SURVEILLANCE EXHIBIT & OPENING HOURS
The exhibit is free and open to the public April 7 – 25 from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Monday through Friday.
Ticketed Programming and Talks for Surveillance.01
— Thursday, April 3: Opening Reception: 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM FREE. Artist Talk, 7:30-8:30 PM: Hasan Elahi talks about "Tracking Transience." ($15)
— Friday, April 4: Artist Reception for Tomas Van Houtryve from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM (free). Artist Talk, 7-8 PM: Tomas Van Houtryve talks about "Blue Sky Days." ($15)
— Saturday, April 5: Brent Hoff, "Emotional Arcade," noon-4pm; Panel Discussion, 1-2 PM: "Data (In)Security, Legal Rights, and Evading Surveillance," with Susan McGregor & Axel Arnbak—moderated by Benjamen Walker, Theory of Everything podcast host. FREE. Artist Talk: 2:30-3 p.m. Gabriel Dance presents "NSA Files: Decoded". FREE.
A gallery show at the Made in NY Media Center by IFP, Surveillance.01-USA assembles works by interdisciplinary artists and investigative journalists who are appropriating the tools of, and analyzing, surveillance—camera, screen, data, and drone. Featured exhibits are:
Tracking Transience by Hasan Elahi
Blue Sky Days by Tomas Van Houtryve (Video installation April 3-5 only; projection stills April 3-25)
Satellite Landscapes and Satellite Collection by Jenny Odell
NSA Files: Decoded by Ewen MacAskill and Gabriel Dance / The Guardian US
Out of Sight, Out of Mind: A data visualization of US drone strikes by Wesley Grubbs / Pitch Interactive
Live surveillance installation via Sympler (April 3 only)
Emotional Arcade by Brent Hoff (April 5 only)
ARTISTS BIOS AND WORK DESCRIPTION
An interdisciplinary media artist, Hasan Elahi’s Tracking Transience project was born of a false accusation of terrorism. Ten years ago his name was added by mistake to the U.S. government’s watch list. When the FBI directed him to ‘stay in touch,’ he decided to cooperate and turn his life inside-out for all the world to see. He started with constant phone calls and emails to the FBI to notify them of his whereabouts. Then, he began posting photos on TrackingTransience.net of his minute-by-minute life, up to around a hundred a day: hotel rooms, train stations, airports, meals, beds, receipts, even toilets – generating tens of thousands of images in the last several years. Just for good measure, he also wears a GPS device that tracks his movements on his site’s live Google map. And as if to prove his point that “the best way to protect privacy is to give it away,” Elahi – while still being watched by the authorities, according to server records – hasn’t been bothered since.
“Intelligence agencies, regardless of who they are, all operate in a market where their commodity is information, and the reason their information has value is because no one else has access to it.” By increasing access to his information, he is both co-opting and undermining the surveilling authority’s monopoly on it. http://trackingtransience.net/
Hasan Elahi is the Director of Digital Cultures & Creativity in the Honors College and Associate Professor of Art at the University of Maryland. He is an interdisciplinary artist whose work examines issues of surveillance, citizenship, migration, transport, borders, and frontiers. His work has been presented in numerous exhibitions at venues such as SITE Santa Fe, Centre Georges Pompidou, Sundance Film Festival, Kassel Kulturbahnhof, The Hermitage, and at the Venice Biennale. Elahi was recently invited to speak about his work at the Tate Modern, Einstein Forum, the American Association of Artificial Intelligence, the International Association of Privacy Professionals, World Economic Forum, and at TED Global. His awards include grants from the Creative Capital Foundation, Art Matters Foundation, and a Ford Foundation/Phillip Morris National Fellowship. He currently lives outside of Washington, DC roughly equidistant from the CIA, FBI, and NSA headquarters. http://elahi.umd.edu
Tomas Van Houtryve, “Blue Sky Days” (Video April 3-5 only; projection stills April 3-25)
In October 2012, a drone strike in northeast Pakistan killed a 67-year-old woman picking okra outside her house. At a briefing held in 2013 in Washington, DC, the woman’s 13-year-old grandson, Zubair Rehman, spoke to a group of five lawmakers. “I no longer love blue skies,” said Rehman, who was injured by shrapnel in the attack. “In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray.”
