Rumor has it that at least a few of the men locked up at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, committed no crime at all–never even thought about it.–at least that’s what they say, rumor has it. One night, rumor has it, they just went to bed as they did every other night, only to have a gang of jack-booted thugs kick their doors in, wave weapons, scream at their families, and drag them away, hooded and handcuffed, never to be seen again.
In at least some of theirs cases, a neighbor or business rival or jilted lover decided to exact revenge by falsely accusing them of terror-links to US authorities. In other cases, some guy being tortured might have fingered them just to get the pain to stop for a moment, because it supports the torturers’ foregone conclusions. Think it can’t happen? It did.
Happened to a Canadian, even. Maher Arar, a Syrian-Canadian, was arrested during a layover in New York while flying back to Canada from a family vacation in Tunis. Authorities accused him of being part of al Qaeda. He was detained, sent to Syria, and tortured for almost one year before being found innocent. The US government has yet to explain why, much less apologize. These are the kinds of things that come to mind while taking in Mike Beradino’s “Crystal Palace,” on view at the Lawndale Art Center through April 20.
Beradino’s piece consists of a computer, a laser, a microphone, lights and cameras, two drones, and four surfaces covered with photo luminescent paint. Cameras spread throughout the gallery space and installed on the drones capture random images and send them to the computer, which uses facial recognition software to isolate and catalog images of human faces. The laser, which is mounted on a tower made of wood, “prints” those facial images on the glow-in-the-dark surfaces.
And how are those images selected? The hubbub in the room is picked up by the microphone and processed through an algorithm by the CPU to randomly select an image from the database that has been capturing and storing the images since the show’s opening. That’s right–“hearsay” is the deciding factor as to whether it will be your face that gets the honor of being emblazoned on the Lawndale walls for three minutes.
Beradino, who identifies as a hacker, emphasizes that all the materials–drones, laser, and all, are available on the consumer market. One drone is kind of like a kids’ toy and can even be flown by visitors to the gallery using a smartphone app. The other is an autonomous quad-copter–users may enter GPS coordinates and send the drone on its way; it will fly itself to that point, capture images and send them back to the CPU, and find its way back. Even the laser is a the type of consumer model that lights up dance floors the world over–Beradino has just hacked it to “print” photos.
Welcome to the future. Say cheese!