Cameras obscuras of ideology

2022. Multi-channel installation


Cameras obscuras of ideology is an installation on the technological mediations that operate behind the images. This experimental project puts face to face the projected image of the camera obscura with the operative images of artificial intelligence (AI), while trying to show the technological actions that makes them possible.

The development of the installation was carried out within the framework of a grant from the Institut Ramon Llull, New Art Foundation, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, La Caldera and Hangar, and was presented at Ars Electronica Garden Barcelona and Paratext # 61 in Hangar.

The installation mixes two image production processes; optical projection by means of lenses (which could be called camera obscura projection) and the extractive images of artificial vision. This creates a space that circulates between two times in the history of images: the optics of the camera obscura, which is the beginning of the automated production of images of the world, and contemporary artificial vision with its desire to automate perception. These universes are shown in a set of four projections on screens distributed throughout the room and visible both frontally and in rear projection, and where all the elements that produce them lenses, computers and projectors are visible at the same level. In this way, an environment is built where everything is in sight and can be observed, with the intention of being able to start questioning how it works.

The title of the installation refers to a well-known fragment of Marx and Engels where ideology is compared to a camera obscura, as it produces an inverted image of the world. If lenses create a face-down image, artificial vision technologies are also a type of mediation that transforms what is seen. Artificial vision filter the images provided as input, inferring data. What each artificial vision tool seeks, discards or labels, denotes a worldview and participates, by its extractivist logic, in the ideology of big data.

The mediation of the lenses is between reality and the image it is the mediation that produces the image while the mediation of the artificial vision already starts from an image of the world it is therefore a mediation between images or between images and data: input and output. It could be said that artificial vision tools work like a parasite, taht attaches to images to extract data from them. In Cameras obscuras of ideology, the operations of artificial vision are shown without the input; their graphic output has been altered to show only their representation of what they add. They are displayed as operational images, as Harun Farocki called them.


The space of the installation is a space constantly duplicated in the projections. Be it by the lenses that project the visitors or the word ideology (from a double-inverted print that, when projected, is seen upwards and readable from left to right), by an artificial vision tool that scrutinizes and extracts information about the bodies in the room or by a lens that interrupts the beam of light of a video projector that projects images processed with several artificial vision tools.


The installation is completed with a graphic piece (printed with gold stamping on black cardboard), which visitors can take away and which is also used in one of the projections. On one side is the word ideology; as already explained doubly reversed in order to be projected. In the other, a quote from the theorist W. J. T. Mitchell about the phrases of Marx and Engels and asking what can we do to the images of ideology.




The project has involved several research and collaboration actions. A public dialogue was held with Alejandra L. Gabrielidis in the framework of Ars Electronica Garden Barcelona 2021. As well as we were able to visit visiting the headquarters of the ICFO (Institute of Photonic Sciences of Barcelona) and talk with some of its workers and researchers – Lydia Sanmarti, Federica Beduini and Jordi Andilla. The 3D printing of the lens holders was done in collaboration with the Ateneu de Fabricació de Gràcia. Extensive research has also been done on optical materials, including various types of converging lenses or dichroic filters.