Incomplete Images: A Different Perspective on Forced Migration

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Elena Kollatou and Leonidas Toumpanos

The past two years have seen an unprecedented wave of forced migration, with conflict, instability and authoritarianism in north Africa, the Middle East and other regions forcing millions to flee their homes and seek safety overseas. This humanitarian crisis has coincided with, and in some cases contributed to, a resurgence of the political right in Europe and north America. This, alongside the continused evisceration of the media produces a climate where simplistic narratives about refugees flourish, and where depiction of the crisis often lack any reflection of the experiences of those who are most directly affected by it. The exhibition Incomplete Images, which I have co-curated with Monica Alcazar-Duarte, opens today and attempts to respond to this imbalance, by exhibiting work by a series of artists who are themselves refugees, or who have worked in close collaboration with them. The aim of this show is clearly modest and one small show is not going to redress the rise of right wing populism or years of imbalanced media coverage, but we hope it will have an influence, however small, and to that end some of the works on display will also be for sale with all proceeds going to the artist.

In terms of the artists and photographers in the show, Aram Karim’s Smugglers series depicts his journey across the border between Iraq and Iran, where men smuggle fuel, alcohol and other supplies in vast quantities, making multiple trips a day through mud, snow and across active minefields for a few dollars. Aram is a musican and photographer originally from Iraq but currently living near Marseilles, France while he awaits a decision on his refugee status. Damon Amb’s practice involves digitally reworking photographs taken in his native Iran and during his subsequent travels to express his inner world. Damon writes that ‘my art doesn’t communicate the things that have happened to me or what could happen to me if I go back to Iran. I’m a criminal in my country because I’m an artist’. Elena Kollatou and Leonidas Toumpanos’s video piece Greetings from Greece addresses the recent war in Syria and the thousands of refugees that it created through the portrait of a young man that has settled in Greece. The film also incorporates portraits which are the result of a collaboration with a refugee photo studio in Athens. These images are meticulously constructed from stock imagery, and were delivered to us for printing in various stages of completion. Next, Iranian Kurdish photographer Rahman Hassami’s series compares and contrasts the scenery of his native Kurdistan with the countryside of Yorkshire in the north of England, a quintessential English landscape, drawing out differences and similarities between his former and adoptive home. Finally, on a table in the center of the gallery is a display of images taken from an Instagram account purportedly belonging to a young migrant named Abdou Diouf. This account was in fact a hoax created by a marketing company to advertise a photography festival, and was first unmasked here on Disphotic in the summer of 2015. It’s inclusion in this exhibition highlights the way that even the perspective of refugees is open to problematic appropriation.

The exhibition is open for one week from 21st to 27th November, 12 – 5pm each day at Light Eye Mind gallery, 176 Blackstock Road, London N5 1HA

Images of Power and the Power of Images

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Images of Power on display at Seen Fifteen (Lewis Bush)

In an image saturated world it is fashionable to deny the power of photography. It is so common to hear even reasoned commentators argue that photographs have no impact on those that view them, and that as a result photography is incapable of achieving what so many of its users hope, that is to make some change the world. It interests me that many of those who claim that photographs are unable to alter the viewpoints of their audiences would at the same time demand the prohibition of certain types of imagery, for example images of an extreme sexual or violent nature, on the grounds that such photographs have the capacity to harm or corrupt those who view them. Photographs, mere lines of code or pieces of paper, might not in themselves change the world, but clearly do have an enormous power to influence opinion, change behaviours, and perceptions. Yet at the same time as I believe that photographs do have the capacity to alter us, as any external stimulus does, I also recognise that our expectations about the capacity of images to create change are often unrealistic, even naive. Photographs do not produce change on demand, and they often do not produce it in the ways that we expect it to. Photographs are as capable of changing the world for the worse, as they are able to shape it for the better.

Images of Power, a new exhibition at Seen Fifteen Gallery which I have curated with Mark Duffy, looks at one facet of the power of images, specifically the way that politicians and their subordinates carefully curate and broadcast a public image of themselves, and the way that artists appropriate and subvert these images. These politicians do so of course in the knowledge that such images significantly shape the electorate’s opinion of them, winning or losing voters, and playing a role in their election which can be every bit as important as their actual political policies. For their part the four photographers and artists in the exhibition’ Mark Duffy, Hans Poel, Christopher Anderson, and Daniel Mayritt, all recognise the way the power of these images can be wrested away from their subjects and creators, and how they can be twisted towards new forms which say very different things from their original intention. Their works, all exhibited for the first time in London, and in the case of Anderson and Poel for the first time in the United Kingdom, attest to the fact that the same image can be powerful in different contexts and in different ways.

