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Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art

Reading workshop “Freedom and Control”
Tērbatas 75 / Online
23.09.20

On 23 September at 6 pm, as part of its informal education programme, the Evening School and the festival Survival Kit, the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art invites you to the reading workshop “Freedom and Control”. Before the workshop, participants are invited to visit the Survival Kit Festival for free.

The workshop will take place at the festival Survival Kit, on Tērbatas iela 75, as well as online. Link to the online meeting:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89967966576?pwd=bDZuRTh3TG5DQzQzbFdhbUNXRW5CQT09

ID: 899 6796 6576

Passcode: 947121

As early as his 1990 essay “Postscript on Societies of Control”, Gilles Deleuze had claimed that instead of the ‘disciplinary society’ described by Michel Foucault, we are now living in a ‘control society’, which functions as an enclosed form of freedom within strictly delimited, but obscured, boundaries. Deleuze further explained that the model of power today is not a panopticon, but rather a freeway, where people can drive infinitely and ‘freely’ without being confined yet still being perfectly controlled.  

Today, this model is vividly exemplified by social media, data flows and the digital environment in general. Users experience an illusory freedom to navigate in the way they choose, but the digital environment and the algorithms behind it invisibly control what they seek and how they act. Furthermore, in political governance, digital and online methods allow for wider implementation of surveillance and control, thereby legitimating discrimination and authoritarianism.

In his work The New Dark Age, artist and writer James Bridle addresses these issues, surveying the history of art, technology and information systems. He observes that as the world around us increases in technological complexity, our understanding of it diminishes. The belief that our existence is understandable through computation, and that more data will help us build a better world, is confronted with the awareness that in reality, we are lost in a sea of information, increasingly divided by fundamentalism, simplistic narratives, conspiracy theories and post-factual politics. Meanwhile, those in power use our lack of understanding to further their own interests, starting with financial systems and shopping algorithms, and ranging through to artificial intelligence and state secrets. 

Texts to be discussed:

Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control”. October, Vol. 59 (Winter, 1992), pp. 3–7.

James Bridle, “Complexity”. The New Dark Age. Technology and the End of the Future. Verso, 2018, pp. 194–253.





James Bridle, Drone Shadow (Hermes/Watchkeeper WK450 at the festival Survival Kit 11. 2020. Photo: Ģirts Raģelis
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