The concept of this year’s Monitoring exhibition is guided by questions about digital surveillance, tries to comprehend the possibilities and qualities of privacy, addresses political and social ideologies of the past and turns to alternative future outlooks. Despite the different artistic approaches to these topics, the search for truth and questions about the access of knowledge and its conveyance between generations runs through the exhibition like a golden threat.
In June 2013, the espionage of the US-American secret service and its allies were revealed to the public. Globalized surveillance of all communication systems including the internet were justified by Barack Obama by stating that complete security and complete privacy cannot be achieved without inconveniences. All this serves as the conceptual framework for 100% SECURITY by Jörn Röder and Jonathan Pirnay, who create a likeness of political reality – “monitored freedom”. The artists provide free WLAN, but intercept the data traffic and make it public. The ambivalence of the work makes it a central piece within the context of the exhibition, to which !Mediengruppe Bitnik with DELIVERY FOR MR. ASSANGE as well as the installation BLACKLIST by Christoph Wachter and Mathias Jud are directly linked to.
A parcel was mailed by !Mediengruppe Bitnik in January 2013 which was addressed to Julian Assange at the Ecuadorean embassy in London. The content of the delivery was a camera which filmed the entire way the shipment made and thus gave a platform to the recipient and access to the public. Hereby, the artists gave Assange back a bit of what the political activist had done for the general public by publishing secret data on WikiLeaks.
While many countries established various ways of censorship of web content, the BLACKLIST project detects shielded, deleted of banned images and content and gives them new visibility as drawings or composite sketches. Kurt Caviezel’s work NO VIDEO, a photo series of inkjet-prints which depict images of webcams not in use, also deals with non-visibility, showing not the visible as such but its replacement. The question of the authenticity of images is raised and carried on by Gilles Fontolliet who turns with his installation THE TANK, THE MAN AND THE STREET. to an image of collective memory: the protests of the population in Peking in 1989 when a men blocked the way of a tank to the Tian’anmen Square. Images and films of this action were banned. Fontolliet took these images and had a sequence produced in China in which all participants and objects were retouched bit by bit. The sequence thus ends with showing a peaceful, empty street.
The power of images, what they convey and display connects to the works which are presented at the Südflügel of the KulturBahnhof (south-wing of the main train station) where Frank Reimer will install the SITUATION ROOM. Rebuilt as a film set which was inspired by a press image, the visitor can enter a set of the room where Barack Obama and members of his government followed the assassination of Osama bin Laden. The observer may move freely within the installation but finds his image on a monitor. At the very place where Obama watches the killing of bin Laden, the artist confronts the viewer with his or her own image and thus puts the actor and observer on the same level. The abstraction of the scene turns the image into a mediator.
Gabriela Golder is also concerned with images and their depictive representation. She stages a conversation of different generations about the communist manifest in CONVERSATION PIECE. The video-triptych formally refers to art historic genres of domestic group portraits and paintings that contain moral suasion in everyday scenes. While the grandmother answers her granddaughters questions about the communist manifest, the artist hints at the need to revisit and rethink history, in this case political ideologies – while not disregarding the moral pointing finger. The conveyance of knowledge, ideas and visions from one generation to another is also the context of Jasmina Cibic’s work. FRAMING THE SPACE addresses the use of art as a demonstration of national identity by reference to the architectural redesign of Tito’s summer residency.
From the art object, the visitors are led to haptic material, which is not really present at first sight in Fabian Wendling’s installation REMIS. The room appears empty at first but quickly proves to be threatening as soon as one notices the magnets which stretch the carefully balanced rubber bands – a sense of fear is evoked quite deliberately.
Surveillance or freedom, retouching or resistance, repression or the search for alternatives – what action can be taken and what future prospects can be discussed? Those are the central topics of this year’s exhibition which shows that art has the potential to rethink alternatives.