Mark Duffy’s series Vote No.1 consists of rephotographed vignettes of the political billboards which litter the Irish landscape at election time. In the process of being installed and later during their subjection to the elements, these billboard accumulate strange imperfections which Duffy captures. Foreheads are penetrated by bolts, faces are scattered with grass trimmings, and a fly climbs down a politicians face. Hans Poel’s series Petting Politics also consists of vignettes, this time zeroing in on the cynical photo opportunities that politicians often employ in an attempt to appeal to their voters, appearing alongside cute animals and children in an attempt to show voters their humane side. Cropping the original image away only to the child or animal, they become a sort of bizarre proxy for the politician.

Christopher Anderson’s series Stump consists of merciless photographs of politicians and their supporters, taken during the 2012 presidential campaign. Here Anderson subverts the careful stage managing of these events such as was seen at the recent national conventions using a combination of photographic technique and unconventional editing to produce a series of brilliant ruthlessness. Finally, in the case of Daniel Mayrit’s You Haven’t Seen Their Faces, which profiles the one hundred most influential figures in the City of London, a different strategy is at play. It is one not so much of twisting the images which power projects, but of revealing the powers that sometimes intentionally elude visibility, and which also in the process sometimes seek to evade public oversight and accountability. In its choice of subject and in it’s echoes of Margaret Bourke-White’s You Have Seen Their Faces, Mayrit’s work acknowledges both documentary photography’s preponderate over emphasis on the victims rather than perpetrators of crime and wrongdoing, while also reflecting the fact that in hyperimaged modern era invisibility is as much of a power and a luxury as the ability to cultivate and shape one’s image as so many politicians do.

Images of Power runs at Seen Fifteen Gallery, London until September 11th 2016.

New Exhibitions – Very Now and City of Dust

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I have two exhibitions opening in London today.

Very Now opens today at London College of Communication with a private view on Tuesday 12th July. Curated with my colleague Max Houghton to coincide with the college’s Festival of Art and Journalism, Very Now draws together pieces by a series of artist and photographers working at the intersections of art and journalism. From Jeremy Deller’s Battle of Orgreave, which reenacts a key clash in the 1984 miners strike, to Laura El-Tantawy’s In The Shadow of the Pyramids, a highly personal account of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, these works illustrate and reflect on the exciting possibilities of hybrid practices. Alongside these works are displayed a series of reactive projects produced by groups of UAL students, working with disparate ideas and approaches, from reworking the documents of the Courage Foundation’s Edward Snowden Archive, to using mapping and public data to consider the changing face of the local area where the college is situated.  More information is available on the college website, and Very Now continues until 12th August.

City of Dust opens at Westminster Reference Library today with a private view on Wednesday 13th July. An interim exhibition of a project which I have been working on gradually over the past four years, City of Dust looks at London as if it were a living memory palace, an imagined space scattered with symbolic objects each resonant of a different aspect of the city’s past. In the proccess the work ruminates on the relationships between walking, memory and urban space. Like my previous book Metropole, City of Dust offers a commentary on the pace of change in the city, the destruction of the past and the gradual transformation of London into an amnesiac metropolis. Alongside the exhibition a newspaper based on the show will be available free for visitors to take away and there will be a reading table of books from the library’s collection. More information is available in the press release, and City of Dust continues until 23rd July. It would be great to see some faces, familiar or otherwise, at both of these events so please do come on down to either.

For more information on either of these you can contact me through my website.

New Project – A Model Continent

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Venice, Italy. From A Model Continent

I’d like to introduce a small project which I have recently published. A Model Continent documents a theme park in Belgium where European national landmarks are reproduced as scale models. Part funded by the European Union, the park showcases an idealised continent where once divided nations co-exist in peaceful harmony.

The requirements of a tourist attraction however creates unintended juxtapositions between these models and their surroundings. The model crowds at momentous historical events are noticeably small, roads and bridges end abruptly in mid air, and the branding of corporate sponsors are incongruously inserted into the scenery. Even the selection of which monuments are included in the park reflects a very loaded sense of which parts of Europe’s history matter, and which do not. These awkward contrasts seem to speak of the difficulties of the real continent to which this park refers. Rather than an exemplar of harmony, Europe is an increasingly a divided union, wracked by financial, political, and humanitarian upheavals, and where the lessons of history are often forgotten in the search for comforting but simplistic narratives.

