Mario Santamaria captures the lonely gaze of Google’s 360 camera

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Artists have been increasingly experimenting with collaborating with algorithmic processes, using machine vision in novel ways and creating artwork using machine learning algorithms. One could say that is the avant-garde of art making today. While many of the artworks involve the mastery of complex neural networks, or specialised equipment such as LIDAR scanners, there are ways to engage in the larger conversation around artificial intelligence and the impact of machine vision and algorithms that govern our experiences online (and offline) via more traditional mediums.

Mario Santamaria is an artist who has turned a critical eye towards such themes throughout his career. His work is conceptual, subtle, and witty. He often takes simple idea or concern and, through his artwork, pivots it in such a way that makes the viewer reconsider their relationship with online tools and processes they use daily.

The Camera in the Mirror is an example of an ongoing project with a simple premise, but a powerful visual outcome. The artist has been running a Tumblr blog by the same name for several years. He has scoured footage from Google Art Project, which began as a showcase of 360º views of museum interiors that allowed viewers to take a peek at world-famous institutions from the comfort of their computer chair. Santamaria noticed that, in some locations that feature mirrors, the reflection of Google’s 360º camera is revealed. Though we are implicitly aware that the existence of a photograph presupposes a camera, there is something very strange about seeing the oddly clunky, grey, somewhat monolithic set up plonked in the middle of the gilded room of 17th Century palace. It is at once comical and spooky. In some screenshots, the camera takes bring to mind ominous surveillance, in other is looks almost lonely — reflecting back on the viewer the human tendency to anthropomorphise.

Santamaria began the project with museums, but has expanded to include other cultural and political spaces. Find out about Mario Santamaria’s projects here and scroll through the addictive The Camera in the Mirror here.