What is a successful image? Are the images that have made and are making globalisation more powerful and viral than others? And what is their role in the astonishing cultural, social, economic, and political phenomenon of globalisation?
Visual Contagions tackles this issues head on, by studying the images that have made globalisation possible since the popularisation of illustrated prints. It is a crazy project. To identify, visualise and map visual globalisation, we need colossal digital corpora, overpowering machines and elaborate computational strategies. The exhibition presents the milestones of this project. We envisage the globalisation of images through the prism of big data and computer vision algorithms, before returning to traditional historical methods. The approach detaches us from the logic of “centre and periphery”, such as Darwinian readings of the circulation of images. It opens unexplored spaces that can teach us about the visual epidemics of the past and present.
The experiment is both artistic and scientific: the project confronts the practice of six young creators reflecting on the flood of images. Through their multisensory interfaces, their works make us contemplate the multiple dimensions of the problem, between past and present, materiality and digital interface, realism and onirism, submersion and control, humour and scientificity.
Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel is a contemporary art historian. She is Professor at the University of Geneva (Switzerland), Chair of Digital Humanities. She coordinates the Visual Contagions project at the University of Geneva (Swiss National Science Foundation) and heads the Jean-Monnet IMAGO European Centre of Excellence at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris where she lectured in contemporary art history from 2006 to 2019. A specialist in artistic and visual globalisation, Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel’s work as a historian combines computational methods with more traditional approaches (art history, social and political history). She has published a now classic trilogy on the globalisation of modern art and the avant-garde: Les avant-gardes artistiques. Une histoire transnationale (Gallimard, Folio histoire, 2016 et 2018. Volume 1 : 1848-1918 ; Volume 2 : 1918-1945), et Naissance de l’art contemporain 1945-1970. Une histoire mondiale (CNRS Editions, 2021).
Nicola Carboni is a researcher at the University of Geneva, Postdoc in the Visual Contagions project. He is a specialist in digital ontology. He is a virtuoso of semantic web techniques, as well as a philosopher of words and names: how do we name, and how do we describe for a computer that one image and another look alike? Nicola Carboni and Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel work together on the global circulation of the arts – and in particular on the circulation of styles.
technical information and ackowledgements
The project presents the milestones of a digital and historical study of globalisation through images. It is carried out by a team from the University of Geneva in Switzerland, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the University of Geneva, in partnership with the Jean Monnet Imago European Centre of Excellence (Erasmus + funding). The visualcontagions.net platform also hosts the digital exhibition of contemporary artists, whose work confronts the virality of images.
Adrien Jeanrenaud is a PhD candidate at the University of Geneva in the Visual Contagions project. He works on the globalisation of images since 1945, and uses artificial vision as much as archives.
Céline Belina is a student in the Master of Transnational History in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Geneva and in the Executive Master in Art Market Studies at the University of Zurich. In January 2021, she joined the Visual Contagion project as a research and teaching assistant.
Cédric Viaccoz is an engineer at the University of Geneva. He deployed the infrastructure of the Visual Contagions project.
Robin Champenois is a young artist, PhD candidate in Research-Creation and Artificial Intelligence. He began his scientific studies at the École Normale Supérieure (Paris) in mathematics and computer science, followed by a specialisation in Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence at the Université Paris-Saclay. In parallel to his studies, Robin has developed his own artistic practice, and contributed to several exhibitions and student art festivals. In his work, he explores our relationship with these algorithmic beings, and the way their behaviour refers us to our own irrationality. His works invite an encounter with these machines fed by our data; they open the door to their interiority, their contradictions, their paradoxes.
Thomas Gauffroy-Naudin is a Master’s student in English in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Geneva and has joined the Visual Contagions project as a Research and Teaching Assistant. He studied Art History and English as part of his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Geneva between 2017 and 2020.
Anim Jeon is a South Korean artist born in 1995 in Bangkok, Thailand. His work has been exhibited and screened in numerous venues, including Platform-L Contemporary Art Centre (Seoul), the 20th International ALT Cinema & Media Festival (Seoul), PASA Festival (Suwon) and Koo Min Kwon Exhibition Gallery (Hong Kong). He is currently doing a Master of Fine Arts at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK), Switzerland. He studied photography at Chung-Ang University, South Korea, where he received a B.F.A. in photography.
Nora Fatehi is a student of media and interaction design at ECAL. Growing up as a digital native in the 2000s, she developed a fascination for internet culture, the evolution of communication and more generally the effects of technology on society and generations. Through her work, she tries to combine humour and criticism while exploring the possibilities offered by different forms of media such as AR, VR or creative code.
Valentine Bernasconi is a young Swiss creator born in 1994. Originally expressing herself through classical animation techniques, it is thanks to a multidisciplinary training in art and computer science that she now apprehends new technologies for the benefit of an artistic production. An EPFL engineer in digital humanities, she reinterprets here her own doctoral work in Digital Visual Studies at the University of Zurich on the historical and computational analysis of hand gestures in Renaissance painting.
Robin Champenois is a young artist, PhD candidate in Research-Creation and Artificial Intelligence. He began his scientific studies at the École normale supérieure (Paris) in mathematics and computer science, followed by a specialisation in Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence at the Université Paris-Saclay. In parallel to his studies, Robin has developed his own artistic practice, and contributed to several exhibitions and student art festivals. In his work, he explores our relationship with these algorithmic beings, and the way their behaviour refers us to our own irrationality. His works invite an encounter with these machines fed by our data; they open the door to their interiority, their contradictions, their paradoxes.
Rui-Long Monico is an independent researcher in art history, doctoral student at the University of Geneva and creative director of the Candy Factory visual communication workshop in Geneva. A military man, visual artist and iconophile, he is interested in the genesis and role of images in contemporary society. He is the designer and creator of the virtual museography of this virtual exhibition as well as the visual identity of the SNSF project Visual Contagions – for which he explored the notion of Unheimlichkeit, an aesthetic floating between disturbing familiarity and disconcerting pleasure, so present in the Internet culture.
Truckthomas, beatmaker and DJ, is above all a digger, a music archivist. Through Hip-Hop, he goes back up the chain of sampling to become passionate about Jazz, Funk and Soul. These disks feed his beats based on samples, certainly anchored in the boom bap, but which go beyond simple nostalgia. As a DJ, his styles range from hip-hop to disco at venues such as the Montreux Jazz Festival or on Couleur 3 radio. In 2020, he launched Sconsolato, a label focused on jazz that revived forgotten works of the genre. The following year, he presented his new structure Word to the Wise, aimed at highlighting the talent of local beatmakers.