Illicit images (2001)

"Illicit Images" are images taken from everyday Web pages then reduced to anonymous and indistinct visual static. Using data encryption technology, the artist experiments with the structure of these images in a programmatic and transparent fashion.

Full Description

This Web site displays thumbnail-linked galleries of images collected from the Internet. The pixel data in each image was encyphered using the strongest cryptographic algorithms, resulting in images that appear to be composed of random static.

Great care was taken to insure that the original images can not be recovered, especially through coercive methods. The images were collected in a "clean-room" environment from various deeply linked locations using a Web browser with its URL display areas obscured from view and with image display support disabled. An encrypted redirection service was also used to insure that no useful ISP or similar logs were recorded during collection.

Each image was selected based on its promotional context, encyphered using a unique properly randomly generated key, and compressed. The keys existed only long enough to perform the encryption. The images were compressed using a scheme that preserved the visual appearance of the ciphers. The software used was improvisationally composed from code extracted from various open-source net repositories.

The encrypted and compressed images were transferred to the Web site, and finally the hard drive in the computer used for collection and processing was destroyed. The artist never viewed the original images (in some cases images were made visible to the artist during collection due to the design characteristics of the associated Web sites, and these images were specifically rejected).

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