Unseen Skies: Seeing Makes Meaning

Do you ever get the feeling like you’re being watched? Unfortunately, you might not be wrong.

Written and directed by Yaara Bou Melham, Unseen Skies follows Trevor Paglen, an artist who’s dream remains launching a work of art into space. However, throughout the course of his journey, Paglen uncovers the realities of global surveillance that shape and impact our lives in countless unseen ways.

Wild and chilling, Unseen Skies is a terrifying exploration of the nature of surveillance in our culture. With insightful observation, Bou Melham takes the opportunity to explore the extensive ways that governments shadow the general population. With an endless parade of satellites in orbit, Skies depicts the… well… skies above as a place where the public is not meant to tread. Paglen’s attempts to launch his own satellite are met with ire and even threat. To invade such territory is to uncover the secrets of those in power—and this is not a welcome proposition.

Of course, what’s most terrifying about the film isn’t only the nature of government control but rather the ways that we voluntarily offer up our personal information. Through social networking sites such as Google, Facebook, Instagram and many more, the nature of privacy has entirely evaporated by our own doing. With every moment of our lives now a moment of public record, Skies argues that we have willingly given up our anonymity. 

And, frankly, in a world where we Insta-Face our every move and snap pics of every meal, it’s hard to debate that point. 

However, rather than simply focus on privacy issues, the film also manages to explore the ways that we create meaning through language. By using AI technology, the director visually exemplifies the innumerable items that we unconsciously identify at any moment. In this way, Skies believes that, by allocating values system to our descriptions of others, we instinctively create divisions and judgments upon them. In this way, our minds are wired to do exhibit the same sort of behaviours that we fear from government satellites. Instinctively, our minds make conclusions based on appearances, gender and other unconscious biases. In doing so, the film calls for viewers to both identify and disseminate the ways that we personally make meaning of the world around us. 

After all, if AI is shaping the way we interact with the world, the responsibility to fight back lies with us.

Nevertheless, to say any more about Unseen Skies would be to give away some of its secrets. What one does need to know though is that Bou Melham’s film is riveting, honest and asks some fascinating questions about the way that we make meaning. These Unseen Skies need to be seen to be believed.

Unseen Skies is available in theatres now.

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