1:1 / Re-calculating Virtual Ratios. Session 2: Transparency

With Oils Lialina, Asli Serbest&Mona Mahall (m-a-u-s-e-r), Ben Vickers, Beny Wagner. Organised by Elvia Wilk.


1 : 1 is a two-part discussion series that questions constructed ratios between material and virtual space. Each event consists of four short presentations by four invited participants, followed by a moderated discussion.

This dicussion coincides with a solo exhibition by Beny Wagner at Import Projects titled Invisible Measure, which explores how transparency has been historically used as a vehicle for ideological social reform. Through an investigation of the history of Plexiglas, the show questions the shift in the meaning of transparency once it was made shatterproof, exploring the implications of the term from its physical use in modern architecture to its semantic deployment by organizations such as Transparency International. Against this backdrop, the discussion will explore the implications of “material transparency.”

The contemporary image-based, corporate internet is an invisible architecture; a set of structures, infrastructures, measuring sytems, and algorithms whose barometer of optimum functionality is their very invisibility. While front-end interface design wants us to forget these mechanisms altogether – forgetting that we are users rather than equal partners in an experience – businesses and governments promote transparency between us and back-end systems as a political tool.

Yet transparency is not the merging of two spaces; it’s the persistence of a divider between them, a real, material separation between subject and object – only the separator itself is unseen. By creating the illusion of a transparent system, we make its mechanisms even more opaque. As Michael Connor writes in reference to Hito Steyerl’s recent video How Not to be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File: “Are the negative effects of anonymity/invisibility (lack of privacy, lack of agency) counterbalanced by the possibility that the internet could make visible those politically invisible millions?”

There are various ways to become invisible: one is to become transparent; another is to put up an opaque shield. The question is whether or not we can selectively control these devices. A transparent dividing line sets up a 1 : 1 ratio between what is on either side of the glass – the seer and the seen. This is the supposition of an equal power relationship on both sides. Yet more often than not, the glass is mirrored on one side.

Wed, 13 Nov, 20.00h
13 Nov 2013

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