IS THE TERM “PRIVATE CITIZEN” OBSOLETE?
by Alexandra Tursi
In every introductory art history class, students learn about “the gaze,” that is, who is watching who and when, how and why they are watching. As humans, we have endlessly gazed at one another. That gaze is politicized when it is the state focusing its lens on its people. I came face-to-face with this on a recent trip to the Terror House Museum in Budapest, Hungary, a space dedicated to exploring the state’s obsessive drive to monitor its own people.
Today is no different yet, the nature of technology has changed the power dynamics. We live in a modern, networked society, in which state and non-state actors alike may gaze into the minutiae of the everyday man and woman and the everyday man and woman are more than willing to supply information (think of all those Facebook status updates!).
Such is the philosophical jumping-off point of a thought-provoking new exhibit at the Helen Day Art Center. Titled simply “Surveillance Society,” the show explores themes of privacy and safety, security and freedom, and the public and the personal through the works of seven artists — Hasan Elahi, James Bridle, Marnix de Nijs, Adam Harvey, Eva and Franco Mattes and David Wallace who work in multiple media, including digital, video, textiles, found art/object and photography.