Unknown Hero: About the Project
Featuring tiny human figures struggling to stand out amidst and stand up against giant techno-panoramas and machine worlds, "Unknown Hero" is exploring the struggle of workers within society in the past, present and future. It reminds us of the nameless workface that created some of the great wonders of human ingenuity still standing today: the pyramids, the Great Wall, the Panama channel, and so on. Who were these workers? We don't know, as these gargantuan projects are forever tied to the names of their masters, the pharaos, kings and emperors of our societies. It were single men who got the first stone rolling, yet without the contributions of the masses who gave their time, their energy, their health and their lives in many cases to turn a vision into a monument of society and the ruling establishment, these projects would have remained figments of the mind of the few, long forgotten. Without the contributions of those voiceless workers, fields would have remained infertile, continents unbridged and metropoles unpopulated. The unknown heroes, they are those who create, who build, develop, construct and grow in our societies.Eons have passed, our building materials have changed as much as our the fabric of our society, and yet - we know as little about the armies of workers who have constructed our modern pyramids of glass and steel as those made of basalt and limestone. And as we increasingly move society and each of our lives into the digital realm, human workers are confronted with a new world of extreme constructions, as virtuality knows no limits. How does the working individual stand out and stand up against platforms of billions and computational resources exceeding collective human power by orders of magnitudes? Even in a virtual world of incredible dimensions and speeds, we remain mere mortals defined and bound by our humanity. The depiction of humans overwhelmed by their own constructions in "Unknown Hero" is an allegory of the upcoming struggle of the worker to remain relevant in a modern society increasingly shaped and controlled by machines, robots and algorithms. We compete and are in danger to be replaced by the very machines that promised to be our salvation, as their owners remain at the top of the greatest machine of all - society. Once more, those who work at the bottom of this giant construction will remain unknown, their contributions ursurped by the masters of platforms and algorithms.
These humans are barely recognizable as indivuals due to their tiny size in the defining panoramas and their obscured poses in the intermittent close-ups of the project, their eternal namelessness as dehumanizing as their lack of faces or identifiable human features. Wearing helmets, working uniforms, covering their faces with welding masks and operating heavy machinery, these workers seem both empowered and overwhelmed by the gigantic powers that allow them to construct skyscrapers scratching the heavens. When they meld with the technology and constructions that surround them, can they preserve their humanity and individuality or become human-like robots, a cog of the big machine, a tiny wheel with no individual meaning that only achieves greatness within the modern hive hybrid of collective humanity and our technological counterparts?
Defined by a color palette of permeating blues representing technology and distinct dashes of color as a counterpoint representing the human element, the works of "Unknown Hero" are devoid of the warm earth tones and flush greens of Chris Rayn's nature work and thus represent the other side of his exploration of the human struggle in our age: if we do not strive for harmony with nature, our humanity may be devoured by our very own creations. Transferring his mastery of meticulous landscape composition onto urban cityscapes, Chris Rayn has turned modern constructions of concrete, glass and steel into visualizations of technology and digital algorithms (which they ultimately are as products of computer-aided design), defined by great symmetry and monotonous repetition only broken down by the humans populating the scene.
As we all march with increasing pace towards ever greater technological dominance amidst a ravaging digital revolution, will we be able to stand up for what makes us human and reconcile our technological advances with our nature? Each of us has a name, and it is up to each of us to let it be known. We - as construction workers, software programmers, craftsmen, farmers, designers, artists and countless others human professions - speak through our creations. It is up to each of us to stand up against the machine that threatens to assimilate us, to take control and harness these powers for the good of our nature and all of humanity.