michael wallinger

[2022]:
Synthetic Identity
Speculations

[2021]:
scanners &
scanners
and
normalization

[2020]:
inv.img

[2019]:
fprs.19

[2018]:
The invisible kiss

[2016]:
kein raum

[2016]:
w1618x

[2015]:
wertloser raum

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Synthetic Identity Speculations

2022
media installation
Monitoring-interface (Projection) UHD, 3840 x 2160px
Video-documentation (TV): UHD, 3840 x 2160px

in colaboration with:
Blaukind
Kevin Daryl Ferdinandus
Claudia Strate
Enrico Zago

supported by:
Media Futures
[S+T+ARTs Innovation Hub]

The media installation Synthetic Identity Speculations is the technical infrastructure to its eponymous artistic research project as well as the neural backend and interface to sisi.spec, a virtual identity on Instagram. In a long-term accumulating virtual performance of continuous body transformations generated in a feedback-loop communication with different Instagram environments, Sisi's appearance and choreography converges to the most consistent patterns between body characteristics and online in-/visibility.

As an artistic research project, Synthetic Identity Speculations traces questions on algorithmic prioritisation and discrimination of body representations on social media platforms with a long term participatory monitoring. Exploring potentials of synthetic data, it samples, scans and cross references the influence of algorithmic decision-making on the over- and underrepresentation of body images. Hence, it monitors and documents how these platforms might influence contemporary and future body aesthetics, choreography, iconography, and authenticity.

Seeking to tempt our desires, thus influence consumption decisions and maintain user engagement, these platforms analyse our affects based on continuously sampled visual media. Reversing this practice and identifying algorithmic *affects* towards specific body characteristics, casts a virtual hyper-embodiment documenting Instagram's biased binary classifications, affective economies and notions of integrity.

Countering the corporate framing of user accountability for algorithmic agency, Synthetic Identity Speculations aims to explore possibilities of a collective monitoring of algorithmic systems that curate, maintain and verify our media realities.

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scanners & scanners and normalization

2021
virtual environment

in collaboration with:
Kevin Daryl Ferdinandus
Claudia Strate
Format (*.strk)

supported by:
Vienna Business Agency

In the collaborative online work “scanners & scanners and normalization” users will be able to enter the domain of the chimeras — form and voice of data sets that linger in limbo on the network. These algorithmically distorted hybrids, created and shaped by different methods of data capture technology, form a spectral archive. Encountering their fractured forms and learning about their stories, users are invited to explore and reflect on the structures and dynamics of social spaces in the network. An open gathering area within the hub serves as a space for lectures and DJ performances — hoping to encourage users to become participants in an open discussion.

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inv.img

2020
video series / video installation
Video: HD (portrait format), loop

in cooperation with:
Format (*.strk)

supported by:
Stadt Wien Kultur
Bundeskanzleramt Österreich
Kunstverein Format (*.strk)

In the video series "inv.img", algorithmically generated facial patterns create the illusion of a seemingly shared rhythm, suggesting a meaningful connection between unrelated things.

These synthetic faces, mimicking human expression, are the predictions of an artificial neural network based on datasets compiled of carefully selected over-interpretations (false positives) by a face recognition system. Led by the potential of such systems to transform any type of visual archive into a biometrical database publicly accessible archives were searched for visual material on various political protests which, inevitably, also documented their participants. The original chronologies of successive facial expressions were then resequenced via clusters of biometrical similarity, where correlations are prioritised and similarities determine causality.

Considering these systems' accessibility and potential misuse, this visual retrospection on over two decades explicates the immanent threats and challenges that these systems pose to contemporary media ethics and our ability to permanently guarantee individual integrity. In the face of mass retention of biometrical data, overauthorised and supremacist policing alongside doxxing campaigns that identify and expose political targets via automated recognition, we can only assume how the looming side effects of biometrical identification technologies affect future public and political participation.

Reversing this notion of an inherent (self-) regulation propagating in time, provides an insight into how these systems and most machine learning technologies achieve their abilities. By finding a derivative of a current error in their previous attributions of meaning to correlations, these systems abstract and obfuscate archived pasts to determine their remembrance of a future. Driven by means and deviations, they are inevitably tied to misclassifications. As metrics of ideal models, these errors are both systemic essence and friction with realities. Carrying a dimension of refusal and challenging claims to universality, they yield a notion of antinormative agency.

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fprs.19

2019
videoinstallation - transmedia
Video: HD, 52:26 min (loop)
148,5 x 148,5 x 240 cm

@Format (*.strk) - 2020, Vienna

in cooperation with:
Format (*.strk)

supported by:
Stadt Wien Kultur
Bundeskanzleramt Österreich
Kunstverein Format (*.strk)

The video installation fpr.19 examines misinterpretations of data-based systems as artifacts that mirror traits of technological identity and reveal exploitable vulnerabilities that yield potential for agency.

