Questions of Control

13 prints different dimensions, cca 550x150cm, 2020

he Psychological Counter-Offensive in Algiers is the title of a photograph made in 1962 by the Keystone Press Agency. It displays the psychological campaign waged by the French security forces against the far-right nationalist militant organisation OAS (Organisation armée secrète), which refused to accept the anti-colonial developments in north Africa. A member of the security forces is captured painting over signs expressing support for OAS in order to prevent explosions of violence and other incidents at the impending declaration of cease-fire in Algeria.
The photograph was exposed to the computer viruses in the VSUM Virus Information Summary List. VSUM is a public database of all known MS-DOS viruses, compiled by Patricia M. Hoffman on her website. On this platform, she recorded all viruses between 1986 and 1998, describing their origin and the moment at which they appeared..
Both the photograph and the database represent manifestations of control of a situation against the influence of self-replicating entities attempting to multiply at the greatest possible scale and propagate through the available environment. What does this kind of experiment demonstrate or uncover? Publicly available databases are a source of imagination and learning. Testing them and exposing them to various kinds of algorithms uncovers errors of judgement and shows new configurations and unexpected relations. They might also show that the symbolic sometimes merges all too closely with the imaginary and the real.