The concept of surveillance is not new. The term originated in the late 1700s during the French Reign of Terror, which followed the French Revolution. More recently, philosophers have explored how unceasing observation — constant unwavering watching — will likely shape and modify an observed subject’s behavior. In essence, this continuous monitoring amounts to a form of disciplinary power and societal control. Once the realm of the totalitarian state, many democratic governments and private businesses currently exploit surveillance technologies to collect, store, analyze, profile, share, and sell vast quantities of personal information. What implications do widespread official and commercial deployment of these technologies have on life in contemporary society? What are the consequences for those who are increasingly finding themselves to be “under control”?
No Place to Hide brings together three contemporary artists who all address the impact of “being watched.” Hasan Elahi confronts the FBI after being mistaken for a terrorist, Addie Wagenknecht shows how our devices are constantly sending out information to the “cloud,” and Aaron Zinman elegantly reveals just how easy it is to find information about yourself.
These works ask us to consider the myriad ways in which we are all under surveillance, the potential ramifications of this data collection, and how our daily electronic interactions contribute to the growing body of personal information being collected about us.
During the fall 2015 semester, students from the Scribner Seminar “No Place to Hide” will study, discuss, and write about the art on display, as well as contribute their own work, Mapping Surveillance in Saratoga Springs, to the exhibition, further demonstrating how, even here, we are all being watched.