March 20 // Conference

Karen Archey, Soft Machines: Technology and Material Impact

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam / Teijin Auditorium, 10:30-17:00 // Scrolll down to see the programme and click on the time!

With Ramon Amaro, Kate Cooper, Lila Lee-Morrison, Natasha Tontey

While the mechanics of advanced technology are often understood by the general public as an abstraction, so too are their impacts felt keenly within lived experience. Such machines are far from neutral, but rather instilled with the belief systems and biases of the humans who made them. Borrowed from writer William S. Burroughs, the notion of the Soft Machine refers to the human body and its relation to control mechanisms. 

The conference will begin with a screening of Eye/Machine (2000) by the influential theorist, critic, and filmmaker Harun Farocki (1944-2014). This work investigates how, with the live broadcasting of the 1991 Gulf War, military vision and electronic surveillance has infiltrated civilian life through so-called “operational images.” As Farocki demonstrates, the human eye as a tool to witness history has been replaced by computer vision, which disables our capacity to distinguish between “real” and fictional images. 

Examining advanced technology from a material perspective, a mixture of artists and theorists will additionally speak about the personal and political implications of artificial intelligence, machine learning, eugenics, and data mining alongside notions of class, gender, race, modernism and colonialism. Invited speakers include Ramon Amaro, Lila Lee-Morrison, Natasha Tontey, and Kate Cooper. Through a critical discussion and performance program, these speakers will underline how existing power structures from the past – often exploitative in nature – complicate the experience of today’s technologies and digital cultures. The program will introduce critical concepts from the field of visual culture and automated facial recognition technology, as well as introduce a performative work by Kate Cooper and new videos by Natasha Tontey. Together, these theorists and artists present a multifaceted image of the intersections between digital art, the social sciences, and the felt impacts of data colonialism.

Karen Archey is Curator of Contemporary Art at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, where she cares for the collections of contemporary art and time-based media. She has organized major exhibitions of artists Hito Steyerl, Rineke Dijkstra, and Metahaven, as well as the group exhibition Freedom of Movement: the 2018 Municipal Art Acquisitions. She is currently organizing a major retrospective of the work of Marina Abramović. Formerly based in Berlin and New York, Archey worked as an independent curator, editor, and art critic, writing for publications such as Artforum and frieze. In 2014, she organized with Robin Peckham the exhibition “Art Post-Internet” at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. In 2015, Archey was awarded an Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for short-form writing. Her book After Institutions (2022) examines museums as a troubled, rapidly evolving public space and renews discussions around Institutional Critique.


Welcome // BLOCK 1

Maaike Lauwaert (Gerrit Rietveld Academie) / Jorinde Seijdel (Studium Generale) / Tarja Szaraniec and Tomas Adolfs (Rietveld Uncut)


Karen Archey

Eye/machine I (screening)

Harun Farocki

This work by theorist, critic, and filmmaker Harun Farocki (1944-2014) investigates how, with the live broadcasting of the 1991 Gulf War, military vision and electronic surveillance has infiltrated civilian life through so-called “operational images.” As Farocki demonstrates, the human eye as a tool to witness history has been replaced by computer vision, which disables our capacity to distinguish between “real” and fictional images. 

A Portrait of Facial Recognition: Critical Visualities of Statistics and the Face (lecture presentation)

Lila Lee-Morrison

Lila Lee-Morrison will discuss a critical inquiry into the visuality of facial recognition technology involving tracing its cultural logics of merging statistics with vision, through an analysis of the proto-method of eigenface. In her analysis she references contemporary artworks of artists such as Zach Blas and Harun Farocki that reimagine and counter the technology's visual logics and output.

Dr. Lila Lee-Morrison is a writer, scholar, and art historian specializing in the visual cultures of machine vision. Her broader research focuses on the intersection of art and technology, digital culture, the history of scientific photography, art theory and the agency of the image. Since September 2023, Morrison is a postdoctoral researcher on the ERC funded research project Show and Tell: Scientific representation, algorithmically generated visualizations, and evidence across epistemic cultures at Lund University. She is also a member of the research cluster Art & Earth at University of Copenhagen, a 2023 recipient of the Andy Warhol Art Writer’s Grant and a visiting fellow at University of Copenhagen with Intersect, an interdisciplinary community. She has written for ArtforumMedia+Environment Journal and been published by published by MIT Press, Liverpool University Press and Brill Publishing.

