Berlin exhibitions wrestle with surveillance via art and photography

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Berlin exhibitions wrestle with surveillance via art and photography

Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, "The Painter's Wife," 2013, from "Spirit is a Bone"

In an inter-institutional collaboration, the C/O Berlin and the Museum für Fotografie in Berlin will present three exhibitions with coordinated content. The running theme is "a satellite-to-street view of the ways in which surveillance culture blurs the boundaries between the private and public realm."

Data sharing and collating has become nearly unavoidable in the contemporary era, from algorithm-based online advertising to private cloud storage. As individuals are being carefully tracked through online technologies, so too do they follow friends and strangers on assorted digital platforms.

"How can contemporary art and media theory contribute to a better understanding of our modern surveillance society?" the exhibitions posit, prompting the viewer "to think about how we can live in a society with diverse surveillance networks without contributing to the inequalities that surveillance produces."

"Watched! Surveillance Art & Photography" (February 18 - April 23) at the C/O Berlin deals with technologies used by government and regulatory agencies as well as everyday surveillance practices and social media. The featured artists in the exhibition re-appropriate common technologies—facial recognition, Google Street View, virtual animation—and highlight pressing issues about visibility and the muddling distinctions between public versus private. Some 20 international artists engage with these themes, include Hito Steyerl, Julian Röder, Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, James Bridle, Paolo Cirio, Hasan Elahi, Jill Magid, Trevor Paglen, and Ai Weiwei.

The Museum für Fotografie, at the Kunstbibliothek–Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, hosts two separate but linked exhibitions. “Watching You, Watching Me. A Photographic Response to Surveillance” (February 17 - July 2) delves into the dynamic nature of photography as both a tool for surveillance and a means of exposing its detrimental impact.

In tandem is "The Field has Eyes. Images of the Surveillance Gaze" (February 17 - July 2). The exhibition title is based upon an anonymous Dutch woodcut from 1546 and brings together 75 prints, books and photographs that reflect the history of political and religious scrutiny from the 16th-20th centuries.

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