I first encountered the park during my travels around the continent in 2012 documenting the difficulties being caused by the financial recession and Euro crisis. Even then I found the park fascinating and planned to return to it. Three years later I finally have, and it says something about the present state of the continent that many of the same issues remain pertinent, and if anything have been added weight by the refugee crisis and news of an impending British referendum on the country’s future membership of the EU. The series is published as a small postcard book which can be kept intact or disassembled and the individual cards posted or displayed and is available now from my online store.

8 Latvia - Freedom monument

9 Great Britain, White Cliffs of Dover

9 Spain, Palace of the Escorial

In Praise of Peers

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Ramillies Place street sign in the Peer Forum meeting space at The Photographer’s Gallery.

Today marks the final session of Peer Forum, a monthly mentoring session I’ve been organising since last year in conjunction with a group of nine other photographers and supported by The Photographer’s Gallery and Artsquest. Peer Forum provides a space for its participants to regularly meet and share work with each other for feedback and comments, as well as a chance to hear from invited guest speakers from a range of backgrounds in the industry. The idea for Peer Forum was that each person would share the same project throughout the six months as a way to sense what progress was being made and so that the group didn’t encounter new work each time, and so advice given would build on previous discussions. The result of this was, for me at least, really pretty amazing, and I thought I’d write up the experience as a way to mark its end, and make a general claim for the value of creating organised groups of peers within which to share ongoing work.

The project I’ve been sharing is titled City of Dust and it’s one which I’ve been labouring with for about two years. When I say labouring, really all I’ve laboured with was the idea, specifically suffering from a paralysis in terms of figuring out what I was trying to talk about this work, and an equal difficulty then getting the idea to match up with the photographs I’ve been taking. At the start of the Peer Forum process I was seriously thinking this might be a project I would just have to abandon, it had reached the point of feeling so untractable and unresolvable. Of course like many things we lose sleep about most of that intractability was just in my head, the consequence of tying myself in knots thinking about the project and failing to just get on with it.

Sharing it with a group of peers proved a turning point, and City of Dust has resolved itself from a miasma of loosely connected ideas and vaguely defined objectives into a much simpler and I think better project, which still addresses the key ideas that really interested me when I first started it. Simply having to articulate what I was trying to do to a group of people and listening to the confusion of most of the words coming out my mouth really helped to drive me to crystalise previously vague ideas. The more I spoke these ideas out loud the clearer they seemed to become. The impetus to make new work to show each time was also very useful, an artificial deadline of sorts which proved very motivating.

My positive experience of these six months has got me really interested in the wider possibilities of peer mentoring and learning, both as a tool I want to increasingly employ in my formal teaching, but also as something I want to to advocate for greater use of within the photographic community. I feel it could have a number of real benefits here, as an alternative for example to the trend towards paying for access to professionals for feedback through portfolio reviews and like, and as a way to counteract the inherent isolation of working as a photographer, particularly on your own projects. Of course almost all of us engage in peer mentoring on some level, typically the informal one of showing a friend a few photographs or a dummy book over a coffee or beer, but I think working in small groups and formalising these sorts of meetings offers a number of strengths.

For one a formalised group seemed to foster an environment of equality and quid pro quo which is very much at odds with the demands and power imbalances of paid for portfolio reviews. Advice is very clearly exchanged for advice and everyone has a go at both giving and recieving. This is also in contrast to what can happen in more informal exchanges where some people are much more routinely demanding of others and give less back in return. Another nice thing about Peer Forum was that things like age or career stage felt far less important in this sort of environment than they might seem to be in an informal mentoring situation or a paid for review. Equal membership of the group felt like a very effective (if admittedly arbitrary) leveller. These comments all come with the caveat that this was my experience of one group, we knew each other to some extent before the process began and were all fairly invested in the process. What I’m really interested to do now is to see how the positive experience I had of the proccess can be replicated in other settings.

Metropole at Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design

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I’m excited to announce that an exhibition of my series Metropole opens tonight, Thursday 3rd December at the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design, London Metropolitan University.

Metropole records the consequences of the booming value of property in London by using double exposures to document the city’s numerous new corporate and luxury residential buildings as they are constructed and occupied. As the photographs progress these structures merge and overlap, becoming increasingly disorientating and threatening, emulating the feeling of finding oneself lost in a once familiar city. Finally the photographs come to rest on the dark heart driving this urban degeneration.

