A Power Emancipated from the Human

Perhaps the most eluded promise of recent art is that it would offer us an alternative form of knowledge. The series Infrastructures, which Max de Esteban has been producing since 2016, is the exception. These long-term investigations constitute an odd excursion into the discourses, illusions and apparatuses of the new powers that have emerged from the union of economics and technique under the late capitalism.

The substance of this series is a field research into the undoubtedly narcissistic conceptual production utilized by elites in their attempts to direct the movement of capital and to create new technologies of power. De Esteban has constructed this ethnology of the global elites through a variety of rhetorical and aesthetic packagings as a negation of the routine of conventional documentaries. The combination of the unbelievable nature of their discourses and data, and the emotional intensity of their images, is difficult to categorize. Perhaps we could turn to Gustav Courbet’s concept of a “real allegory” to emphasize the way in which De Esteban understands that the accumulation of facts offers us a figuration that no imaginary or symbolic language is currently capable of giving us.



A Forest (2019), in this sense, is not only an immersion into the rhetoric of the investors who have backed the Artificial Intelligence revolution: it is a treatise on the metapolitical condition of technologies that have constituted a new class of opacity. This video is an early accounting of how capitalism and technology have engendered a Leviathan, no longer constituted by homunculi, but by a thought freed from the pretension of still being human.

Cuauhtémoc Medina


The Biocybernetic Forest. Max de Esteban, AI, and the Iconology of Thinking
By W.J.T. Mitchell

The artist Max de Esteban “asks” a machine to take a self-portrait. Not just any machine, but a computer. And not just any computer, but a computer capable of parallel processing with other computers, guided by an algorithm that uses “backpropagation of errors” to produce “Deep Neural Networks.”1 These networks insert intermediate layers of connections between the inputs and outputs […]



The Ego Is the Algorithm We Enter Into the Machine Like DNA
A Conversation Between Max de Esteban and Cuauhtémoc Medina

Cuauhtémoc Medina (CM): I would like to start with something rather basic and say that this video provokes me an absolute terror. What I perceive is the idea of an eminently gothic piece, like some kind of posthuman The Shining, in which the solitudes you reveal suggest a persecution. Did this staging of your investigation into artificial intelligence’s infrastructure demanded the theme of the forest as a labyrinth and as a place of wilderness? [...]



Max de Esteban, A Forest, 2019
Collaborators: Isabelle Hupont, Blai Tomas, Arnaud Bayle, AI investor

Max de Esteban
(Barcelona, 1959; lives and works in Barcelona)

Max de Esteban is an artist whose work focuses on the investigation of capitalist infrastructures in the 21st century. He has participated in the Yokohama Triennial (2020), the XIII Cairo Biennial (2019) and the XIII Havana Biennial (2019). His projects have been exhibited in institutions such as Jeu de Paume in Paris, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Deutsche Technik Museum in Berlin, La Virreina Center in Barcelona and Palais de Tokyo in Paris. He has a PhD in Economics and Business from the Ramón Llull University, an MBA from Stanford University and a bachelor’s degree in Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia.



Curatorship: Cuauhtémoc Medina
Texts: Max de Esteban, Cuauhtémoc Medina, W.J.T. Mitchell
Content direction: Ekaterina Álvarez, Cuauhtémoc Medina
Curatorial coordination: Ana Sampietro
Digital management: Ana Cristina Sol
Content editing: Vanessa López, Javier Villaseñor
English translation: Julianna Neuhouser
Spanish translation: Ana Andrade
Press: Francisco Domínguez, Eduardo Lomas