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    The Art of Questioning Lethal Vision: Mosse’s Infra and Militarized Machine Vision

    EVA Copenhagen 2018 - Politics of the Machines - Art and After

    Aalborg University, Copenhagen, Denmark, 15 - 17 May 2018


    Rune Saugmann



    Military techno-vision is decidedly opaque. We - the public in whose name they are developed and deployed - are never quite allowed to scrutinize how exactly it operates, or what kind of work it performs. For a long time, military techno-vision was related to the optical qualities of the human eye. It was either about enhancing the natural human eye, seeing further, seeing in less light, seeing from different locations, or about mimicking the human eye, creating spatial awareness and navigation capabilities from the singular point of the eye/camera.

    Today, increasingly, militarized techno-vision is not merely about the production but also the interpretation of images, about the mind rather than the eye, to use the anthropomorphic language that dominates high-tech discourse. This shift from optics to procession, vision or understanding is related to the development of precision optics and the resulting flood of images that threatens to overwhelm the security bureaucracies seeking to optimize lethal vision. The contemporary problem, thus, is not overcoming invisibility but rather how to efficiently manage a flood of opaque images.

    The solution, proposed by militaries as simultaneously benign and efficient, is to delegate image interpretation to machines. In this paper, I ask how we can scrutinize and interrogate the agency of such machine vision systems when we as a public are rarely granted access to the operations they perform. First, I briefly explore current machine vision technologies, and the technological projects that have identified their blind spots. Second, I look to artistic image production as a means to help think about militarized vision and pictorial agency.


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