Over the past decade, drones have become the preferred weapon of the United States military and the CIA for strikes overseas. Their use for surveillance and commercial purposes is also rapidly expanding at home and abroad.
Tomas van Houtryve attached his camera to a small drone and travelled across America to photograph the very sorts of gatherings that have become habitual targets for foreign air strikes—weddings, funerals, groups of people praying or exercising. He also flew his camera over settings in which drones are used to less lethal effect, such as prisons, oil fields, industrial feedlots, and stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border. The images captured from the drone’s perspective engage with the changing nature of war, privacy, and government transparency.
My personal work seeks to render conspicuous and intimate themes, which normally elude the mind’s eye. My preferred subjects include aspects of contemporary warfare and activities of the modern State which are notable for their near invisibility, such as drones, nuclear testing, and Cold War ideology.
Underpinning my work is the belief that human activity becomes increasingly absurd and dangerous when it looses empathy. I agree with Albert Camus when he said, “By definition, a government has no conscience. Sometimes it has a policy, but nothing more.”
Photography—with it’s intuitive presumption of veracity—is the common medium of my projects. My background in classical photojournalism informs my ethical values, though I no longer focus on news gathering. Rather, my projects often start with a nagging internal curiosity about an obscure subject, and occasionally I am seized by an obsession to understand, document and reveal that subject to a wider audience.
Internationally recognized as one of the leading photographers of his generation, Tomas van Houtryve documents critical contemporary issues around the world. After leaving the Associated Press in 2003, van Houtryve began to concentrate on large-scale projects, starting with the Maoist rebellion in Nepal. These photos earned wide recognition including the Visa pour l'Image-Perpignan Young Photographer Award & the Bayeux Prize for War Correspondents. Tomas has since been named one of PDN's 30 Emerging Photographers and POYi Photographer of the Year, and awarded an Alicia Patterson Journalism Fellowship. Tomas’s first monograph, Behind the Curtains of 21st Century Communism, was published in Spring 2012; the series won the 2012 POYi World Understanding Award. Solo exhibitions of Tomas’s work have been shown in Paris, New York City, Spain, and Italy. His pictures and writing appear regularly in publications worldwide. Tomas is a member of the VII Photo Agency. http://www.tomasvanhoutryve.com/
Jenny Odell, “Satellite Landscapes" and "Satellite Collection”
My work attempts to momentarily render humanity legible to itself by mining the surplus, latent value of secondhand imagery, mostly from Google Maps, but also from YouTube, Craigslist, and other sites. The value of this imagery has to do with the way the it happens to reflect us, obliquely and in a way more accurately than otherwise possible, in an environment so familiar it has become nearly invisible to us. The result is something like the most candid photo possible: we, and our world of things, are captured in an arbitrary moment by a mechanized camera on a satellite or on top of a car, or by a tourist who meant the photo to be of something else.
This shift in perspective can make visible to us the utter strangeness of everything, including ourselves. It creates a moment of openness, a temporary removal that allows us to see our world as the strange and specific place it has become, before the old familiarity settles back in. At best, this removal can effect what writer Walter Benjamin once described as “blasting” an image from the historical continuum, in some cases allowing us to really see it for the first time.
To be able to see this way has broad implications. Speaking about dialectical images, Benjamin gave the example of seeing an image of a bomber plane superimposed on DaVinci’s original drawing of a flying machine — which DaVinci, heartbreakingly in retrospect, envisioned using “in order to look for snow on the mountain summits, and then return to scatter it over city streets shimmering with the heat of summer.” Such a superimposition enables the realization that history is not linear and that each moment of the past existed in a field of possibilities (as in the early stages of any technology). This kind of stereoscopic vision allows us to see through the idea that things turned out the way they did because they were destined to be this way. In other words, to reopen the field of possibility in the past is the reopen that same field in the future. At a remove from things so familiar we have forgotten to look at them, we can just begin to see it: all of the things the world has not become and, most importantly, all of the things it could become.
