[The]Emptiness of Power

Game photography (a LOT of images),  3840 x 2160, 2021 – present.

A Game Photography project that aims to contemplate the relationship between contemporary centers of power, their algorithmic representation, and their integration into video game simulations. Today, power is closely linked not only to political geography but also to streamable, simulatable, and playable representative models as forms of entertainment. Algorithmic power centers now include structures such as Apple Park, the massive Amazon center in Eastvale, and Google’s server hubs. However, the power converged and generated by these realities flows back and influences traditional centers of power: the invasion between the meme and the politically tragic at the Washington Capitol, the narratively pop configuration of Buckingham Palace, etc. These realities relate to us as simulations of simulations, techno-phantoms of algorithmic proceduralism.

For this project, I utilized the Microsoft Flight Simulator video game (Aerosoft, Xbox Game Studios 2020), a game where players can pilot aircraft to explore simulated territories worldwide, generated using digitized maps from Bing and algorithms from Google. In-game, I visited a series of ‘power centers,’ as defined above, discovering their ontological ambivalence. While from a distance, in the sky, the simulations appear accurate, approaching them reveals their deceptive, distorted, and representatively ephemeral nature. Some of these models are geometrically distorted, others flattened to the ground, and some are even absent from where they should be. Penetrating with the camera inside these simulated models, we encounter emptiness: several lines determine the shape of the building, and some components remain levitating in mid-air, but the interior is hollow. Contemporary power, represented and simulated through the same digital tools and media with which we interact daily, presents itself as an empty structure (hence, the project’s name).


The following description refers to the printed work that I made in collaboration with Luigi Marrone, included in the volume ISIT2021 (https://www.isit.online/isit2021003/) by ISIT.magazine (https://www.isit.online/).

The textual contribution is based on the idea of a monologue, an enunciation by a narrator speaking to themselves and to the reader (us), all against the Power (you). In the disappearance of elements that the computational algorithm of the video game operates when the camera-eye approaches and penetrates digitally represented centers of power, a narrator is conceived who finds the courage to attenuate their own awareness (angry, restless) of the (unequal) force through which Power operates, controls, and dominates on the physical plane of reality. Therefore, as the pages are turned, the narrator strips power from Power by circumscribing it and gaining strength by recognizing the ephemeral nature of the digital image.

This culminates in the last blank page, where an image of a different nature from the previous ones will be inserted. On this final page, the narrator can affirm having subdued their (angry) awareness towards Power, and thus, they are no longer afraid.

Much of the text refers to concepts borrowed from ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,’ creating specific inferences in the text (propositions deduced from Shoshana Zuboff’s postulates). The work assumes a surveillance, an eye of the beholder that finally observes the algorithmic Power, which generally surveils and observes human behavior.

The narrator finally feels a sense of control through images that expose the emptiness of Power. It was decided not to include the names of the places to which the images refer; instead, the beholder is encouraged to infer/recognize these places through the text’s references.

Regarding the presentation of the text and its layout on the pages: since the images deal with the display of an algorithmic dimension, therefore mathematical and electrical, precise punctuation and typographical marks have been used. For example:

  • The equal sign (=), derived from the Latin æqualis, meaning equal but also flat, even in the sense of flat, smooth. Since many of the images are ‘flattened,’ geometrically spread on a plane, it was intended to emphasize this nature typographically.
  • The two vertical bars (||), as in electrical engineering, indicate a parallel connection of electrical components in an electric circuit. This signifies that they can be connected either in series or in parallel through electrical conductors that make them function. Many concepts and images were given a sense of contiguity, connection, and analogy by using these vertical bars.