Photography has been used as a tool to record our bodies from the creation of the first mugshots in the late 19th century to recent developments in facial recognition technology. In the first episode of Mirror with a Memory, artist Zach Blas and filmmaker and scholar Manthia Diawara will discuss what it means to leave it to machines to verify our identities.
Zach Blas is an artist, writer, and lecturer in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. His practice spans technical investigation, theoretical research, moving image, conceptualism, performance, and science fiction. His recent exhibitions include Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI at the de Young Museum, The Body Electric at the Walker Art Center, the 2018 Gwangju Biennale, and the 68th Berlin International Film Festival. Blas is a 2018–2020 United Kingdom Arts and Humanities Research Council Leadership Fellow.
Manthia Diawara, a native of Mali, received his education in France and later traveled to the United States for his university studies. He has taught at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of We Won’t Budge: An African Exile in the World (Basic Civitas Books, 2003), Black-American Cinema: Aesthetics and Spectatorship (ed. Routledge, 1993), African Cinema: Politics and Culture (Indiana University Press, 1992), and In Search of Africa (Harvard University Press, 1998). He has published widely on the topic of film and literature of the Black Diaspora. Diawara has directed several films including the German-produced documentary Rouch in Reverse (1995) and Édouard Glissant, One World in Relation (2010).
Martine Syms is an artist using video and performance to examine representations of blackness. Her work has been exhibited and screened extensively, including presentations at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the New Museum, New York; and the Studio Museum in Harlem. She runs Dominica Publishing, an imprint dedicated to exploring blackness in visual culture. Syms is the author of Implications and Distinctions: Format, Content and Context in Contemporary Race Film (2011). She is a faculty member in the School of Art at the California Institute of the Arts.