Born just a few miles from where the Google Headquarters would eventually be, Jenny Odell studied English at UC Berkeley and Design and Technology at the San Francisco Art Institute. Odell's work utilizing Google Maps imagery has been exhibited internationally (including at the Google Headquarters) and has appeared in TIME's LightBox, The Atlantic, The Economist, Wired, Rhizome, ESPN the Magazine, the NPR Picture Show, Esquire Russia, and Die Zeit. She currently teaches a class on the social and creative implications of cell phone photography at Stanford University, and is working on a series of pieces enabled by a grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission. Odell lives in San Francisco. http://www.jennyodell.com/
Wesley Grubbs / Pitch Interactive, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind”
Out of Sight, Out of Mind is the data visualization of the every known U.S. drone strike in Pakistan from 2004 up to the end of 2013.
Since 2004, the U.S. has been practicing a new kind of clandestine military operation. The justification for using drones to take out enemy targets is appealing because it removes the risk of losing American lives, it's much cheaper than deploying soldiers, it's politically much easier to implement, and it keeps what is actually happening obscured from the world’s eyes and scrutiny. In short, conflict is taken out of sight, out of mind. However, drone strike success rate is extremely low and the cost on civilian lives and the general well-being of the population is very high. The Obama administration classifies any able-bodied male a military combatant unless evidence is brought forward to prove otherwise. This is a very grey area for policy. Possible targets could be neighbors of a target killed. Or, they may all be militants and an actual threat to U.S. interests. What we do know for sure is that targets are identified without being given any representation or voice to defend themselves.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind shines light on the U.S. military’s use of drones. It does not speak for or against, but simply informs, allowing the viewer to decide whether or not to support drone usage.
About the Data used by Pitch Interactive
The primary data used in this visualization comes from a dataset maintained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ). The BIJ is a not-for-profit organization whose aim is to educate the public and the media on both the realities of today's world and the value of honest reporting. While there were other data sources that had listings of drone strikes, the BIJ seemed to have the most unbiased collection of information.
Because the U.S. Government does not disclose strike information, the data must be manually collected on the ground by reporters. The challenge is that stories and estimates vary between sources. In cases where there are inconsistencies, a minimum and a maximum number of possible fatalities are recorded. We take the average whole number between these estimates for each attack. In a few instances there were fatalities confirmed, but the estimated number of fatalities was not obtainable. In these cases, we simply omitted the fatalities. The list of high-profile targets (the white squares) comes from the New America Foundation. The first view you see illustrates the attacks by the drones. We also wanted to give an emphasis on the victims. By clicking on the Victims link you can see an expanded view of the actual victims with the total number of attacks and fatalities for each month. http://drones.pitchinteractive.com
NSA Files: Decoded weaves together the complex political, legal, and technological questions raised by The Guardian’s agenda-setting NSA revelations. Employing all of the Internet’s storytelling tools—including video, interactives, maps, charts, text, and GIFS, the web-native feature guides readers through the revelations in an accessible, relatable, and visually compelling way. The feature was constructed to help readers understand one key question: What do the revelations mean for me?
The feature is built in a single, cohesive, scrollable format that integrates video interviews with key experts—including U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, and ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer. As the reader moves through the narrative, the videos automatically play. Decoded integrates interactive pieces throughout to help readers make sense of some of the more complex topics that the NSA revelations touch on, including: visualizing your own “digital trail,” how much metadata you generate, how many people could be caught in NSA dragnets if they became a target of surveillance. It also employs a globe that shows how information travels between countries along the world’s fiber-optic cables. Other tools include an interactive that breaks down encryption technology, the laws and legal precedents that the NSA asserts to justify surveillance, and a demographic breakdown of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA), which is tasked with judicial oversight of the NSA. The interactive elements are held together with original source documents and text-based narrative that offers background on how the story originated. All the features come together to create an innovative form of interactive documentary that illustrates complex political, legal, and technical issues in an immediate and relevant way.
