Posts Tagged ‘nik kosmas’

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Plato with biometric overlay by Daniel Keller and Nik Kosmas of Aids-3D is a work of inkjet print and acrylic on canvas depicting two elements:

1. The photo of a Greek sculptural bust.

2. A formal pattern of intersecting pink lines and “stars” at each of the intersection points that together map out the facial features of the figure depicted in the Greek sculptural bust.

At first glance, one views the contrast of the relatively smooth lines and monochromatic color palette depicted in the photo of the sculpture (which read as “ancient” – the photo comes across as signifying the era of Ancient Greece more than a particular artist or subject), with the rigidness and dayglo color-scheme of the lines and stars (which themselves each read as “artificial” – they create a pattern reminiscent of graphic iconography from the Transformers cartoon show and film series).

So, there’s an immediate collision between two starkly differentiated iconographic elements – each of which pull one in an opposed direction.

The title – Plato with biometric overlay – points out for the viewer where to go from there.

In the context of the philosophy of art, Plato is perhaps best known for his “mimetic theory” of art in which art is an imitation of an imitation of a real thing; there is – here – a higher level of idealized, capital-F “Form” (an abstracted, immaterial idea of a bed), an imitation of this ideal (an actual material bed based on the idea of a bed) and an imitation of an imitation (a drawing of an actual bed based on the idea of a bed).

Biometric overlay, on the other hand, is a surveillance strategy employed by security professionals in order to create an abstracted, immaterial representation of a person’s facial features which can be digitally stored and cross-referenced in a computer network in order to, for example, quickly see if the subject’s facial features match those of anyone on a terrorist watchlist.

When the biometric overlay is placed over the face of Plato, a collision occurs in the work between one vision of idealized Form and another – one vision of Form as the transcendental space outside of the “cave” of “normal” consciousness and another vision of Form as the nightmarish acceleration of Biopower in the wake of the military industrial complex (or some such).

In their own commentary on this work, the artists lay out a similar reading.

They write:

The form has become the Form – There is no longer a need for a distinction between the particular and the universal. Plato’s ‘faceness’ has been quantified and digitized and his biography, stress levels, horoscope, download queue, credit history and criminal record have all been cross-checked for potential threat-patternage. Are the laser lines a symbol of magic and wonder or of cold totalitarianism?


With this in mind and as one continues to view through the work, the biometrics overlay, with its diamond-like rigidity, becomes aggressive, confronting Plato’s face like a muzzle or the “facehugger” alien from the Alien films.

However, against this pressure, the eyes of the philosopher – emptied out of content in the classical style – are able to momentarily resist, extending beyond the biometrics, pointing towards (without naming) something seemingly outside of any representation.