An image in conversation

In our first exploration of the material, we therefore don’t rely on an external set of metadata coming from a reliable source of reference. This doesn’t mean we lack information about the data, the images, the sounds or the texts. We may lack contextual information, social historical information, but the files themselves contain their own metadata, their own composition, their own structure, etc. We cannot directly access these structures just by looking with our eyes, we need intermediaries. These intermediaries, our extra senses to “read” the images will be algorithms. What we will try to do is to show, invite others into the dialogue between these intermediaries and ourselves.

Doing so means to challenge dominant modes of representation of the data, namely ‘direct’ representation (Image display) or literary descriptions of the data (Grouping & Retrieval via metadata/tags). More often than not, image databases reach their climax when they display the image in high resolution: here comes the Image. With the appropriate description that underlines what one needs to ‘read’ in the image, and the invitation to access similar images based on their place in a taxonomy, image databases are caught in a recursive conceptual loop: an image is an image is an image. In the iterations of this loop, the data is reduced to its classification. We have not made an interface to the files as “originals”, rather we have approached the materials through the use of tools as interlocutors.

But the fate of an image is not necessarily the traditional illusionist representation. It can be a lot of things: an interpreted composition of pixels, a collection of statistics, lines of contours or directions, a music score, a legal reference, or all of this together. Furthermore the possibilities of connection between images are far richer than the mere parallel story told by a taxonomy (or folksonomy).

An image is not a black hole whose meaninglessness has to be redeemed by a story. Given the right intermediaries, what if we could turn pixels into interlocutors? What if various agents, computer programs, specialized in counting, layering, detecting faces, skin and colors, could look at a photograph and report back to us? What if our intermediaries could narrate their story of the picture?

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