University of South Florida

College of The Arts

University of South Florida

Associate Professor Noelle Mason's work featured in Oxford American Magazine

Ground Control is a series of wool tapestries ranging from eight to twelve feet tall that depict satellite images of the U.S./Mexico border at current and historical places of conflict. The series is informed by the unique sociopolitical climate of the border and the imaging technologies used to uphold it. The electromagnetic images used in this project are collected by U.S. government satellites used for “remote sensing” of the earth’s surface. Unlike photography that attempts to mimic the function of the eye, remote sensing collects data and constructs images through a process antimemetic to human experience. Without data visualization (the process used to assign a data set with a visual representation), remote sensing exists as an intangible and invisible abstraction, a radical extension of the Cartesian worldview.

The tapestries in Ground Control are woven in Guadalajara by the workshop Taller Mexicano de Gobelinos, a collective of weavers founded in 1968, in exchange for the amount of money it costs a family of four to be smuggled across the border (about $10,000). This atelier was selected both for their location in Mexico as well as for the expertise of the weavers in Gobelin tapestry, a craft that was developed in the fifteenth century for the French monarchy to copy paintings. Gobelin tapestries can only be produced by hand. The labor that is required to produce hand-woven tapestries made them exclusive during the Renaissance and nearly extinct after the invention of the first mechanized looms, which ushered in the industrial revolution and were some of the first inventions to implement digital punch cards. Ground Control exists at this intersection of digital surveillance technologies and the history of global capitalism. It also illuminates the ways in which our desire for images and the desire for mastery by way of image-making have functioned both to facilitate and to propel the colonial project.

Noelle Mason

Noelle Mason is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work addresses the subtle seductiveness of power facilitated by systems of visual and institutional control. Mason has shown in the National Museum of Mexican Art; Orlando Museum of Art; Benaki Museum in Greece; and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. She is the recipient of a Joan Mitchell Foundation Artist Grant, Jerome Fellowship, the Florida Prize for Contemporary Art, and the Southern Prize. She is an associate professor of art at the University of South Florida.

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