By Ewen MacAskill and Gabriel Dance
Produced by Fielding Cage and Greg Chen
Video: Bob Sacha
Production: Kenan Davis, Nadja Popovich, Kenton Powell, Ewen MacAskill, Ruth Spencer, Lisa van Gelder
Additional Production: Spencer Ackerman, Kayla Epstein, Paul Lewis, Amanda Michel, Katie Rogers, Dominic Rushe
Sympler is a video mixing app that lets you mix video like a DJ mixes samples. Conduct your own surveillance and upload videos to Sympler using #surveillance01 to show your videos in our exhibit. And, on Thursday at the Opening Reception, come remix drone films captured by artists in Brooklyn and beyond. www.sympler.co (Thursday April 3 only)
Brent Hoff, Emotional Arcade
The Emotional Arcade is an interactive installation where experiencers engage in emotional competitions using a range of technologies, including modified EEG headsets and biometric sensors to determine who can feel the most. (Saturday April 5 only)
SURVEILLANCE.01-USA CURATORS BIOS
The Surveillance series is presented by the Made in NY Media Center by IFP and Screen. Curated by Anna Van Lenten and Liza Faktor. Additional programming by Media Center Director of Programming Brent Hoff, and Ivan Sigal.
Anna Van Lenten is a curator, editor, and a literary fiction writer. Her projects involve both the world of images and the world of text. As curator of the bi-monthly Half King Photography Series in New York City, she exhibits some of the best documentary photographers working today. Over the past four years, she has put on more than twenty-five shows, adding context via writings, audio, and each show’s opening night discussion with the photographer in public. The far-ranging scope of her exhibits include Becoming Chinese, by Carolyn Drake; Water of My Land, by Samuel James; Chasing Lawrence in Arabia, by Lowell Thomas; Sami: The People Who Walk With Reindeer, by Erika Larsen; Sandhogs, by Gina LeVay; and Ghosts of the Sahara, by Andrew McConnell. As an editor and researcher, Anna works on both the fiction and non-fiction sides of writing and publishing. She researched the photography for Scott Anderson’s New York Times best-selling Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East. And among the critically acclaimed fiction manuscripts she’s worked on are Kim Purcell’s Trafficked; Tiger, Tiger by Galaxy Craze; By the Shore, by Galaxy Craze; and More Bread, or I’ll Appear, by Emer Martin. http://about.me/annavanlenten/#
Liza Faktor is a visual documentary producer and curator. She is the content director and co-founder of Screen, a visual documentary production and distribution company, with Frank Kalero, Jamie Wellford, Ivan Sigal and Bjarke Myrthu. She was the founding director of the Objective Reality Foundation in Russia (2001-2012), a non-profit that supported long-term photography documentation and produced [OR] EDU, an innovative online educational project that provided multimedia training to over 1000 journalists and editors. She was a co-founder and director of Agency.Photographer.ru (2005-2007). Liza has curated over 20 exhibitions, including Stories of Life: the best of multimedia journalism (2013), the 4th Photoquai Biennale in Paris (2013), Projections of Reality (2010), Affects Me. Affects Everyone, an art project on HIV/AIDS (2006), Together, Apart, InterFoto’s 10th anniversary festival (2004), Rivers of Northern Asia (2003), Kavkaz. Photographs from Chechnya 1868-2002 at the Dutch Resistance Museum (2002), and City of Warmth, an exhibition project in Siberian urban environments (2001). She is a recipient of the Howard Chapnick award in picture editing and has served on juries worldwide including the World Press Photo multimedia jury (2014).
ADDITIONAL PROGRAMMING BY:
Brent Hoff is a writer, filmmaker, and co-founder of Wholphin, the DVD publication for which his filmed contributions include drunk bees, crying competitions, and illegal trans-border volleyball matches. He is the Programming Director at the Made in NY Media Center by IFP. He is the author of a book on pandemic disease transmission and has contributed news segments on “The Daily Show.” His feature script El Diablo Rojo was awarded a Tribeca Sloan grant and the 2011 FIND filmmaker grant. Filmmaker magazine named him one of 2012’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film.” He is presently at work on Robots In Residence, an interactive art project, which is the world’s first documentary shot and directed entirely by robots. His script on the last days of Ol’ Dirty Bastard is in preproduction.
Ivan Sigal is a media producer, digital media theorist, and photographer. He is the executive director of Global Voices, a nonprofit online global citizen media initiative, and supports similar initiatives around the world. He is a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. He writes, teaches, and speaks about media, conflict, networked societies, development and humanitarian disasters. Ivan spent over ten years in the former Soviet Union and Asia, where he designed and implemented dozens of media assistance projects, and has lived, worked and traveled in over 80 countries. As a photographer, he works on long-term, visual storytelling projects. He is the author of White Road (Steidl, 2012), based on eight years of photography and writing about Central Asia and Russia.