Born in Inner Mongolia, 1986, Yichen Zhou is an artist working with photography, video, performance and installation. She was raised in Beijing and moved to New York in 2010. Her performance-based pieces explore her identity as part of a new generation of Chinese artists and points to the challenges of living in a world where multiple cultures and values are in conflict.
Zhou steps into the spotlight for Closer View, our series complementing PHOTOFAIRS PRESENTS: Exposure Award digital exhibition (on show to 11 October). Here she shares what artistic concerns drew her to create her series A Guidebook of Image Reading. Zhou's work is currently for sale via the PHOTOFAIRS website, discover more here.
'In March, the entrance guard system in my neighborhood was switched overnight to a facial recognition system.
Out of fear of being read by a machine, I rolled my eyes and stood in front of the facial recognition machine at the entrance, wearing a weird handmade face mask made of a crab shell. With the sound of a “beep,” the door opened.
I walked through the door thinking that I would roll my eyes ever harder tomorrow.
Living in a world dominated by countless digital images, the “decisive moments” of photography has ended. We are now controlled by the indecisive moments, the invisible images of everyday life, including the images captured by surveillant cameras at various venues, streets, highways, even car DVR cameras. In other words, the “decisive moments” of this time has become a 24-hour, non-stop video streaming that we can screenshot at any time.
These invisible images do not only exist in areas such as business operations, security enforcement, but also extend to visual culture between humans. Every photo we upload and share on social media with hopes of receiving thumbs up and reposts, they are not only shared with other people, but also provide information to a powerful artificial intelligence system. The information includes faces, places, gender, even preferences, habits, and personal economic situation. All paths in life, consuming habits, and emotions are being read and analyzed, becoming learning materials for an AI system. The more images that AI system takes, the more accurate it becomes. The invisible images are watching us, even directing our actions, creating pleasures or pains.
And of course, all of these are happening somewhere we can’t see.
When I work on the series of The Guidebook of Image Reading, I always wonder who exactly is reading all the images. If the one reading is not a person but rather, a machine, how do we define the new boundaries of photography?'