Here we are in the era of “happy-selfexploitation” observed by philosopher Byung- Chul Han, who suggests that cognitive capitalism has brought about a paradigm shift. He replaces Michel Foucault’s bio-politics with the concept of psycho-politics, in which we, the “users”, participate with our own consent, not to say enthusiasm, in our own exploitation, by giving our images and other personal informations willingly to the giants of the Internet. Our information is what forms their capital.
The exhibition Caméra(Auto)Contrôle at the Centre de la Photographie de Genève is the core of the 50JPG—50 Days for Photography in Geneva 2016. It takes us right into the burning issue of drones and all other monitoring systems that use photo and video cameras. We can indeed “celebrate” a quarter of century of the monitoring of public space by automated cameras worldwide. These cameras quite often bear a sticker with a smiley asking those being recorded, whether in a car park, at a supermarket check-out, or on public transport, to smile.
[La reconnaissance faciale de Sebastien Laseigneur’s Iphone s’active sur une photo de Hiromi Tsuchida, Fukui/Japon, 1939, WHEN WE SHARE MORE THAN EVER]
A number of artists, hackers and political activists have refused to smile, instead appropriating these surveillance devices momentarily. Their actions have remained isolated, because never before has a grassroot movement fought against the increasingly invasive presence of depersonalised cameras in public spaces. It has also been a quarter of a century in which street photographers, both amateur and professional, have met with hostility, or even aggression from citizens, the same citizens who submissively accept being recorded 24 hours a day, wherever they may be.
This schizophrenic attitude might be interpreted as an internalisation of the passive acceptance of one’s image being monitored by unknown agents. The master stroke of this internalisation might well be the Selfie, where the citizen willingly smiles in front of his smartphone and shares this image of himself on social networks, and, in doing so, subjects himself to the most obvious social monitoring.
The exhibition is still running untill 31.7.2016