Curated by Rebecca Uchill and Mark Sarosi
Priska C. Juschka Fine Art
Fifty-four years ago, George Orwell wrote his groundbreaking novel 1984. The book’s frightening conception, of an omnipresent, all-powerful government that is able to control people’s actions and even thoughts, has since been summarized by the well-known phrase "Big Brother is Watching You." In a thought-provoking group show at Priska C. Juschka Fine Art, entitled No, Trespassing, twelve artists examine the notion of contemporary security systems and Big Brother’s supervision of the public domain anew.
While the artistic approaches differ immensely and include sculpture, multi-media, installation, photography, works on paper, and video, one question seems dominant: does society embrace or fear the icons of public safety? In times when New Yorkers have become used to heavily armed military forces in any major subway station, this topic seems hotter than ever. But obviously this is not a local or an American problem, and the artists’ multi-national backgrounds help to open a wide forum for discussion.
In her work "Blind Spot," Norwegian artist Vibeke Jensen provides the viewer with a spy-compatible mirrored column from which the viewer can observe the gallery space without being discovered. Or so it seems. A camera installed on the column’s ceiling records each movement inside the hiding spot and simultaneously plays it on a monitor elsewhere in the gallery. In a simple yet poignant fashion that is reminiscent of Japanese sculptor Yayoi Kusama, Vibeke’s focus is on the oxymoron of endless control chains: who watches the one who is watching?
Photographing Californian police officers meditating, Mexican artist Yoshua Okon creates images which startle through their surreal content. By portraying these guardians of society in an offbeat moment, Okon calls for a rethinking of the status and authority attached to their profession.
Far from meditative is a radical work by Brock Enright. For a few thousand dollars, Mr. Enright provides interested customers with their own staged kidnappings. The unusual experience includes a tolerable amount of physical abuse, as well as some violation of the clients’ property. In addition, a documentary videotape is handed later to the released "victim" as souvenir. Equally as interesting as this obscure form of performance art, which adds an aspect of fetishism and sexual fascination to the (controlled) loss of security, is the media attention that the artist has received. Covered by various national and international television stations, Enright’s project demonstrates that submission is not only intriguing to those involved, but causes a nearly obsessive fascination in parts of the general public. On view in the gallery are various props and video footage from several of Enright’s kidnappings.
Bill Brown, who puts together performances for surveillance cameras in public places, introduces a different form of organized activity. Attempting to unmask the hidden recording devices, Brown leads walking tours through heavily guarded neighborhoods. For No, Trespassing Brown has constructed a map of the Williamsburg area, including the location of ninety-four surveillance cameras of which only four were installed by the New York Police Department. To learn more about how, why, and by whom these cameras might be used, information on Brown’s insightful tours can be received through the gallery.
If one would like an overdose of surveillance cameras before leaving the exhibition, Mark Sarosi’s sculpture "Panopticon" offers the perfect opportunity. Using multiple camera gimmicks whose purpose is not to record but simply react to any movement, Sarosi literally creates a surveillance wall. "Panopticon" comes to life as soon as one enters its space and finds oneself confronted with a number of nervously buzzing lenses. Pushing the supervision nightmare to extremes, Sarosi not only explores the illusion of safety, but further points out the psychological effects these have on us.
Other artists featured in this important exhibition include Jeremy Hobbs, whose light box photo captures the beautiful distortion of a firearm in the moment it is being electrocuted, as well as Nin Brudermann, Sue de Beer, Constant, Erik Stein, J.S.G. Boggs, and Reid Speed.