“We kill people based on metadata.” Those are the first words you see when you open James Bridle’s latest web-based artwork A Quiet Disposition(AQD), but the source of the quote is Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA, and it sets an inescapably sinister tone for the project.
Named after the Disposition Matrix — America’s “next-generation capture/kill list” — AQD constantly scans the internet for references to drones and classifies them under four categories — people, documents, terms or places.
Bridle’s not new to this subject, he’s the founder of the New Aesthetic and he’s previously worked with kaleidoscopic surveillance video, mini-drone kits and rorschach google maps. More than anything he wants this project to shed light on the trappings of Big Data, specifically the fact that just having information doesn’t make it mean anything. This is illustrated when you type in a word and receive a flurry of links but no context for why they’re included.
The artist tells Motherboard, “it’s just this huge web of metadata.” He thinks faith in Big Data is something that connects Wikileaks with the NSA, “While we now know loads more about what’s going on, it hasn’t made it go away. In fact, it’s kind of legitimised it—like most of the stuff that’s been revealed was in a legal grey area and now it’s been signed into law.”
He sees his project as a way of getting people used to the idea of life being extremely complex, and that we need equally complex ways of addressing it. He concludes that “it’s not going to be by eventually cramming everything into a computer and doing something with it.”
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)