See what is left

Philipp Klak 2020

In 1972, American photographer Jan Groover juxtaposed two photographs of a cow in a field (→ Ref. 1), cutting out a white rectangle in one of them, completely erasing the grazing animal. The conceptual strategy addresses the way we perceive or conceive photographic images, in this case the fact that we automatically concentrate on the cow, which constitutes but a fragment of the image itself. Roughly at the same time, early experiments in computer vision where being conducted, and researchers such as Leon D. Harmon (e.g. his article "The Recognition of Faces", Scientific American, 1973, → Ref. 2) already pointed at the infinite complexity of the process of vision, and the core differences between the human and the machine. German photographer Philipp Klak reflects upon these issues, by selecting random images from Google's Open Images Dataset and cutting out the areas, in which the freely usable image recognition machine learning model by Google "Vision AI" has recognized objects within within the image. The automated process conducted by a bot developed by the artist (→ Ref. 3), thus creates a conceptual schism between computer vision, reflected in the images by white polygonal shapes, and the remaining areas, thus solely dedicated to human perception. The project thus highlights the potentially critical implications of such systems. The generalisation of what filmmaker Harun Farocki called "operational images" brings forth numerous political, ethical or legal implications, and a new visual regime, in which machines see and decide for themselves.