Michael Gessner’s Masse sheds sharp new light on the signifiers of surveillance embedded in everyday life. Conceived as a sociological exploration of mass behaviour in the digital age, the photo book invites contemplation on the myriad ways in which individuals are monitored – and in which they monitor themselves – as they transition through the blurred boundaries between the digital and the physical.
Masse opens with an image revealing a set of shiny bronze doors. The eye is drawn to a black box angled above its entrance. What does it see? And who is watching? Though the questions remain unanswered, the tone is set for the following pages, which reveal Gessner’s artistic dexterity as he moves seamlessly from hyper-stylised shots of hardware to classic architectural photos, collaged Fitbits, smudged impressions tracing the movement of fingerprints on a screen, and cropped streetscapes in Berlin, Seoul, and New York. Rooftop satellites, radio towers and CCTV cameras are extracted from their surroundings and examined in a detached, exacting style.
Scattered throughout, a series of six abstract works depicts shards of a circuit board splintering into ever smaller fragments – as traces of the surveillance society come into focus, so too does the digital copy of the self become increasingly nuanced. Across Gessner’s works, the restrained seduction of his visual language, executed with unfaltering precision, contrasts starkly with the complexity of the subject his camera examines. Lured into a conceptual panopticon, the viewer looks in from the edge and gazes out from the centre of the mass; at once the observer and the observed.
- 156 pages / 80 images
- 22 × 27 cm
- German / English
- Text: Ramón Reichert