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.