Photography Exhibition

The Art of Spying

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The debate about surveillance and personal privacy has reached new dimensions in the digital era.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • “Watched! Surveillance, Art & Photography” opened February 18 and runs to April 23 at C/O Berlin at the America Haus in Berlin.
    • It features the work of artists like Julian Röder, Viktoria Binschtok, and Esther Hovers, with the work of internationally recognized artists like Hito Steyerl, Trevor Paglen, Jill Magid, Hasan Elahi, Paolo Cirio, Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, James Bridle, and Ai Wei Wei.
    • “We take permanent observation and data sharing for granted as a normal part of our everyday lives,” the curators say.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf
76762012 Spying Exhibition – Edu Bayer
Displays include photographs of devices left abandoned in the former Gadhafi intelligence facilities in Tripoli. Source: Edu Bayer

In times of great technological change, constant interaction on social media and omnipresent portable devices, millions of people are both the unconscious victims and perpetrators of intrusive surveillance practices. By simply using Google Maps, downloading apps, or sharing information with friends on Facebook or Twitter, we risk our privacy.

A new photography exhibition in Berlin reflects upon these modern vulnerabilities and the different forms of surveillance throughout history. “Watched! Surveillance Art & Photography,” organized by the c/o Berlin Foundation and hosted by the America Haus, assumes a particular meaning given its location.

Berlin was rife with spies and surveillance conducted by the secret police of two authoritarian regimes during the 20th century: the Nazi regime’s Gestapo, and the German Democratic Republic’s Ministry of State Security, or Stasi.

Given these historical precedents, the recent debates and sensitivities when it comes to spying, public surveillance and data collection in Germany come as no surprise, especially after the 2013 revelation that the U.S. National Security Agency was even tapping Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.

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