We live in transparent times. Transparency has become a mantra for an ideal world ordered by the accountability and availability of information. The property of materials transmitting light without appreciable scattering has been unanimously adopted as a metaphor for a proper examined life in the CTRL+SOCIETY. Transparent lives matter. Pellucid economies are the good side of future capitalism. See-through careers dissolve malfeasance and corruption. Diaphanous identities insure moral integrity and machine-readable interactions.
The ideal of transparency, defined by media theorist Byung-Chul Han as a "neoliberal dispositive" relentlessly transforming everything into information, is embedded in the very same materialities that process these transformations: ultra-clear toughened glass sheets covering the screens of our portable devices, carefully calibrated translucent software interfaces, gauzy app overlays, crystal-clear augmented realities, all available at the tips of our fingers to be gently rubbed and tapped, layer upon invisible layer of haptic pleasure.
Yet, these overlapping transparencies innately radiate darkness. We're surrounded by collections of black boxes, behind black mirrors, piling up in black stacks. Black transparency, imagined by design collective Metahaven as "an involuntary disclosure of secrets against a backdrop of systematic online surveillance", seems the only available counterstrategy - accelerating exposés, leaks and whistleblowing until the layered screens and surfaces start to crack. Through black transparency, accountability and access are overdriven into radical informational chaos.
Is delving into the inert darkness of black transparency all we have left? This project presents an alternative repertoire of tactics starting from a different metaphor and through the experience of its related cascade of affects. Against the anesthetic of transparency, VIOLENT OPAQUE installs an aesthetic of opacity. According to philosopher Willard V. O. Quine, an opaque context results from the substitution of co-referential terms that can change the truth value of propositions belonging to "modes of containment" such as belief or quotation.
VIOLENT OPAQUE explores the referential opacity of new informational modes of containment such as teleconferencing, livestreaming and labor crowdsourcing, as well as their affective experience: the opaqueness of finger smudges on reinforced glass, of blurred videos and shaky camrips, of bad VOIP calls and bandwidth-throttled audio streams, of inscrutable data-entry contractors; the violence of uncertain contextual reference, spatial displacement, unclear surface depth, unreliable surveillance, partial connections, unexplained hierarchy, forced spectatorship.