COMPLETELY AUTOMATED PUBLIC TURING TEST TO TELL COMPUTERS AND HUMANS APART at gallery Bernhard Knaus, 2015
Our perception of reality has been altered decisively by the ubiquitous presence of computers and smartphones. It seems as though it is no longer the immediate presence of a person that defines our relationships, but that person’s mediated presence on our screens. On the other hand, this presence is precarious, as the machine constantly forces us to produce evidence that we genuinely are the authorized user in question. Automatic authentication processes have therefore become a fixed part of our daily lives. They constantly mediate between ourselves and the digital world, which has become essential to our existence.
A new portrait series (2015) shows individuals standing in front of monochrome color gradients. They are facing away from the viewer. Their eyes are closed or they are staring into an undefined exterior. The images are presented in the 16:9 format currently dominating our mobile phone and television screens, something that is immediately apparent in the landscape shots.
Text and graphic elements have been engraved on the glass used to frame the photographs. These are taken from online questions used to verify user authentication. "What is the first name of the first person you kissed?" or "Who was your childhood hero?" These are questions with easily memorable answers, which should however only be known to the real profile user. In Maak’s works, these kinds of questions and the buttons, input fields and graphics connected to them make the glass visible as a transparent plane between image and viewer. The shadows these carved signs cast on the photograph behind the glass further enhance the impression of mediacy. They visually push the photograph backwards, we now perceive it as an object in space. This makes the space in the photographs, which is fairly undefined by the color gradients, even more so, and the people, most of whom have their backs turned towards us, seem even more distracted.
The groups of sculptures titled “Bodies That Matter” (2015) likewise deal with presence in space. Each of these is made up of two stacked weight plates in different sizes, stabilized by acrylic rods of different lengths vertically protruding from the center of the discs. Printed images of the standing weights are attached to the tops of the transparent tubes. With the immediate presence of the plates as stabilizing weights and the image of the same towering above these sculptures refer only to themselves. They are present in the here and now as objects and as their own image.
In the exhibition these two new work series are arranged around two of the artist’s works, “Look” and “Look (Red)” in the center.The latter determine the direction of the viewers’ gaze in the overall structure of the exhibition, their line of sight always crosses those of the other portraits somewhere in the exhibition space. As do the lines in the decision matrix printed on the back of the brochure accompanying the exhibition. This serves as the starting point to the completely automated Touring Test designed to tell computers and humans apart!