Exhibition documentation from
Jan van Eyck Academie
Following the successful May 2, 2011 “Operation Neptune Spear” raid on the Abbottabad compound, which resulted in the execution of Osama bin Laden, his son, and three other colleagues, US Navy SEALs recovered ten computer hard drives, documents, DVDs, over a hundred flash drives, a dozen cell phones, and other electronic equipment. The materials were initially analyzed at a secret location in Afghanistan, where data forensics specialists organized and researched the material looking for actionable items relative to the United States interest in targeting Al-Qaeda.
In November of 2017, the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States released the complete contents of Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad digital library collected from the raid. This release followed several previous Freedom of Information Act partial disclosures in 2015 and 2016 which included declassified material, digital novels, media articles and religious documents. This now complete collection of data includes system files, propaganda videos, software tutorials, religious audio sermons, western television shows and movies, home-movies, and document files, approximately 470,000 files in all.
In collaboration with computer scientists, Channeling is the output of a Generative Adversarial Network that has trained on the complete 70,000 visual elements from the Abbottabad compound archive. This includes images of war, holy sites, political actors, weapons, propaganda collages, cartoons, memes, Photoshop tutorials, internet browser cache, charts, graphs, maps, and digital greeting cards.
Through artificial intelligence and machine learning, new content is generated in perpetuity based on the mathematical visual principles of the original images. Using a modular LED panel array, the resulting image synthesis film shifts between outputs without resolve, simultaneously escaping and encapsulating the specificity of the original visual archive. In relationship to the corporeal disappearance of bin Laden by the actions of the CIA, the archive functions as a stand-in for a body disappeared by the Arabian Sea.