The Archive of Unnamed Workers

A collaboration with Theopisti Stylianou-Lambert

2022

GAN-generated images on 35mm glass photographic slides (reversal film)

In photographic documentation of archaeological excavations in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Cypriot workers were not considered important enough to photographically portray or name. Thus, most photographic archives related to archaeology contain individual photographic portraits of foreign excavators and archaeologists, but not of workers. Usually, workers appear only when working in groups at sites or when posing in large groups.

 “The Archive of Unnamed Workers” attempts to negotiate the absences of archaeology-related photographic archives by creating numerous, fictional, portraits of Cypriot workers using Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) machine learning technology. Photographic archives by the Swedish Cyprus Expedition, John Linton Myres, and Luigi Palma di Cesnola di Cesnola, became the source material for these new, machine-made, portraits of Cypriot workers at archaeological sites. The final images are completely artificially created, and do not resemble any real workers. Instead, they pay tribute to the countless and unphotographed workers who contributed to Cypriot archaeology but still remain unnamed and unacknowledged. The artificial intelligence-generated portraits were subsequently transferred to 35mm glass photographic slides (reversal film), a technology widely used in the mid-20th century, which is almost obsolete today.