New York Times. www.zachblas.info
e-flux is a publishing platform and archive, artist project, curatorial platform, and enterprise which was founded in 1998. Its news digest, events, exhibitions, schools, journal, books, and the art projects produced and/or disseminated by e-flux describe strains of critical discourse surrounding contemporary art, culture, and theory internationally. Its monthly publication e-flux journal has produced essays commissioned since 2008 about cultural, political, and structural paradigms that inform contemporary artistic production.
General Support of Art in General is provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the New York State Council on the Arts with support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; the Toby D. Lewis Donor Advised Fund of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, The Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors; and by individuals. This program is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
The New Commissions Program is made possible by the Trust for Mutual Understanding; National Endowment for the Arts; Jerome Foundation; Ruth Ivor Foundation; and the Milton and Sally Avery Foundation. Support has also been provided by: Commissioners’ Circle leaders Elaine Goldman, Richard Massey, Jeffery Larsen and Joseph Bolduc; Commissioners’ Circle supporters John and Andrea Nylund and David Solo; and Commissioners’ Circle members Nader Ansary, Rob Colangelo, Don Erenberg, Roya Khadjavi-Heidari, Mary Lapides, Eric Nylund, Leslie Ruff, Steve Shane, and Diana Wege.
Special Project Support provided by e-flux, Creative Capital, Arts Council England, Cockayne–Grants for the Arts, the London Community Foundation, and Thor Perplies.