Noorderlicht International Photo Festival 2021: The Makeable Mind

Sound and Vision The Hague is collaborating for the first time with the Noorderlicht International Photo Festival. As part of the 28th edition of the festival, ‘The Makeable Mind’, we feature work by four artists who expressly reflect on, and make use of, online media platforms and artificial intelligence. They challenge the audience to think about value and truth in digital media, both on- and offline. With creative twists and technological innovations, they offer a fresh interpretation of visual journalism. Noorderlicht’s focus on the social relevance and impact of professional image makers and visual culture is a strong match with the ambitions of Sound and Vision The Hague. We both strive to show the public the versatility and importance of journalistic work in the broadest sense of the word, diverging from classical forms and channels.

The idea that reality is ambiguous is nothing new. But something is fundamentally changing in the way we see the world and in the way it is shown to us. Half, whole and empty truths are fired at us from all sides, and we are constantly asked to judge: what and who do we still trust? Society is increasingly struggling with the concepts of ‘truth’ and ‘reality’.

In times of new, faster and increasingly complex media, that one real truth eludes us more and more often. Whose truth is truer, yours or mine? If something is completely fake, but its consequences are real, is it still fake? And what worlds and realities arise under the influence of new media technologies?

With three commissioned works, sixteen locations and more than seventy participants, this year’s festival focuses on these forms of reality and on the parallel worlds they can produce: how is our thinking guided by a visual culture on steroids, by unprecedented technical possibilities and super-fast internet connections?


Bas Uterwijk uses neural networks to construct photographs that have never been recorded with a real camera. Portraits of people who lived before the camera was invented or of people who never existed. For the Noorderlicht Festival, he reconstructed two portraits based on data: of Andy Warhol and Vincent van Gogh.

The introduction of Photoshop in 1987 marked the end of photography as the ultimate visual evidence. In that same year, Andy Warhol died – who was famous for reusing pop culture images in his work. In ‘25

Andys’, Uterwijk uses Warhol’s face in an ironic meta- commentary on realism and originality.

There is only one known photographic portrait of the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), in which he is nineteen years old. By uploading more than 40 portraits of the painter to a neural network, Uterwijk attempts to get as close as possible to what Van Gogh may have looked like just before his death. In ‘Searching for Vincent’, he uses algorithms and subjective interpolation of Van Gogh’s (self-)portraits to reconstruct a face that has been a mystery for over a century.

Dislocations (2017-2020)


In ‘Dislocations’ Elena Efeoglou documents the gradual disappearance of the village of Mavropigi by linking images from Google Maps with photographs of the area. Mavropigi is located on the edge of a lignite mine in Greece, the largest in the Balkans, operating 24 hours a day. In order to expand, the company buys out local residents, evicts them from their homes and razes the villages to the ground.

When Efeoglou started photographing in 2017, most people had already left and the ghost villages were awaiting the demolition hammers to erase all traces of a previous life. Efeoglou’s project aims to capture Mavropigi, which has been wiped off the face of the earth, underlining the transformation of the landscape: the village only exists in the virtual world; so, although you are able to navigate its streets online, it is in fact long gone.

Atlas of the Essence (2019-lopend)


In the works from ‘Atlas of the Essence’, Lisa Hoffmann searches for new ways to talk about socio-political issues. Each work is composed around a theme and consists of between 300 and 1500 images, which she found in archives and through online research and social networks. Images that show the chaos, gaps and ambiguities inherent in traumatic events and their testimonies. Hoffmann has not only chosen the perspective of Western photographers, but also that of those directly involved.

In doing so, she breaks with the traditional concepts of news images that have become the standard since the Vietnam War. Hoffmann wonders whether a more intensive observation and study of an image can do something about the habituation and numbness we feel when seeing pictures of wars and disasters and can thus redirect our gaze to events outside our immediate surroundings.

Deep Reckonings (2019-lopend)

In 2015, Stephanie Lepp launched the narrative podcast ‘Reckonings’, which explores how people expand their political worldviews, transcend extremism, and make other kinds of transformative change. She told stories like that of a deeply conservative Congressman who became a climate advocate, a white supremacist who transcended a life of violence, and the architect of Facebook’s business model who’s since devoted his life to tackling technology addiction. Lepp had a wish list of guests -people whose personal transformations she thought would most scale into social change. Then, she discovered the phenomenon of deepfakes.

In early 2019, Stephanie released an imaginary reckoning of Pope Francis on Reckonings, as an audio prototype of what she envisioned doing with synthetic video. Lepp wrote the script, had a voice actor perform it, and explained that it was fiction. To her surprise, listeners loved it. She even heard from survivors of clergy sexual abuse who, knowing it was fake, nevertheless found comfort in it.

Deep Reckonings has evolved into a series of explicitly-marked deepfake videos that imagine morally courageous versions of our public figures. Donald Trump concedes his lies, Mark Zuckerberg questions his techno-utopianism, and Brett Kavanaugh wrestles with the way he responded to the sexual allegations against him. The videos emphasize their fakery and might be considered deepfakes 2.0 – you know it’s fake and yet it still moves you. With Deep Reckonings, Stephanie Lepp seeks to make critical self-reflection look stunning. So stunning, in fact, that we’re moved to do it and make more room for each other to do it:

28 Aug '21 - 28 Nov '21
Beeld en Geluid Den Haag