The Recognition Machine @ Workspace Brussels, Nov-Dec 2018Workspace Brussels

Antje Van Wichelen is a Brussels-based artist currently working with 16 mm experimental film techniques on 19th Century colonial - mostly photographic - material. With her project 21C/19C_Procedures for Anthropometric Image Reversal, she researches the collective memories of colonial classification, through the translation of archival photographs on 16mm film.

For the development of The Recognition Machine, she teamed up with the artists-and-programmers SICV. The Recognition Machine explores some links between past and present issues of categorization of human beings.

From Friday 30 Nov through Sunday 2 December in the attic of Workspace Brussels, you will find a prototype of The Recognition Machine as part of the Working Title Festival. Come and test it with us.

The Recognition Machine presents itself as a Photomaton, but with a difference. Here, the taking of your picture by a digital camera invokes a process of active interrogation as contemporary algorithms attempt to establish links between the pixels just recorded and those of images from a database of 19th century anthropometric photographs – that have been transformed by Antje Van Wichelen via analogue 'procedures' that include chemical processing of 16mm film and printing techniques. The resulting print output links contemporary regimes of surveillance to those of a colonial past. You may keep the print, but it comes with an assignment (or invitation) to undertake a search. This search will lead you towards a photograph that may depict one or several people who at a certain moment, in certain circumstances, have been photographed – and towards the archive it sits in. It is possible that your discoveries come with a certain shock, a dégout, or a mal-à-l'aise, since the original images have been taken in the unequal, violent, circumstances of colonialism. The assignment ends when you report about your search, both historically (with contextual elements you found) and personally/emotionally. Directions or clues of where to begin are given to you by the machine, together with the printed image.

An example:


Go to:
in the search-engine, type:

Artists: Antje Van Wichelen
Production: nadine, Workspace Brussels,
assistance: Brenda Bikoko
with the support of Constant vzw, LaboBXL, VGC, schepen van Nederlandstalige Aangelegenheden Maite Morren and Gemeente Elsene.
Using the archives of Wereldculturen (NL), Tropisch Instituut (B), Pitt Rivers Museum (GB), Quai Branly (Fr), Rautenstrauch Joest Museum - Kulturen der Welt, Köln (D), KMMA (Afrikamuseum, B).

Video playlist

21C19C_Procedures For Anthropometric Image Reversal Strong Looks
Antje Van Wichelen (2018)

Facial Weaponization Communiqué: Fag Face
Zach Blas (2011)

21C19C_Procedures For Anthropometric Image Reversal Debate
Antje Van Wichelen (2018)

Jillian Mayer (2013)

The Coded Gaze: Unmasking Algorithmic Bias Joy Buolamwini (2016)