Katedra fotografie FAMU

Images Beyond Control

Department of Photography, FAMU in Prague
6 November 2020, 14.00–18.30 CET

The record of the conference is available on YouTube: https://youtu.be/FnAgBbInMfA

The status of technical images has always been determined by the delicate balance of control and autonomy between human and nonhuman agents. Although one has never been able to control the technical image entirely, the human intentions, craftsmanship and ability to intervene have always been to some extent involved in image processes and operations. However, recent accounts of automation and robotisation emphatically point to the gradual replacement of human agency and labour by machine skills and intelligence. Image devices operated by sensors, algorithmic processing of camera footage, and apparatuses autonomously controlling image operations, are claimed to obliterate human operators. Activities of humans, it is argued in contemporary post- photography discourse, are irrelevant to images; images have become mindless [Tagg 2009], operational [Farocki 2004, Paglen 2016, Elsaesser 2018, Hoel 2018], furious [Fontcuberta 2018], soft [Hoelztl, Marie 2015], programmatic [Toister 2019], and nonhuman [Zylinska 2017].

To commemorate the two centennials closely related to Prague – the 1920 birth of Vilém Flusser, and Čapek brothers’ invention of the word robot – our conference aims to address and complicate the idea of apparatuses and images that have taken on a life of their own. Both Čapek and Flusser significantly contributed to the critical consideration of automation and robotisation, while they keep exploring possibilities to preserve human concerns within the area of automated apparatuses. Čapek, ending his R.U.R. play with the extinction of both humans and robots, found hope for humanity in the birth of a new post-human species, robots endowed with human emotions. Flusser urged to play against the totality of apparatuses and their automatic programming as the only possible way to reestablish human dignity and regain control of our machines and apparatuses.

Taking as a frame of reference the idea of images out of or even beyond human control, our conference calls for papers that trace and explore the gradual transformation of the forms of human labour and agency towards various techniques of observing, monitoring, controlling, regulating, and interacting with screens and interfaces within complex socio-technical arrangements. What are the old and new forms of interaction between human and nonhuman agents and how these shape the status of a technical image, a camera, an image-maker, a viewer and an image user? Can we somehow get a hold over unintentional and uncontrollable functionality of apparatuses? Whose interests are behind automated apparatuses and autonomous images? What image operations and practices remain under the control of humans? What sort of mechanisms of control operates when images are shared and disseminated, tagged, sorted and archived, looked at, overlooked or never- looked-at, searched, used, abandoned and erased, edited, appropriated and remade? How can we, as everyday users, critics or artists, play against autonomous apparatuses and their image operations? How to get beyond images that seem to get beyond control?

Programme & speakers:

The Chair: Josef Ledvina (FAMU in Prague)

Introductory session
2:00 – 2:10 Jussi Parikka (FAMU in Prague & Winchester School of Art)
Images Beyond Control – Introductory Comments

2:10 – 2:30 Michal Šimůnek (FAMU in Prague)
Buttonless Cameras

1st Session
2:30 – 2:50 A. S. Aurora Hoel (Norwegian University of Science and Technology & Aarhus University)
Images and/as Machines: Adaptive Mediators Beyond the Human/Machine Binary

2:50 – 3:10 Ana Peraica (independent scholar & visiting researcher Danube University Krems)
Inoperative Images: ‘Deep’ Photographs and Images Larger than Reality

3:10 – 3:30 Q&A
3:30 – 3:40 coffee & screen break

2nd Session
3:40 – 4:00 Doreen Mende (Harun Farocki Institut & CCC RP / HEAD Genève)
The Code of Touch

4:00 – 4:20 Andreas Broeckmann (Leuphana University Lüneburg)
Optical Calculus

4:20 – 4:40 Q&A
4:40 – 4:50 coffee & screen break

3rd Session
4:50 – 5:10 Erick Felinto (State University of Rio de Janeiro)
Inhuman Angels: Images of Nature and Culture in Vilém Flusser and Walter Benjamin

5:10 – 5:30 Robin Kelsey (Harvard University)
Photography and Agency

5:30 – 5:50 Q&A

Concluding session
5:50 – 6:00 Jussi Parikka – Concluding Remarks
6:00 – 6:30 final discussion

The conference is held under the project Operational Images and Visual Culture: Media Archaeological Investigations (Czech Science Foundation project 19-26865X, FAMU, Academy of Performing Arts, Prague).

Posted on: 19. 10. 2020, Jan Maštera