SELECTED PROJECTS

INFRASTRUCTURES

Since 2016 Max de Esteban has been working on a long-term project on the infrastructures of contemporaneity.

As the 20th century cannot be understood without the infrastructures that made it possible, the project aspires to survey the key infrastructures that will define the 21st century and unveil their ideological nature.

For the purpose of this project, the artist defines infrastructures as “the key technologies, systems and physical conditions that enable the circulation of meaning and power”.

This expanded definition includes technologies (e.g. communications), systems (e.g. Fordism) and physical conditions (e.g.  fossil energy availability). But it also points to something that is frequently missed: what infrastructures really do is frame and enable what is possible. Infrastructures are the determinants of the conditions of possibility; in other words, they are the enablers of the circulation of meaning and power.

The first work of this long-term project is 20 RED LIGHTS (2017), which analyzes Financial Capitalism as the dominant contemporary infrastructure for the allocation of economic resources.

The second work is A FOREST (2019), which examines Artificial Intelligence and reflects upon the implications of this technology and the ideological frameworks under which it operates.

Max de Esteban’s latest work, WHITE NOISE (2020), deals with Extinction, arguably the defining structural condition of the 21st century.

20 RED LIGHTS

20 RED LIGHTS is a political essay. Its objective is to unveil the implications of economy’s digital financialization and its relation to the radicalized neoliberal agenda. Finance is the key technology for the allocation of economic resources and as such, is the infrastructure that determines capitalism’s priorities. Deciding on the allocation of investment implies governing the frontiers of research and innovation, it means constructing the future. Financial Capitalism is the proper place to start any critical assessment of contemporaneity.

This is the first work on infrastructures of contemporaneity.

20 RED LIGHTS consists of 1 video and 3 series of 20 photographs each. It also includes a book published by La Virreina/La Fabrica with essays by Franco Bifo Berardi and Michel Feher.

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A FOREST

A FOREST reflects upon the implications of Artificial Intelligence technology and the ideological frameworks under which it operates. Its focus is not the technology itself or its aesthetic imaginary, instead it is the exploration of the social values at stake due to the potential dominance of this digital infrastructure and the ideology behind its leading investors.

This is the second work on infrastructures of contemporaneity.

A FOREST consists of 1 video, 21 photographs and 12 drawings. It also includes a text by the artist on the possibility of a non-human artificial consciousness and the conditions for its representation.

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WHITE NOISE

WHITE NOISE explores the implications of extinction. The consequences of a deteriorating environment together with the increasing conviction of human extinction as its probable outcome will be the defining structural conditions of the 21st century. Perhaps its defining infrastructure. The tragedy could happen as a catastrophe of unique dimensions but also as a humble, quotidian event hiding its true nature until it’s too late.   Unable to draw inspiration in science or scholarship, the artist’s work draws from literature and myth.

This is the third work on infrastructures of contemporaneity.

WHITE NOISE consists of 2 videos, 1 series of 20 photographs and 1 installation.

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PROPOSITIONS

Technology is today the key to understand photography and, more importantly, to understand the world in the 21st century. If art is to address the symbolic universe of its time, today technology has to be at its center. Photography’s stress today is equivalent to the anxieties resulting from an abstract economy driven by digitalization. Intangible economy is today the most decisive, the one that ultimately influences the conditions of our existence

What all the Propositions series have in common is the effort to critically assess contemporaneity through the exploration of technology and photography’s ability to renew its symbolic potency.

Fighting for the renewal of photography’s iconic force is to fight against the temporality of a capitalist economy that hyper-accelerates the info-sphere and, by doing so, eliminates our ability for critique.

BINARY CODE

The end of Nature as we know it. The substitution of the Fordist-industrial economy for a bio-cybernetic regime. Digitalization transforming Nature itself and our relationship to the Object.

Materiality and the object in the age of abstraction; the connection between algorithms and reality, between mathematics and the real; the recreation of the object through digitalization; the paradoxal status of matter, the gesture and the hand in a post-human society.

The reactivation of the vital power of images, banalized by daily use and overflow; a conscious attempt to emancipate photography from its denotative function, aiming to emphasize the epiphanic, immersion value of it.

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HEADS WILL ROLL

Rather than representing events, the digital photographic medium reveals the constructed and relational nature of reality. This is, perhaps, its ultimate meaning: the impossibility to believe in hierarchical structures that stabilize the background and as a result the impossibility of building credible stories.

Connectivity eliminates the border between producers and consumers.  Globalized capitalism has managed to make us produce for free the same contents of our consumption. Photography today is the most advanced form of social production.

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TOUCH ME NOT

“Men become accustomed to listening to machines and talking to machines…no more face to face encounters, no more dialogue. In a perpetual monologue by which he escapes the anguish of silence and the inconvenience of neighbors, man finds refuge in the lap of technique, which envelops him in solitude and at the same time reassures him with all its hoaxes.”
Jacques Ellul. 1954

For the first time ever machines mediate human relationships and emotions. The digital-microelectronics is bridging the distance between the subject and the object, incorporating the machine into our body and our unconscious.

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THE COLLECTION

“How can we understand this paradoxical privilege of speech over writing, of hearing over sight? What relationship thus exists between the power of speech and the power of the master?
Jacques Rancière, The Ignorant Schoolmaster, 1981

“…we know that to give writing its future, it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.”
Roland Barthes, The Death of the Author, 1967

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ONLY THE EPHEMERAL

Forensic testimonies of a past existence; vestiges of their inner structure as in decomposing organic bodies. While sophisticated and state-of-the-art not long ago, these machines evoke today a sense of fragility, archaism and trauma.

Rapid obsolescence in the working formats and techniques together with hugely superior access to archival resources is modifying the nature of artistic practice, accelerating its democratization and reinforcing its precarious nature.

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