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Matterhorn (How to See Like a Machine)

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Matterhorn (How to See Like a Machine) Brute-Force Descriptor Matcher; Scale Invariant Feature Transform2016

3 Dye sublimation prints | left image: 48" x 62", center image: 48" x 60", right image: 48" x 67"
Location: First Floor Lobby Corridor | Installed September 2018

“Over the last decade or so, something dramatic has happened to the world of images: they have become detached from human eyes. Our machines have learned to see. Without us. We are now living in a world of “smart cities” and airports, tracking license plates, faces, and pedestrian movements; self-driving cars autonomously navigating urban environments; robotic factories using computer vision for quality assurance and logistics; trillions of images on the internet are being continually mined by powerful artificial intelligence algorithms. Most images these days are made by machines for other machines, with humans rarely in the loop. I call this world of machine-machine image-making Invisible Images, because it’s a form of vision that’s inherently inaccessible to human eyes.” 

Matterhorn (How to See Like a Machine) Brute-Force Descriptor Matcher; Scale Invariant Feature Transform, 2016 is from an ongoing body of work Trevor Paglen is producing that explores artificial intelligence (AI) while simultaneously employing the traditional genre of landscape photography. After traveling to Switzerland to photograph the Matterhorn, Paglen ran different algorithmic scripts on top of his photographs to simulate the way a machine might decipher the landscape. The process illuminates the gap between recognition and understanding, pointing out an inherent disconnect in AI. A computer may be able to identify what it is seeing but is not able to appreciate the beauty and grandeur of a magnificent landscape. By way of contrast, Paglen highlights the magnificence of emotion and understanding in the human brain—elements that can't be replicated by a computer.

About the artist

Trevor Paglen  b. 1974, Camp Springs, Maryland, United States 

Trevor Paglen is an artist whose work spans image-making, sculpture, investigative journalism, writing, engineering, and numerous other disciplines.

Paglen’s work has had one-person exhibitions at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington D.C.; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Fondazione Prada, Milan; the Barbican Centre, London; Vienna Secession, Vienna; and Protocinema Istanbul, and participated in group exhibitions the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Modern, and numerous other venues. 

Paglen has launched an artwork into distant orbit around Earth in collaboration with Creative Time and MIT, contributed research and cinematography to the Academy Award-winning film Citizenfour, and created a radioactive public sculpture for the exclusion zone in Fukushima, Japan.

Paglen is the author of several books and numerous articles on subjects including experimental geography, artificial intelligence, state secrecy, military symbology, photography, and visuality. Paglen’s work has been profiled in the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, Wired, the Financial Times, Art Forum, and Aperture. In 2014, he received the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pioneer Award and in 2016, he won the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize. Paglen was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2017. 

Paglen holds a B.A. from U.C. Berkeley, an MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in Geography from U.C. Berkeley.

He lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

three artworks on wall by a stair