Lecture-performance: Zach Blas, Metric Mysticism

In this lecture-performance, artist Zach Blas gazes into the crystal balls of Silicon Valley and charts the transmutation of big data into a magical substance that predicts—and polices—our future.

Focusing on the appropriation of mysticism and magic by Silicon Valley start-ups and governmental surveillance agencies alike, Blas suggests that the crystal ball, a transparent device that permits one to see into the future, has come to stand in as a paradigm for how tech entrepreneurs prefer to imagine the algorithmic processing of information.

Palantir Technologies, it is suggested, is at the forefront of such metric mysticism. Co-founded by Peter Thiel—and described by some as the most powerful machine for spying ever devised—the controversial data analytics company appropriates the palantir, a fictional all-seeing crystal ball used by wizards in The Lord of the Rings. Here, in the palantir, data becomes the new absolute, determining what the future is and how it should be controlled.

Yet what if one were to gaze not into a crystal ball but rather a chunk of silicon? Not transparent glass but rather an opaque, geologic material at the very core of digital technology. Blas asks, against the prediction of the future, if redirecting our gaze can offer a way to better comprehend the crisis of the present?

The event at e-flux is presented in collaboration with Art in General, in conjunction with Blas’s first solo show in New York. Zach Blas: Contra-Internet is on view from January 27–April 7, 2018 at Art in General’s ground-floor exhibition space at 145 Plymouth Street in Brooklyn, full details here.

Zach Blas is an artist and writer whose practice confronts technologies of capture, security, and control. He is currently a Lecturer in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London and has lectured and exhibited internationally, recently at IMA Brisbane, the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven and ICA Singapore.

For more information, contact program@e-flux.com.

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