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With the Rio Olympics still fresh in the memory, artist James Bridle gave a lecture on parallels between tracking-technologies on the sports field and surveillance technologies used in the city. The respondent was graphic designer Femke Herregraven and the ensuing discussion was moderated by Klaas Kuitenbrouwer of Het Nieuwe Instituut.

We live in an age when data, computation and digital networks form the underpinnings of the way we live, work, and play - but these “objects” are often invisible to us, buried in the ground, distributed across the globe, or hidden in lines of computer code, and so are difficult to visualise and critique. Likewise, important social issues such as privacy and surveillance become bound up in legal and political debates that are impenetrable to outsiders. One place that all these debates converge is on the sports field, where athletes are tracked, trained, and judged by webs of complex technology. Bridle will explore the ways in which invisible networks, military technologies, and new ways of seeing, surface in sport, and what they can teach us about being human in an age of machines.

Basing his talk on his essay Sneakers and Snoopers, Bridle took the camera technology used to record the athletes in the stadium as his starting point and then zoomed out to the citywide scale to analyse how Rio is spied upon and monitored long after the games have ended.

The evening is related to the exhibition Control Syntax Rio.

Introductory programme

At 19.30 there was a short introductory programme around the interactive online documentary 51 Sprints about the highlight of the modern Olympic Games: the 100 metre sprint. This data game, initiated by Het Nieuwe Instituut, allows the public to match historical sprinters against each other. Cultural, economic and physical ‘advantages’ such as country of origin, colour and gender can be neutralised in order to see who is truly the fastest. 

James Bridle

In his work, artist James Bridle investigates aspects of Western security apparatus such as drone surveillance, the deportation of asylum seekers and the definition of citizenship. He exhibits internationally and writes for newspapers and magazines including Domus, The Guardian and Wired. He coined the term ‘The New Aesthetic’ to describe the spread of the visual language of digital technology in the physical world.

Femke Herregraven

In her work Femke Herregraven explores which new material base, geographies and value systems contemporary financial technologies and infrastructures carve out. Works exist digital and as drawings, prints, sculptures, video and installations.

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20:00 – 22:00

Het Nieuwe Instituut
Museumpark 25
3015 CB Rotterdam

Thursday Night at Het Nieuwe Instituut
Luca Napoli

Thursday Night Live! is a weekly programme of lectures, screenings and discussions on architecture, design and digital culture. Developments and critical insights are discussed by thinkers, designers and makers from the Netherlands and abroad.