Surveillance Show coming up next week!
The work for the next show I’m part of is on the topic of surveillance for Bearing Witness: Surveillance in the Drone Age curated by Hanna Regev and Matt McKinley as part of the SF Art Festival at Fort Mason. For the first time my husband Chris Saari and I are doing a truly collaborative piece. He’s helped me with tech before, but this is the first time we’ve both been in on the concept from the very beginning and it’s exciting. Over the last year or two articles about advances in tech have prompted him to say “hey, we should make art about this”, leading to conversations about what that art might look like. When I was invited to a show on the topic it seemed a perfect time to realize some of those ideas.
For this project we will be tracking the movements of people throughout the gallery space using the signals from their cell phones. Department stores and malls are already buying and using systems to do just that. Unlike them we aren’t saving any IDs or using any of the data in any way other than to display it in the gallery. Your local mall has no compunctions about that though. It was interesting to both of us because often what people are terrified of (drones, the NSA, Google Glass, etc.) isn’t what is the greatest threat to their privacy- it’s what we are complicit it. We voluntarily carry tracking devices around with us all day every day (cell phones) that broadcast our information. We post our pictures and private lives on social media. We use email and search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc.) that make a business model out of selling our data. It seemed the thing to draw attention to.
I also brought back a project I had put on the back burner while I did a series of larger installation works for shows and commissions. It involves creating a portrait of people using the targeted ads that appear throughout the day on their computer. These ads are the result of collected data on what we do online: searches, purchases, what sites we visit, and even the content of our emails and social media posts. Some of them are simply targeted at the audience of specific websites rather than being as personally tailored, but they are all targeted. Together they present an image of what those corporations think we want and who they think we are based on our online activity.
I’m excited about the show, and it’s part of a much larger collective SF Arts Festival, so if you are in the area, please come by. The opening is next Thursday for the festival as a whole, with a special event for the Bearing Witness show on the 27th.