Broomberg & Chanarin (ZA/UK)

Spirit is a bone

19 February 2021 - 07 March 2021
Image: Broomberg & Chanarin, [The Revolutionary], from the series [Spirit is a bone], 2013. Courtesy the artists.

Image: Broomberg & Chanarin, The Revolutionary, from the series Spirit is a bone, 2013. Courtesy the artists.


19 February 2021 - 07 March 2021




Argyle Square [i]
Argyle Square/Lygon St, Carlton
Outdoor work – accessible all hours


Wheelchair access

Due to lockdown restrictions delaying installation of this work, Spirit is a bone will now be installed on 19 February.

Captured by a facial recognition system developed in Moscow for ‘public security and border control surveillance’, the faces of Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich and a number of other Russian citizens are depicted in Broomberg & Chanarin’s Spirit is a bone.

Examining the proposed purposes and actual effects of facial recognition systems in public spaces, South African artist Adam Broomberg and British artist Oliver Chanarin have co-opted this particular surveillance device to construct their own taxonomy of portraits of civilians—categorised by their profession in an homage to August Sander—in a time of unprecedented intrusions on personal privacy.

These images provide an unsettling insight into the dehumanising quality of machines that can capture ‘non-collaborative portraits’ of unconsenting people with great precision, and the untrammelled power of a state that holds such a tool.

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PHOTO Channel

Founding Partners
  • Bowness Family Foundation
  • Naomi Milgrom Foundation
Major Government Partners
  • City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program
  • Creative Victoria
Major Partners
  • Maddocks

PHOTO Australia respectfully acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands upon which we work and live, and the rich and diverse Indigenous cultures across what is now called Australia. For over 60,000 years, Indigenous arts and culture have thrived on this sacred land, and we honour Elders and cultural leaders past and present. This was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.

01–24 March