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Volker Renner, the collector and recycler of found photographs, has tapped a new source: the website “Faces of the Riot,” which went online within weeks after the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. It gathers a large number of the faces of people who presumably participated in the assault on democracy. What makes the material explosive is that it comes from the alleged perpetrators themselves. It was they who uploaded their private shots to sites like the social media platform “Parler,” bragging about their acts before a like-minded audience. Far from serving as a gallery of profiles in courage, however, “Faces of the Riot” is effectively a contemporary version of the medieval pillory.
In the tradition of the Wild West’s “Most Wanted” posters, the site has helped the FBI elicit information on suspects. The hunters find themselves hunted. Yet this practice also raises questions of legality and concerns about surveillance by algorithms. In Potential Sightings, Volker Renner condenses the more than 5,000 “Faces of the Riot” into a portrait of horror and outrage. Focusing on the blurred pictures, he refuses to endorse the material’s forensic potential and instead underscores its inhuman and alien aspect. The phrase “potential sighting” is typically associated with beings from outer space, animals, or people who are presumed dead. The failure of facial recognition, meanwhile, suffuses the images with a painterly and abstract quality that brings to mind depictions of pain in Edvard Munch or Francis Bacon.
Published by Volker Renner and Textem Verlag
160 x 215 mm