Selected by Unseen Platform
Max Colson’s latest project takes its name from the imperious task known as ‘The Knowledge’, a test assigned to London’s prospective black cab drivers that requires them to memorise the city’s sprawling street networks by heart. As new technologies become further entrenched in our daily lives, the value once attached to human memory has declined, and the skills needed to acquire ‘The Knowledge’ no longer hold such precedence. One such technology is Lidar, which fires beams of light to and from surfaces and objects to create sophisticated 3D renderings of the built environment. This technology could soon undermine the painstakingly acquired knowledge of taxi drivers if and when it is incorporated within the programming of self-driving cars.
In London Knowledge, Colson uses this same technology to create images that question the limits of what might typically be conceived as photography. Detailed outlines of cars, buildings and streets are formed from thousands of rough but precise constellations of points yielded by the Lidar process. These spectral images retain a strong photographic quality, both in their technical processes as well as their visual attributes. It is within this framework that Colson’s practice is situated, employing anything from composites of photographs and computer-generated images to animation software to break away from rigid definitions of the photographic medium. ‘I’m very interested in the types of media that are exploding the lens of what is deemed photographic.’
All but two of Colson’s recent projects take London and its fractured socio-economic landscape as a focal point. Born and raised in the city, his work provides a critical exploration of the mechanisms responsible for the city’s housing market and its hostile living conditions. By employing the very same technologies used by real estate developers and architects to scan sites before they are redeveloped, London Knowledge gives a tactful critique of their methods, whilst exposing the material losses made when data is accumulated from technology rather than humans. Colour, movement, noise, Colson’s work is as much about delineating what is not visible, as what is. ‘I want to find ways to make work that draws attention to the limitations of these tools and how they record.’
The 3D scans depicted here form just part of the wider London Knowledge project. In 2018, Colson also produced a short film, from which these scans were taken, which contains oral testimonies given by black cab drivers as they recall memorable or significant journeys through the city. Layering these voices over the ghostly visuals, the project points out stark oppositions between nature and artifice, analogue and digital.