Research on countersurveillance strategies and communication networks of Hong Kong's protest movement in 2019 led to a monitoring of several telegram groups and channels. The impressive size and decentralized organization of doxing strategies on this encrypted instant messenger indicated a civilian use of face recognition systems. In a decentralized manner, numerically indexed, detailed identity profiles, of violent, unmarked police officers and alleged political opponents were compiled, published, filtered and continuously updated. The dissemination of these mugshot profiles drew international attention in mid-2019 and led to the arrest of alleged administrators, an unusually large-scale DDoS attack on the platform's servers, and later to a brief injunction and offlining of one of the channels.

In the period before and after these events, image, video, audio and text material from various of these groups and channels was crawled. The data collected in this way was then analyzed by a face recognition system and filtered for its misinterpretations. These false positive identity markers, erroneously inscribed by the face recognition system, subsequently became the database for an artificial neural network to mimic facial expression and motion. To this end, an autoencoder was trained with the visual information related to these mismapped and erupted facial landmarks to interpret a representative model. The facial patterns resulting from this process mutate continuously between the alienated, the uncanny and the familiar, as hybrids of diverse contexts.

This process of personification of structural conflicts, criticized by parts of the movement as nativistically motivated and essentially misleading, embodies how regressive patterns of interpretation can reproduce within contemporary agency. Obscured in a narrative of innovation, it is not not only the retrospective functionality of data-based models, like face recognition systems, that reactualizes pasts in the anticipation of futures; but their conceptual antecedents also reincarnate within the the logics induced by our technological capabilities and limits. Haunted by biometrics' eugenic past, their shadows can be traced across notions of ideal proportions of artistic canons back to the earliest artistic personifications that aimed to capture and comprehend external complexities in anthropomorphic representations. An imprint of technological conditions that, apart from its implication of turning every smartphone into a mobile surveillance camera, represents no singularity. In fact, recent scientific and commercial approaches that promise classifications of sexual, political, or criminal characteristics based on facial proportions echo and normalize this technologically manifested notion of dredging hybrid complexities into genetic determinants.

The artistic method aims to examine spaces of imagination and action within the fluid deviations normally evaluated as Error Type I and Error Type II. These false-positive and false-negative interpretations are not coincidentally reoccurring singularities, they are structurally inevitable implications of data-based systems and emphasize that there is no capture that is free of any interpretation and therefore free of any bias. As scattered fragments along the lines of automated decision making, they throw light on these systems' codified structures of power and definition. The affirmative aspect of false positives renders them undetectable to their evoking capture systems, making them an essential source of spurious correlations that silently obscure or oversimplify causalities, but also allow for the intentional dredging of data into correlations and meaning. As both confirmation and discrepancy between a reality and its model, between the complexity of our universe and its reduction to an imaginable, thus manageable world, they can be a source of adversarial examples; data objects that can confuse, sabotage or even harm statistical systems by disruptively altering their norm.

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the invisible kiss

2018
videoinstallation - transmedia
Video: HD, 1:54 min (loop)
248 x 143 x 63 cm

@Parallel Vienna - 2018, Vienna
@Format (*.strk) - 2018, Vienna

in cooperation with:
Format (*.strk)

A teleprompter has been adapted into an apparently floating freezer. The video on it shows a 3D-animation of Friedrich August von Hayek\'s face in a recursive kissing movement. This 3D model was generated by a convolutional neural network (CNN) from old interview fragments and then manipulated. The CNN previously got trained with 3D scans and associated video materials. With the help of a face alignment algorithm, it is able to recognize facial alignment and facial expressions and reproduce them as a three-dimensional mesh object. A facial area facing away from the image can be reconstructed by the CNN's previously trained “knowledge”.

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kein raum

2017
Video - HD, 10:31min

The video essay "Kein Raum" (german for "no space") documents an attempt of urban appropriation. The interactive sculpture "W1618x" was to be set up on a spacious traffic island in Vienna without registration or institutional approval. In the video, the visionary and the given overlap, with the sculpture becoming the supporting architecture that makes the impossible visible.

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w1618x

2016
sculpture - steel, aluminium, shock cord, pvc
345 x 345 x 345 cm

"W1618x" is an interactive deformable sculpture.
The alledgedly informal interaction deconstructs the existing form in existing harmony. By interlacing the interactions, the form mutates into mutated harmony. The illusion of the new obscures its imperative past.

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wertloser raum

2016
sculptural installation - concrete, wood, steel, pvc
275 x 123 x 245 cm

@Europäisches Forum Alpbach - 2016, Alpbach (Tirol)

Unterstützer*innen:
Europäisches Forum Alpbach
Alois Mayer Bauwaren GmbH

The sculptural installation "Wertloser Raum" describes a closed space. Its arrangement promises insights that are put off by curated phrases. Communication of its creation process via the EFA internal infrastructure for public relations was of central importance. In this way, a media avatar was created over two weeks. The sculpture thus became the medium of a subtle structuring of perception through directional communication. The recipients' interaction integrates them into the process as a reflective component.

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