Matadero Madrid center for contemporary creation
Paglen’s audiovisual installation, Behold These Glorious Times! (2017), explores how artificial intelligence systems learn to “see” and make sense of the world. Created with hundreds of thousands of images from AI training datasets—collections designed to teach algorithms to identify a variety of objects, facial expressions and human actions—the installation reveals the transition of these images into abstract, machine-readable formats. Paglen terms these “invisible images” because of the way they confound human legibility and evade human oversight.
Complementing the visual component, the installation’s musical score, composed by Holly Herndon, employs artificial neural networks to create a symphony of synthesized voices and sounds, weaving in elements from AI training libraries used in speech recognition and other auditory machine learning applications. This parallel construction underscores the theme of transformation from human to machine language, echoing the underlying questions about the nature of AI comprehension.
Trevor Paglen is an American conceptual artist living and working in New York City and Berlin. Trained as a geographer and photographer, Paglen’s work uncovers the infrastructures of warfare, surveillance, and social control that are generally hidden from public scrutiny. His practice spans image-making, sculpture, investigative journalism, writing, engineering, and numerous other disciplines.
Behold These Glorious Times! is the second arc of Synthetic Imaginaries; a series of exhibitions curated by Julia Kaganskiy that looks at non-human agency across various sites and scales, exploring the way it shapes our understanding of intelligence, free will, and complex systems..