Phobos ex Machina
EWA CIECHANOWSKA & ARTUR URBANSKI 2017
2019 - Bienal '19 Fotografia do Porto, Adaptation and Transition, Porto, PortugalPhobos Ex Machina helps the viewer investigate how fear manipulation affects our choices. In classic Greek mythology, Phobos is a god - personification of fear. The term Deus Ex Machina was created from the Greek tragedy, where the machine is used to bring actors playing gods to the stage. God appeared by surprise and changed the turn of things.
The Internet and social media promised to communicate "many to many" - a truly democratic medium free from government and corporate influence. Today, instead of this idealistic vision, we face different consequences of social manipulation using social media. They have influenced our world on a global scale. Most of the important events of recent years, including Brexit, the radical right-wing revival, Trump's career and destabilization in the Middle East were significantly influenced using social media. Most of these campaigns employed fear and used it as a tool to stimulate the desired activities. Following the activities of companies such as Cambridge Analitica, we see a worrying scheme of obtaining information about the recipient's psychological profile and then influencing its choice using content manipulation that exploits susceptibility to cognitive biases such as framing, anchoring, availability heuristics, the effect of belief and others. Influence algorithms reinforce our views that distort our perceptions of reality and affect our choices - which we consider to be taken independently.
The form and theme of the exhibition refers to the literary form of Fable, which is a fictional story containing anthropomorphized animals, plants or forces of nature and leads to a lesson - a moral. It is widely believed that trees are innocent and good. Enjoy the respect and positive attitude of most people around the planet. What if we start to watch them carefully? What if we find suspicious activity, secret communication, hidden weapons? What if we look closely at the statistics of tree-related deaths? Should we be afraid of trees? The exhibition does not answer the question. It forces the viewer to choose his own truth and his own version of reality. Although the exhibition is devoted to trees and can be treated literally, but you can imagine the same mechanism applied to specific groups of people.
The exhibition consists of three layers. The first part tries to influence the viewer with media content showing the death caused by trees and unusual facts about trees. It contains real information about fatal accidents caused by trees, statistical information, scientific information about secret tree communication, plant awareness and social behavior. Information is being developed to mimic the information bubble and challenge viewers perception of trees. In the second part, the viewer is confronted with images and sounds of a real catastrophe. Here the viewer meets individual stories. His feelings play an important role - does he feel compassion, looking at uprooted trees by unknown strength, or does he feel fear of falling trees in everyday terrain? After watching the exhibition, the viewer is confronted with the question, What are you afraid of? which aims to extend the perception of the viewer beyond the subject of trees.
PHOBOS EX MACHINA - EXHIBITIONS
2018 - Triennial of Photography Hamburg, [Enter] on a breaking point and necessity to change, Hamburg, Germany
2019 - Bienal '19 Fotografia do Porto, Adaptation and Transition, Porto, Portugal
2021 - Fotofestiwal, Ogrodowa 8 Gallery, Lodz, Poland
PHOBOS EX MACHINA - PUBLICATIONS
2018 - Triennial of Photography Hamburg Exhibition Catalogue
2022 - Archivo, Technology And Memory, Standing before a 'rabbit hole', Text by Bárbara Lissa, A dialogue with artist Artur Urbanski