A conversation with the artist Clemens von Wedemeyer (HGB Leipzig), Matteo Pasquinelli (HfG Karlsruhe) and Paolo Caffoni (HfG Karlsruhe) as final event of the course The Political Archeology of Data and part of the KIM HfG Kolloquia series.
Tuesday 15, February 2022, 10.30am.
Clemens von Wedemeyer revisits the writings of Elias Canetti (1960) on the psychology of crowds and emergence of power. Whereas Canetti was addressing the rise of fascism in the first half of the 20th century, Wedemeyer transposes his ideas to the era of Big Data, artificial intelligence and the modelling of human behaviour in surveillance capitalism. With simulations of crowd dynamics, from those used by police forces and public authorities for disaster scenarios to digitally created crowd scenes in block-buster films, a new visibility of social relations emerge. Wedemeyer employs varied formats—documentary, fiction, screen-captured video, computer-generated imagery and found footage—to show that, while the tools of technology used to exert control are constantly evolving, the quest of power in digital capitalism remains highly contested.
For Canetti, invisible crowds are first and foremost the dead: ancestors that influence a society through their stories, their beliefs, their religious cults (also as spirits, demons, devils). He also describes bacteria as invisible crowds, because optically hardly perceptible. Canetti’s notions of power and paranoia are embedded in this field of tension between a past that continues to have an impact and an unpredictable future. From today’s perspective, large amounts of digital data could be included in the concept of the invisible crowds, since they have a special influence on daily life, but are not necessarily visible and in their complexity only barely graspable. As a reality that is impenetrable to people, data linkages contribute unnoticeably to the manipulation of thought, behavior, and the commodification of social relationships.
Clemens von Wedemeyer, born in 1974 in Göttingen, Germany, currently lives and works in Berlin and holds a professorship for media art at the Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig. The artist and filmmaker studied photography and media at the Fachhochschule Bielefeld and the Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig and graduated as Meisterschüler of Astrid Klein in 2005. Clemens von Wedemeyer participated in group shows such as the 1st Moscow Biennale (2005), the 4th Berlin Biennale (2006), Skulptur Projekte Münster in 2007, the 16th Biennale of Sydney (2008) and dOCUMENTA (13) (2012). He had solo shows among others at MoMA PS1, New York, ARGOS Centre for Art and Media, Brussels, the Barbican Art Centre, London, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and Hamburger Kunsthalle. “ESIOD 2015” premiered at the 66. Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin (Berlinale) in 2016.
Matteo Pasquinelli (PhD) is Professor in Media Philosophy at the University of Arts and Design, Karlsruhe, where he is coordinating the research group on Artificial Intelligence and Media Philosophy KIM. He edited the anthology Alleys of Your Mind: Augmented Intelligence and Its Traumas (Meson Press) and, with Vladan Joler, the visual essay ‘The Nooscope Manifested: AI as Instrument of Knowledge Extractivism’ (nooscope.ai). His research focuses the intersection of cognitive sciences, digital economy and machine intelligence. For Verso Books he is preparing a monograph on the history of AI titled The Eye of the Master.
Paolo Caffoni is PhD student at HfG Karlsruhe, editor of Archive Books and co-director of exhibition and public program at Archive Kabinett, Berlin. He is a faculty member of NABA – New Academy of Fine Arts Milan, and was part of the curatorial team of the Second Yinchuan Biennale in 2018.
- Elias Canetti, Elias. Masse und Macht. Hamburg: Claassen, 1960. English translation: Crowds and Power, London: Gollancz, 1962.
- Clemens von Wedemeyer, Illusion einer Menschenmenge / The Illusion of a Crowd, Berlin: Archive Books, 2019. → archivebooks.org
- Nina Franz, “Targeted killing and pattern-of-life analysis: weaponised media”. Media, Culture and Society 39(1), 2017. → academia.edu
- The Illusion of a Crowd. → kow-berlin.com