Opaque Presence - knowbotic research at IABR 2009

Every Friday afternoon during this year's International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR), a local 'cultural ambassador' appears as host of the Biennale's Open Podium relating to the theme of the week. On December 4, V2_ was the cultural ambassador, presenting a lecture by and discussion with Christian Hübler from the renowned Zurich based artist group knowbotic research.

Opaque Presence - knowbotic research at IABR 2009

MacGhillie - Just a Void - photo: knowbotic research

Dec 2009
16:00 to 17:30
location: NAi, Forum

Opaque Presence 

Trans/locations and latent invisibilities

The lecture dealt with recent works of the artist group knowbotic research and addresses questions of public visibility and strategic camouflage.


In the society of late capitalism - whether we understand it as a society of consumption, of control, or as a cybernetic society - transparency is no longer a sign of democratic openness, but rather one of administrative availabilty. Spaces of agency and spaces of social friction are absorbed into the surfaces of technical processes. Even when the games of visibility, of attention, and of the mechanisms of subjectivation, may not always be a matter of bare survival, they are still a matter of maintaining and appropriating heterotopic zones in which resistance, if not freedom, can be postulated.

Over the last years, the artist group knowbotic research has been addressing issues of visibility and presence. After researching the construction of electronic networks as spaces of agency in the 1990s, the more recent projects of the group have been devoted to strategies of translation and transcoding between different systems of meaning. Performance and public art works, as well as their exhibition projects have confronted real-life scenarios with semi-fictitious test cases.


In the public performance project MacGhillie - Just a Void, urban sites are visited by a figure, clad in a camouflage suit, who shows neither the traits of an individual, or even of a person. The so-called Ghillie Suit was originally invented in the 19th century for hunting and that was later also used during the First World War. Its camouflage effects the anonymisation and the neutralisation of the person who wears it in public.

The figure of the 'MacGhillie' oscillates between the hyperpresence of a mask, and visual redundancy. It traverses the modern urban environment in which conspicuity holds ambivalent currency, wavering between cumbersome affirmation and visual arbitrariness. It is a variation of types like  'Bloom', 'Bartleby', or the 'man without qualities', which have transgressed their original literary existence and have become the tropes of philosophical debates around the postmodern politics of subjectivity.

For the project be prepared, tiger!, knowbotic research developed, together with artist Peter Sandbichler, their own small stealth boat which uses the infamous technology of the US-American stealth bombers. When it drives through harbours and across any water surface, the boat with the metallic surface is, although visible to the naked human eye, invisible to radar devices. Whereas the 'MacGhillie' confronts the questions of visibility, presence, and agency, with regard to the posthuman subject, the 'tiger_stealth'-boat addresses these issues in the field of technology and its conceptual efficacity.

In another project series that deals with the migration spaces of Kosovo Albanian in Europe, knowbotic research reflect on the question whether different scenarios of agency and escape are translatable between different levels of reality. In/Visibility and Non/attention are systemic effects in migratorial spaces which point to the politics of camouflage and withdrawal.

"To be come intransparent like fog means to recognise that one does not represent anything, that one is not identifiable. It means a forceful resistance against the struggle for recognisability, and recognition." (Tiqqun)

The lecture addresses issues of strategic visibility, intransparency, remaining unobtrusive, of redundancy and impenetrability.


Text: kr in collaboration with Jardins des Pilotes


MacGhillie - Just a Void

knowbotic research: http://krcf.org

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