4-channel video, colour (HD), sound, 4-track (stereo), 37 min
Shapes of Things Before My Eyes
Since the early 21st century, military, governments and private companies have frequently made use of rescue, surveillance and target machines. Starting with the removal of grenades in Bosnia and first usages in Iraq and Afghanistan, today massive and global implementation is growing rapidly. Current technological developments have made these machines capable of navigating in their surrounding environment, performing behaviours or tasks, self-maintenance, and of taking decisions with a high degree of autonomy. The video was filmed through the eyes of a rescue robot, ‘Wowbagger’, developed at the robotics department of Graz University of Technology. Named after the famous immortal character from Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the unmanned vehicle has won several international rescue robotics prizes. For this video, it travelled (semi-)autonomously through the depot of the Natural History Museum, an over 200-years-old, extensive archive of artefacts from nature. This collection is both a laboratory in which restorers and researchers work together and a testament to the scientific vision of modern society as a constant process of constructing images of nature. With all its sensors (electromagnetic, chemical, gas, temperature), various cameras (wide-angel, zoom, 3D, infrared, night vision) and laser scanners, the robot reveals, learns, records and defines the scope of its actions. A machine without humans and a space without life are a constant confrontation with the apocalyptic image of the human construction of the world.
Camera: Rescue robot Wowbagger, Staša Tomić
3D mapping: Rescue robot Wowbagger, Matthias Rüther
Machine vision: Rescue robot Wowbagger, Horst Possegger
Robotic machine operators: Michael Stradner, Clemens Mühlbacher
Editing: Studio Staša Tomić
Sound design: Jan Nemeček
Person with mounted animal: Michael C. Niki Knopp
In collaboration with Natural History Museum, Universalmuseum Joanneum, Graz; Institute for Software Technology, Institute for Computer Graphics and Vision, Institute for Contemporary Art, Graz University of Technology and Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade.
Neue Galerie Graz, studio
8010 Graz, Austria
Curator: Günther Holler-Schuster
With ‘Shapes of Things Before My Eyes’ Dejan Marković developed a four-channel video which in its conception involved experts from the TU Graz as well as the Universalmuseum Joanneum/Natural History Museum. Different levels of the construction of reality arise, in the museum as well as in terms of the technological development up to the digital aspect, throwing up ever more fundamental issues. Can human beings still control what their achievements, only just invented, are able to carry out? Markovic’s project condenses seemingly contrary conceptions of the production and management of knowledge. Storage depots and museum workshops, in which taxidermists work on the preparation of models of the natural, were observed by Markovic’s self-propelled camera-robots which, in interaction with traditional museum practices, do not only suggest a science-fiction scenario.
Exhibition State of Nature
Salon of the Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade
Pariska 14, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia
Curator: Zoran Erić
Dejan Marković’s exhibition State of Nature focuses on how nature is currently being constructed. It connects traditional museological surveys of nature with its recent technological hybridization, and brings into relation collections of natural history with newly emerging machinic agencies. Introducing the perspective of increasingly autonomous machines, the exhibition questions the political implications of these transformations. As we enter a deep state in which transactions, the prediction of human behaviour, political and climate change are ruled and analysed by the deep algorithms and neuronal networks of global corporations and secret services, artificial intelligence becomes the basis of most contemporary software and autonomous systems.