recto/verso – issue 05 ∙ obfuscation is online
After a short break recto/verso is back with a new issue 05. Inspired by the book by technologist Finn Brunton and philosopher Helen Nissenbaum Obfuscation: A User’s Guide for Privacy and Protest (2015) we focus on this eponymous concept and its usage in the real life.
As the authors explain in their ‘user guide’, obfuscation is the deliberate use of ambiguous, confusing, or misleading information to interfere with surveillance and data collection projects. However, they don’t restrict this to just online reality and its origins in hacking activity. As the authors demonstrate with the examples analysed, this strategy was appropriated much earlier, even before the advent of the Internet. Understood as a form of resistance against higher power it tends to mislead a system (a software as well as a system of power or surveillance), the obfuscation strategy has rather local range and it’s community based.
Issue 05 by recto/verso focuses on the appropriation of obfuscation technique by contemporary artists and activists. The text Obfuscation. Definition shows a wider vision of this notion, explained even more profoundly with an interview with Paolo Cirio around his Obscurity project. The short essay Carnivalesque and obfuscation analyses selected projects by Zach Blas, who has taken a strong position against surveillance systems in public spaces. Through Tobias Putrih’s exhibition entitled Obfuscation held recently at pinkusmmer gallery we discover another perspective of this strategy application, both in a formal and conceptual result. An important contribution to issues of surveillance and data collection has to be recognized in Laura Poitras’ work, her films as well as her first solo museum exhibition Astro Noise at the Whitney Museum of American Art focused on topics such as mass surveillance, the War on Terror, the U.S. drone program, Guantánamo Bay Prison, occupation, and torture.