“As automation decimates blue- and white-collar jobs, we are witnessing the rise of a new working class: the online workers of crowdsourcing platforms. … Assembly Line attempts to divert the flow of surplus capital from the art market to this new working class.”
—Agnieszka Kurant, Project Lead and Ida Ely Rubin Artist in Residence at the Center for Art, Science, and Technology, MIT
Working with MIT scientists Boris Katz, Andrei Barbu, and David Mayo, artist Agnieszka Kurant created a system allowing Amazon Mechanical Turk platform (AMT) workers to take self-portraits with their mobile phones, for which they were then immediately remunerated through the Amazon platform. Thousands of these selfies were then fused by an algorithm into 3D forms, which were 3D-printed in resin and coated with copper and nickel. The layered forms of the sculptures are created by extracting one single line of pixels from each photograph. The resulting sculptures form a collective portrait. “The abstract form of the aggregated sculptures reveals how corporations and states extract harmful financial and political profiles from raw online data collection,” Kurant says.
According to Kurant, Assembly Line further subverts the exploitative monetization of facial recognition procedures by allowing the workers to draw actual profits from the sales of the images of their own faces. If any of the sculptures are sold, the workers who contributed their self-portraits share in the profits via a bonus system, thus connecting an anonymous rung of the digital precariat with the surplus value extracted from the luxury commodities circulating in the art market.
Agnieszka Kurant, Ida Ely Rubin Artist in Residence at the Center for Art, Science, and Technology, MIT
Boris Katz, Principal Research Scientist, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), MIT
Andrei Barbu, Research Scientist, CSAIL, MIT
David Mayo, Research Specialist, CSAIL, MIT
Launched: June 15, 2017
On view: Visit the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery site for news and exhibition schedule