Mishhka Henner Q & A

Leila Greiche
Apr 23, 2014 3:21PM
1) Can you describe the use and purpose of appropriation in your work.  
There's taking pictures and then there's taking pictures. I do the latter. The world is now a single photograph of infinite detail and I dive into it searching for meaning. I think of Earth's terrain as a map of the social brain, surrounded by a silent but tireless network of remote cameras and sensors capturing data that awaits interpretation. Images produced by these cameras depict real and imagined landscapes created by the circuitry of industry, ideology, and in some cases, the absurd paranoia of the censors' brush. At ground-level these landscapes remain invisible; They reveal themselves only in the vacuum of virtual and outer space. 
 2) What kind of form do you intend the collected portraits to depict? 
When it comes to portraiture, the photographer is all too often an absent figure. Collected Portraits attempts to see the photographer in the accumulation of his or her subjects' faces and expressions.   
3) Would you describe your work as exploitative? If so how? 
Absolutely, I'm exploiting loop holes in the the vast archives of data, imagery and information that are now accessible to us. I'm connecting the dots to reveal things that surround us but which we rarely see or don't want to see.
 4) Was it your intention to blur the faces of the women in No Man's Land or were they found that way? 
They were found that way. In light of data protection law suits in Europe, Google developed an algorithm that automatically blurs all faces. 
5) The theme of commodity seems to be recurring in your work i.e. oil, beef, women (if I dare say)  - how do you/do you treat photography as a type of commodity? 
 My pictures exist primarily in two ways; as pixels on a screen and as prints on paper. The former is free, liberated from its material ancestry and exchanged instantly across the world from one social network to the other. The latter can be costly to produce and exhibit and its material form is limited. Each is a commodity in its own right. In my work, I try to reflect on the world around me. The world I see is one in which almost everything has been reduced to a tradable commodity. We live in a world reduced to numbers. Finding visual manifestations of that isn't straightforward, but they exist. 
6) Your work seems to challenge photography's purpose today. Would you agree? 
Yes, in its brief history, photography has become weighed down by the monumentalizing of idols and experts, and bloated by its mass institutional and academic acceptance. Utlimately, photography is about looking and making pictures. If we want to see the world as it is today, we have to use the optics of our time, not those of the past.
 7) Could you explain GIS to me and the other sites that you use as a source for your photograph on the WWW? 
GIS refers to Geographic Information Systems which are a means for creating, storing, analyzing and managing spatial data and associated attributes. I said before that the world is now a photograph of infinite detail. Beneath the surface of the image lie layer upon layer of data and information, and it's these layers that I mine in my work.  In military, logistic and strategic operations, there's a field of specialism called GeoSpatial Intelligence. This is intelligence derived from the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information that describes, assesses, and visually depicts physical features and geographically referenced activities on the Earth. I didn't know about this field until recently, but I think it describes well what I've been doing for the last few years.

To read more about Mishka, check out the recent article on Blouin Art Info here.

Leila Greiche