Metropole was first published in March 2015 and chimed with a widespread feeling that London has become an increasingly oppressive, unaffordable and unequal place to live. The book garnered international attention, being published by sites and magazines across Europe and as far afield as Los Angeles, and rapidly selling out. This exhibition is the first to feature the majority of the series, and includes several images which did not appear in the book. To coincide with the show a reprint of the book is also now available from my online store along with screen prints based on images from the series.

Metropole is open to the public and can be visited daily until January 15th 2016 at the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design, Central House, 59-63 Whitechapel High St, London E1 7PF. You can also download a press release for the exhibition and read more about the Metropole project on my site.

Open Call: London

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City of Dust, Lewis Bush 2012

I’m currently developing a proposal for an exhibition next year about London and would welcome submissions and suggestions of photographic work to info [at] disphotic.com.

I’m particularly interested in projects which look at a narrow slice of the city, or which think about a narrow notion of what London is, rather than works which attempt to totalise, generalise, or in other ways broadly represent the city. Your work might look at a particular group of people in the city, a particular set of spaces, a specific era in the metropolis’s history or a specific idea about what London has been, is now, or is becoming. The type of photography, whether journalistic, documentary, or artistic in nature, is unimportant at this stage.

If you have a body of work which fits this rather broad outline I’d love to see it. Please send 5-10 images and an outline of 250 words maximum to info [at] disphotic.com via Wetransfer, Dropbox, or a similar file sharing service. Equally if you know of a body of work by another photographer that you think I should look at, please drop me a line with suggestions.

This open call closes at midnight on October 18th 2015.

New Project – War Primer 3: Revised Edition

War Primer 3 book by Lewis Bush (16)

To mark sixty years since the original publication of Bertolt Brecht’s Kriegsfibel I have drastically revised and updated my 2013 book War Primer 3, and republished it as a new e-edition.

War Primer 3 is a reworking of Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s War Primer 2 itself a reworking of the 1998 English edition of Bertolt Brecht’s Kriegsfibel. In this unique examination of war and photography first published in 1955, Brecht sought to extract the hidden meanings behind images of conflict through a series of short poems modeled on the funerial epigrams of the ancient world.

Broomberg and Chanarin in turn updated Brecht’s book by introducing images from the War on Terror, each intended to resonate with Brecht’s original text. While in some respects brilliant, in other ways Broomberg and Chanarin’s follow up was also deeply problematic. I felt particularly uncomfortable with the book’s existence as an expensive, editioned art object, and the use of uncredited, unpaid workers in its production, things which seemed difficult to reconcile with Brecht’s politics.

In response to these concerns, and in the spirit of Brecht’s playful invocation not to ‘start with the good old things but the bad new ones’ I reworked Broomberg and Chanarin’s book into a work primer, a meditation on inequality, labour and capital. By restructuring the book around the text of Brecht’s poem A Worker Reads History, and adding new images and text, I sought to produce a small tribute to the unacknowledged workers who keep the engines of the world turning.

Producing this new revised edition has involved completely re-photographing a copy of War Primer 2 and using these images to build up a new, high resolution version of War Primer 3. Many of the spreads have been redesigned in the process, with different images used in order to explore the subject of inequality in more depth, and with more nuance. The e-book also includes a comparative section showing the evolution of War Primer across its three versions, and also a selection of essays on the project.

You can now download the e-book of War Primer 3 here.

You can also download a press release about War Primer 3 here.

  War Primer 3 book by Lewis Bush (18) War Primer 3 book by Lewis Bush (20)War Primer 3 book by Lewis Bush (17)

Blurred Borders: On Mixing Conflict and Fiction

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Instagram photograph purporting to show the firing of a BM-21 Grad
multiple rocket launcher by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, from VV.

My recent writing on Instagram and the potential power of photography as advocacy has led me to revisit a particularly unresolved project of mine. The work, named VV, has never seen the light of day simply because I couldn’t find a way to publish the work that seemed responsible. Disphotic’s recent exposure of an Instagram account which purported to be the work of a Senegalese migrant (but which was in fact a marketing campaign) led me to subsequently argue that the value of advocacy or attention raising for a topic like migration is partly linked to the means by which you try to raise that attention. An irresponsible campaign like the fake migrant account, I argued, might do enough damage to undo any benefit that might have been derived from it, and this was much the same problem that I faced with my project VV.