Lunch // BLOCK 2

Ground Truth (lecture performance)

Kate Cooper

Artist Kate Cooper will present a new iteration of her most recent work Ground Truth. This performative lecture reflects on child development and childcare as a form of creative labor. Within Ground Truth, human development is likened to artificial intelligence and machine learning: the learning mechanisms of both machines and children are based on constant repetition. This work, and Cooper’s practice more broadly, highlights the synergy between the operations of the body and new forms of technology

The artistic work of Kate Cooper explores the politics of commercial reproduction and the position of the female body in the history of digital image technology. Cooper has recently held solo exhibitions at Project Art Center, Dublin (2023); De Appel, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2022); SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia (2021); The New Museum, New York, United-States (2020); and Hayward Gallery, London, United Kingdom (2019). Her work has been presented in group exhibitions at 5th Aichi Triennial, Japan (2022); Arken Museum of Modern Art, Ishøj, Denmark (2022); The New Museum Triennial, New York, United States (2021); Sonje Art Center, Seoul, South Korea (2021); Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan (2021); Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, Germany (2021); Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (2020). Cooper received the BEN Prize for Emerging Talent from B3 Biennial of the Moving Images in 2015 and the Schering Stiftung Art Award in 2014. She lives and works in Amsterdam.

Black Mirrors and the Problem of Identity in Artificial Intelligence

Ramon Amaro (in conversation with Karen Archey)

Dr. Ramon Amaro will be interviewed by Karen Archey to discuss his book The Black Technical Object: On Machine Learning and the Aspiration of Black Being. Drawing on Black studies and psychologies studies, the discussion will reflect upon the existence of “scientific” racism, and how Black identity is mirrored in artificial intelligence.

Dr. Ramon Amaro is Senior Researcher for Digital Culture and Lead Curator of -1, a digital culture research laboratory at the Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam. His writings, research and artistic practice emerge at the intersections of Black Study, digital culture, psychosocial study, and the critique of computational reason. Amaro holds a BSe in Mechanical Engineering, an MA in Sociology and a PhD in Philosophy of Technology. Before joining Nieuwe Instituut. He worked as Lecturer (Assistant Prof.) in Art and Visual Cultures of the Global South at UCL (London), Engineering Program Manager at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and Quality Design Engineer at General Motors Corporation. His recent book, The Black Technical Object: On Machine Learning and the Aspiration of Black Being (Sternberg, 2023) contemplates the abstruse nature of programming and mathematics, and the deep incursion of racial hierarchy, to inspire alternative approaches to contemporary algorithmic practice.

Coffee Break // BLOCK 3

On Minahasan Philosophy: Technopoetic, Cosmology, and Speculative Fiction (screening + talk)

Natasha Tontey

Natasha Tontey: On Minahasan Philosophy: Technopoetic, Cosmology, and Speculative Fiction

Multidisciplinary artist Natasha Tontey will speak about her ongoing research into the cosmology and ecology of the Indigenous nation of Minahasa from the Sulawesi province of Indonesia. Tontey’s previous work from The Epoch of Mapalucene Series (2021) is currently on display at the Sonic Acts Biennale (W139, Amsterdam). She will debut her more recent films Garden Amidst the Flame (2022) and Of Other Tomorrows Never Known (2023) at the Stedelijk during Studium Generale. With these works, Tontey explores notions of queerness, ancient knowledge, the non-Anthropocene, and the equilibrium between human and non-human.

Natasha Tontey is a multidisciplinary artist based in between Jakarta and Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Her work deals with the impact of colonialism and its relation to cosmology, sovereignty and modernity. In her practice, Tontey presents alternative and indigenous knowledge in contrast to established institutional knowledge and technology determined by extraction. In 2020, she received the HASH Award from the ZKM, Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe and Akademie Schloss-Solitude. She was a fellow for Human Machine of the Junge Akademie at Akademie der Künste Berlin 2021-2023.

Panelist conversation, Q&A

Closing remarks

March 21 // Conference
March 22 // Friday Night
Attendance // Ticket information
Preliminary programme
Reading Group
Workshop x Rietveld Uncut
Basicyear Project
Rietveld Uncut