Unerasable Images

UnerasableImages
Installation images © Tim Bowditch

Title: Unerasable Images

Year of production: 2018-2019

Medium: ver1: Video Documentary (3mins6seconds, over 300 screenshots); ver2: Installation with a vintage carousel slide projector); ver3: software installation -javascript and a web browser

:: Description ::

The artwork presents screenshots from Google Image Search results for the search term “六四” (“64”),  a reference to the date of the student-led Tiananmen Square Protest in Beijing in 1989. The most iconic image of that day depicts an unknown protestor known as ‘Tank Man’ facing down a column of advancing tanks. This photograph is routinely censored by authorities and blocked from any search results in China. In 2013, a Lego reconstruction of the Tank Man image started circulating before it, too, was quickly erased. Nevertheless, the image was later found beyond China, and it occasionally prioritizes on the first few rows of Google image search.

With more than 300 screenshots were taken in 2017, the project aims to create a temporal and empty networked space where the thumbnail image(s) move within the hidden infrastructural grid and beyond the screenshot’s frame, examining the geopolitics of data circulation, internet censorship, the materiality of image (re)production through complex entanglement of human and nonhuman parameters.

:: Video Documentation ::

:: Review ::

“…All miniature images on the screenshots were retouched by the artist to a white high-gloss surface. Only the Lego Tank Man picture appears again and again in different positions. This picture was once censored, but then reappeared after years. From the censorship’s point of view a mistake. On the other sidse, it leads us to hope and at the same time proves that loopholes still exist in the network of censorship.

Winnie Soon’s work is conceptually stringent and very suitable for the Network Culture competition. At the same time, it is a very courageous work, regarding the all-powerful Chinese censorship and the risk she takes of rebelling against it.

We congratulate Winnie on her great work and look forward to further critical projects.“ –Jury: Daniel Burkhardt & Marc Lee from Stuttgarter Filmwinter – Festival for Expanded Media

“Winnie Soon’s video Unerasable Images (2018) shows how heavy-handed censorship causes even a Lego rendering of the 1989 protests at Tiananmen Square in Beijing to pop in and out of visibility on online platforms in China. ” –Hettie Judah

“Winnie’s piece then traces this image as it resurfaces and “haunts” her searches in the resulting four years. It’s pieces like this that deal with Katrina’s question of: “Who is the photographer? Photographers are becoming more like robots, and robots are becoming more like photographers.” – Ruby Boddington

“The journey begins in empty space. Winnie Soon’s Unerasable Images consists of 300 screenshots taken in China in 2017. They display the results obtained when Google’s image search was tasked with finding the moment in 1989 outside Tiananmen Square in Beijing when a protester faced down a tank. Most of these screenshots are white fields, left barren by Chinese state censorship. There is a Lego version of the scene, though, which survived for months before a change in the algorithm, or human intervention, rooted it out.” – Lydia Nicholas in New Scientist (26. Jan. 2019)

:: Exhibition Record(s) ::

  • 2019 (forthcoming), 8th Media Art Biennale WRO 2019, Poland
  • 2019 (forthcoming), The third biennial RESAW (Research Infrastructure for the Study of Archived Web Materials) conference, University of Amsterdam
  • 2019 (forthcoming), Galleri Image, Aarhus, Denmark
  • 2019, Stuttgarter Filmwinter – Festival for Expanded Media 2019
  • 2018, The Photographer’s gallery, London, UK

:: References ::
Chinese Netizens Defiantly Remember Tiananmen Square
內地網破禁  「勇擋坦克」圖片驚現 借兒童節悼六四
free weibo.com
Tiananmen Square online searches censored by Chinese authorities
– Hillenbrand, Margaret. “Remaking Tank Man, in China.” Journal of Visual Culture 16, no. 2 (August 2017): 127–66. https://doi.org/10.1177/1470412917703154.

:: Acknowledgement ::

* Polly Poon, Magda Tyżlik-Carve

Supported by Danish Arts Foundation and Aarhus University.