Another things that brought me back to VV was recently being asked to write about Karl Burke’s work Harvest of Death 2.0 for the British Journal of Photography. For this work Burke takes screen-shots of deaths in a video game, and then re-photographs these screen-shots using the collodion wet plate process, producing images reminiscent of the early battlefield photography produced by the likes of Roger Fenton and Alexander Gardner during the Crimean War and American Civil War. Burke cleverly manages to sidestep some of the ethical dilemmas of such an approach through his use of a historic process, which means that even if these photographs were to be taken at face value, the vintage of the events they appear to depict defuses some of the more dangerous confusion that could potentially result.

Like Burke I have been interested for some time in the way the mass media, and particularly entertainment media, shape public attitudes towards violence, and in particular inter-state violence. Because conflict between states is invariably carried out through the proxy of their citizens, in democracies these conflicts require a relatively high level of public support. How this is manufactured is of great interest to me. In 2012 I explored this in a project by juxtaposing fetishistic ‘official’ photographs of Vietnam era weaponry with photographs of the violent wounds caused by those very same weapons. These were two sets of photographs, produced by the same institution, but given very different public exposure for obvious reasons. Combining them seemed to me to reunite two sides of a coin. This project became part of an exhibition I co-curated with Monica Alcazar-Duarte and which explored the wider role of media in the Vietnam War.

These were ideas I wanted to explore further, and development of VV actually began in the autumn of 2013, before the start of the conflict in Ukraine. However the invasion of Crimea seemed to me to give the project additional purpose. I was intrigued by the way this opening episode of the conflict had been so extensively recorded on Instagram. Many Crimean residents took photographs of themselves with the invading Russian soldiers, and these photographs were widely republished in the media. Few of those republishing these images picked up in the ambiguities that many of them held, just tending to assume that they demonstrated that the Crimean people were quite happy to be occupied, when some of these photographs suggested very much otherwise.

VV was meant to blend some of these disparate ideas. Ideas about the subjectivities of the photography, the assumptions we make about images based on the context we find them in, and the prejudices and expectations we harbour about particular subjects. I used Instagram to photograph a fictionalised narrative set in the context of the war in Ukraine. The series of photographs I created recounted in fragmented form the life and death of a fighter on the pro-Russian side, showing the war from his perspective first as a civilian surrounded by escalating violence, then as a new recruit to the conflict, through a battle and finally to his implied death.

One key detail though was that these images were arguably not really photographs at all. Like Burke would later and quite independently do, I had been photographing a computer screen as I played my way through a video game. Years earlier I had come across a prominent case where a British television channel had accidental aired video filmed in a computer game, treating it as genuine film footage of an IRA attack on a British helicopter (viewable here, with the video game footage starting at 0.36). Given how far computer graphics had improved in the intervening years (and assuming tolerance for accepting bad quality photography as evidence had increased as well) I was interested to see if such a thing could be repeated on purpose.

The pixelation and interpolation introduced by a mid-range camera phone proved perfect at covering the details that might give a video game scene away as such, and the added effects of Instagram completed the effect when occasionally needed. The final photographs fooled most people I showed them to (including a class of my students, several editors and an experienced war photographer). I quickly realised that people were generally willing to accept what I showed them at face value, and that relatively few questioned the contents or the images or how I had come across this remarkable account. Those few photographs people expressed misgivings about were easily discarded, leaving a set of photographs so blurred, grainy, pixelated and saturated that it was hard to find enough clues in them to make the judgement that they were fake.

At the same time I tried to make sure my subterfuge was laden with clues that would give away what was taking place to anyone who really cared to check. My protagonist shared his name with a prominent Russian folk hero renowned for his treacherous behaviour in the service of the Russian state. With the help of a Russian speaking friend I replaced place names and other nouns in the narrative with incongruous Russian words intended to hint at the idea of trickery, manipulation, media, imagery and propaganda. Even the Russian name of the project implied a double meaning, suggesting both a war of nebulous enemies, and a war of uncertain and untrustworthy images.

