“Virtual worlds and landscapes derive from virtual weaponry”

13 November 2018   •  
Written by Anaïs Viand
"Virtual worlds and landscapes derive from virtual weaponry"

Until December 16th, the Irish cultural center hosts Surveillé.e.s (Watched, ed), a collective exhibition focusing on surveillance, and security measures and practices. Among the fifteen artists exhibited, we discovered the work of Karl Burke, which highlights the difficulty to represent cyberwars. Interview.

Fisheye : Could you tell me more about your journey as a photographer?

Karl Burke: I was self-taught, I learnt by scrolling through magazines and books, while studying law at university – it was in 1987. After a career as a lawyer, and then as a composer and sound designer, I decided, in 2018, to focus on my practice of photography and visual arts. The road has been long and sinuous, but I have finally achieved my goal.

Photography is the path to follow to transcend what I view as my technical limits in the classical artistic practice.

How would you describe your photographic approach?

Photography has now become separated from its classical role of representation. Although abstract and experimental photography have existed for quite some time, I think it can be used as a tool to understand modern society. I am interested in what can be done with the medium, by integrating philosophical and sociological data. Thus, photography becomes a true investigative tool. For each of my projects, I try to find the right visual and conceptual approach. I seek to develop a strong imagery, working on its own.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by everyday life. I am fascinated by the effect of technology on human behaviour, especially through cell phones and social media. I also study the military-industrial complex, which is an issue affecting more and more the civilian sphere. For instance, the militarisation of softwares, the proliferation of surveillance techniques or even the fact that military drone pilots are recruited thanks to their scores in shootings games and flight simulations.

And what about this series?

This series has emerged after the discovery of Stuxnet, in 2010. A cyberweapon targeting the Iranian uranium enrichment centrifuges. The question was: how could I realise a visual work on a virtual battlefield? I wanted to expose these types of invisible operations and document the hacking and surveillance tools.

© Karl Burke

Is cyberwar a pretext to document the cyberworld?

I think it is important to spark a social and political debate about this issue, to act “now” and not “later on”. Nowadays, automatic cars and significant progress in Artificial Intelligence do exist. Moreover, the Internet has proliferated. The fact that Estonia was the victim of cyberattacks in 2007 and is now one of the world leader in cyberdefense is no coincidence.

How was your series Weaponworld created?

I started to think about this series in 2012, but it took me five years to decide what the best approach and technical production should be. 2017 turned out to be an interesting year – in March, there was a massive leak of NSA hacking tools. The Vault 7 leak.

This was a disaster. Two months later, a group of criminals got hold of informatics data and created WannaCry, a malicious software. In May 2017, more than 300 000 computers were contaminated, throughout the world. This cyberattack was considered one of the biggest ransom hacking in the history of the Internet. So, from a very egoistical point of view, the Vault 7 leak and the cyberattacks that followed helped me develop my project.

A project integrating computer code. How did you proceed?

Throughout my research, I observed how people used 3D softwares to create idealised landscapes. I realised that virtual worlds and landscapes created from scratch by fans were, in fact, derived from virtual weaponry. I tried to add an emotional, almost physical response to something that is hard to dissociate from the cerebral field.

Although I have been familiar with IT tools since the start of the 90s, I had no experience whatsoever in 3D software. I am not a developer, and thus I had to learn how to code.

Could you tell me about the result?

I realised early on that a direct cartography of a code was similar to the derived data of satellites cartography. I found out that putting this code cartography in image gave birth to a landscape. The final image is the result of the encounter between codes and fractals (a mathematical object, a curve or geometrical figure repeating itself indefinitely).

© Karl Burke

© Karl Burke

© Karl Burke

© Karl Burke

© Karl Burke

France 98, Luke Skywalker and street photography: Laurent le Crabe's Chinese portrait
France 98, Luke Skywalker and street photography: Laurent le Crabe’s Chinese portrait
"As the son of a printer, I was immersed from an early age in a culture of images and colour", says Laurent le Crabe, who, as he grew up...
28 July 2021   •  
Written by Anaïs Viand
Macron, Brexit and family albums: Ed Alcock's Chinese portrait
Macron, Brexit and family albums: Ed Alcock’s Chinese portrait
Portrait photographer for many news publications – Le Monde, El País, the New York Times – documentary photographer and member of the...
22 July 2021   •  
Written by Lou Tsatsas
"While everyone knows how to draw a penis and testicles, a vulva or a clitoris is a problem"
“While everyone knows how to draw a penis and testicles, a vulva or a clitoris is a problem”
With Récupérer Nos Corps (Getting our bodies back, ed.), a project combining written testimonies and photographs, non-binary artist La...
14 July 2021   •  
Written by Lou Tsatsas
Belgium, pasta taster, and dangerous nipples: Charlotte Abramow's Chinese portrait
Belgium, pasta taster, and dangerous nipples: Charlotte Abramow’s Chinese portrait
She is Belgian, but lives in France. She has been challenging the clichés associated with female beauty and celebrating bodies in her...
11 July 2021   •  
Written by Anaïs Viand
Our latest articles
View all articles
Readers picks #355
Readers picks #355
Alexander Kaller and Stephen Sillifant, our readers picks #355, both escape the frenzy of our world to produce peaceful images – a...
30 August 2021   •  
Written by Fisheye Magazine
British seaside, round animals and Céline Sciamma: Max Miechowski's Chinese portrait
British seaside, round animals and Céline Sciamma: Max Miechowski’s Chinese portrait
Trained as a musician, British artist Max Miechowski turned to photography after a long trip to Southeast Asia. Portraits...
25 August 2021   •  
Written by Lou Tsatsas
Instagram selection #312
Instagram selection #312
Through portraits or landscapes, the artists of our Instagram selection #312 never stop experimenting. All of them seek new textures and...
24 August 2021   •  
Written by Joachim Delestrade
The labourer who turned mud into silver
The labourer who turned mud into silver
With Zilverbeek (Silver creek), Lucas Leffler explores the myth of a worker who made his wealth from the mud that lined the bottom of a...
23 August 2021   •  
Written by Finley Cutts