dima
  • Personae non Gratae

    The overflow of information and the issues of data processing in the era of digitalization, led the European Parliament in 2016 to approve a new General Data Protection Regulation, which was gradually incorporated in the National Law of each Member State by 2018. This constitutional and transnational chart of civil rights and obligations of the EU citizens forms a new legal-regulative framework of data storage and processing, in which the image of the human face is treated as identificational and proprietorial personal data. The embodiment of these face-images as data in the circulation of public information requires the expressed consent among all contributing parts, with few clear exceptions regarding mostly the sphere of state security and sovereignty. Nevertheless, property, identification and defined consent to the use of the personal image insert criteria of market and governance into the social construction of the visible, thus annulling in a way what Ariella Azoulay has described as the Civil Contract of Photography: the potentially inclusive citizenry that was created shortly after the medium's invention, and its constant albeit tacit consent to unobstructed circulation of the visual information via the alternating roles of photographers, photographed and spectators. In other words, it threatens to crack both a customary citizenship –based on the transcendence of distinct boundaries between citizens and non-citizens, governors and governed– and its critical role in the visualization of the social and political, especially when it is on the verge of catastrophe.

    In this context, Personae non Gratae suggests a simulated negative scenario of institutional control and subordinated biopolitics of the gaze; an assemblage of textual fragments of the legal discourse about photography and image in general, of visual extracts from the social reality in three States-borders of United Europe (Greece, Italy and Spain), and of headstone portraits from their public cemeteries; an interplay between inclusion and exclusion, remembrance and oblivion on technical images. Or, it could simply serve as a reminder of a reversed “decisive moment”, in which our likeness –our visual persona– becomes faceless, protectively constrained and privatized by the law, while at the same time is feeding a vast space of “faceness”, driven by algorithmic surveillance and big data networks. Photographic consent seems more contradictory than ever, posing an urgent question regarding the formation of a collective visual archive and a citizenry of photography: protection or defection?