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Sensors, Giphnosis, And The Current State Of The World

posted Apr 21, 2013, 4:47 PM by Ellen Pearlman


Boston bombing suspect hiding beneath boat tarp

Infra red sensors make creative practices with the Kinect possible, as the Kinect does it depth sensing with dual cameras, one of them infra red and one normal. Its origins as a military locator tool developed during the Korean war are often forgotten or obscured. Those origins were brought into glaring focus during the “dragnet” for the Boston bombing suspect, which employed heat orthermal imaging techniques, a “cohort” of infra red sensing technology.


Use of “forward looking infra-red camera reversed

The specific type used in the dragnet is called “forward looking infra-red” or FLIR. Because the spectral refraction is so great, the images are usually enhanced on the backend. Then there is three-band fused video, which gives an amazing range of spectrum such as visible, thermal infrared  laser, radar  LIDAR, SAR (synthetic aperture , MMW (millimeter wave) or hyper spectral sensors.


Three Band Fused Video. In the lower left you can see a white body sneaking behind a bush, and inside the parked car you can see a white blur which is a person. This is a night shot in a parking lot. Usually both figures would be completely dark. (Sarnoff Corp.)

Rhizome, founded in 1999 and affiliated with The New Museum in the Bowery, New York, presented their latest “7 On 7” pairing of seven artists and seven technologists. The keynote speaker Evgeny Morozov discussed how you can now build a chip sensor into everything, making everything you touch or use into a feedback loop responding to your needs. However, despite the appearance of a perfect world there is still friction and conflict. There are enormous political and social implications for this kind of always “on” society. Artists are in the sweet spot to examine those points of contact and friction, and technologists can help implement their visions.

Paul Pfeiffer and Alex Chung, one of the pairs of “7 On 7”, came up with an app called “Giphnosis,” a riff off of hypnosis and an animated gif. This app has a lot to do both with the use of the infra red and with other surveillance sensors and cameras that were used to track the Boston bombers.

The images of the two terror suspect brothers caught by surveillance cameras was shown again and again all over the world. These images became like a form of hypnosis or in Pfeiffer and Chung’s parlance, “mind control,” driving home a semiotic point. As examples for their thesis on Giphnosis they played a non stop loop of a knife welding scene from “The Shining” for horror, and then a reoccurring loop of cute kittens for happiness.


Horror Giphnosis from “The Shinning”


Happy cute Giphnosis from kittens


The two terror suspects Giphnosis loop from the FBI shown on CNN. (see “The Shinning” horror Giphnosis)

There are huge implications for image manipulation using these concepts for artists. In fact, the very first one to utilize this type of manipulation, sans animation was Andy Warhol. He grasped the effect multiple repeated images have on the brain and psyche .


“Green Disaster (Green Disaster Twice)” by Andy Warhol, 1963, acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas. 48’ by 41 3/4 inches

This is an early representation of horror Giphnosis before the technology to reproduce it as an animation anyone could make was in place. The strength of repetitive images on the brain is a fertile area for study and improvisation.