Author Archives: Zach Blas

Zach Blas

About Zach Blas

Zach Blas is an artist and writer whose work engages technology, queerness, and politics. Currently, he is a Lecturer in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. Blas has exhibited and lectured internationally, most recently at Whitechapel Gallery, London; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; e-flux, New York; the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City; Transmediale, Berlin; and the 2014 Dakar Bienniale. He has two forthcoming books: Escaping the Face, an artist monograph to be published by Rhizome and Sternberg Press in 2016, and Informatic Opacity: The Art of Defacement in Biometric Times, a theoretical study of biometric facial recognition and refusals of recognition. Blas’ work has been written about and featured in Artforum, Frieze, ArtPapers, Mousse Magazine, The Atlantic, Al Jazeera America, Wired, and Art Review, in which Hito Steyerl selected him as a 2014 FutureGreat. His is current art project Contra-Internet is supported by a 2016 Creative Capital grant in Emerging Fields.

Informatic Opacity

This essay was originally published in the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest.

Zach Blas, Facial Weaponization Suite: Mask – May 31, 2013, San Diego, CA

On June 7, 2013, the National Security Agency’s surveillance program was made public in news media with the aid of whistleblower Edward Snowden, journalist Glenn Greenwald, and filmmaker Laura Portrais. Their reports revealed a suite of software designed for global, invasive data searches and analysis, including PRISM, a data-mining application used to collect billions of metadata records from various telecommunications and social media companies, and Boundless Informant, a visualization tool developed to track and analyze collected data; a third was announced on July 31, 2013, as XKeyscore, a search system that mines extensive online databases containing browsing histories and emails. Just as philosopher Michel Foucault once described the panopticon as the exemplary diagram of surveillance in the modern age, this assemblage of software, whose reach is yet to be fully known, will arguably become our contemporary replacement.

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