VV did everything I wanted it to, but to just release the work and see what happened seemed dangerous at a time when there was so much misinformation around the conflict. It was all too easy to imagine an image like the one above being seized on by either side in the conflict as evidence of the other’s indiscriminate conduct. This problem only became more acute after the downing of flight MH17, and the ensuing battle to apportion blame, one waged in part with photographs. After more than a year of searching for an anwser I just couldn’t find a solution to this problem and so I shelved the project. David Campbell made the interesting point that being a journalist is not so much about where you draw your salary from, but also from the set of ethics and practices you ascribe to, and what you will and won’t do. As the discussion around the Instagram migrant reveals, we all live by a different code of ethics and for some jobbing journalists (and marketeers) this ethical benchmark falls much lower than for others who sometimes don’t even carry a press card.

I desperately wanted to produce a project that would have the same reach as the Instagram Migrant account has had. I wanted to show people how dangerous and deceptive the photographs they encountered online could be, and I wanted to equip people with a set of basic critical tools they could employ when approaching images (a project I’m still working on, and which at least might still see the light of day). But I could find no way to publish this work in a way that I could live with. And so the answer was simple, I simply didn’t.

New Project – Numbers in the Dark

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Spectrum Analysis #11 from Numbers in the Dark

The forces that shape our lives today are frequently invisible, or at least attempt to be. Intelligence gathering is one example of this, and an area of these activities forms the subject of my new project Numbers in the Dark. During the early years of the Cold War, shortwave radio enthusiasts began to notice unidentified broadcasts, transmitting strings of numbers read by synthesised voices. These enigmatic broadcasts, which responded to no requests for identification, have come to be known as ‘numbers stations’.

Numbers broadcasts continue to this day and while very few have ever been clearly connected to a specific government or organisation, all the evidence suggests that they are used by intelligence agencies to transmit coded instructions to their operatives in the field. While it might seem archaic, transmitting secret messages by short-wave radio confers numerous advantages even in the digital age. The system requires little specialist equipment, is virtually untraceable, and by virtue of the type of cryptography used it is also extremely secure.

While the instructions contained in numbers broadcasts might be profoundly secret, the radio broadcasts themselves are more or less public and can be easily heard by anyone with a short-wave radio. As a result dedicated groups of enthusiasts have emerged who commit countless hours to monitoring the peculiarities of each numbers station, naming them, noting schedules and recording any changes in their behaviour. These enthusiasts also sometimes employ tecniques like High Frequency Direction Finding to locate the approximate area of origin for these signals.

Numbers in the Dark employs research undertaken by these enthusiasts, in conjunction with an array of other sources including declassified documents, in an attempt to locate the global broadcast sites of twenty-two numbers stations, past and present. The results of this search are as perplexing as they are enlightening, revealing radio transmitters isolated deep in forests and on remote military bases, but also showing others that lie at the heart of affluent, well developed cities, alongside major highways and at the edges of popular beaches.

Once located, each transmitter site is mapped in high resolution using publicly available satellite mapping programs. It is well known that this technology is a descendent from the optical surveillance satellites developed by spy agencies following the Second World War, but more directly the satellites used today for commercial mapping are also often directly used by intelligence agencies. The Geoeye 2 satellite, which collects much of the imagery for Google Maps, also collects imagery for intelligence organisations like the American National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. Numbers in the Dark is therefore in a very literal sense about turning the tools of the spies back against their users.

Alongside these maps, spectrum analyses are made of transmissions both from numbers stations and legitimate broadcasts. A spectrograph is a method of turning a radio transmission into a visible image. It is a technique which is useful for a variety of reasons, but which in the context of this project is also a pertinent reminder that radio waves lie along the same spectrum as visible light, and that what is normally invisible can be rendered visible under other circumstances. The last element of the project is an audio soundscape contained on a memory card, which takes listeners into the strange aural world of short-wave radio transmissions.

These media, alongside a series of texts, combine in a book where competing and conflicting narratives sit side by side. Narratives of certainty and objectivity, of rigorous research and hours spent pouring over maps, frequencies, schedules, and declassified documents. Narratives of doubt and subjectivity, of time spent reading the many conspiracy theories which revolve around these stations, and pondering the sometimes incomprehensible devotion of the people who monitor them. But above all the narrative of a world where unaccountable state power and wild conspiracy collide head on with the mundane and every day. Where intensely secret messages drift through the ether, broadcast from antennae in business parks and suburban neighbourhoods.

Numbers in the Dark has been shortlisted for the Luma Les Rencontres d’Arles dummy book award and you can see it at COSMOS until September. I will be in Arles from 5 – 11th July with an updated copy of the book, so get in touch if you’d like to meet up and view it.