Project Room 

Fine Art Complex 1101 is proud to present A Matter of Public Record: Art in the Age of Mass Surveillance

Opening Reception:Saturday, May 4th 7-9:30pm.

“There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brain washing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution.” – Aldous Huxley

A Matter of Public Record is an exhibition that examines the many ways that we are watched, surveilled, datamined, and placed within an overdetermined system of social control that rely on the multiplication of mechanisms of “capture”. Whether we are capturing ourselves in selfies, tagging our locations, using GPS supported apps for directions, or just passing through the expanded techniques associated with “societies of surveillance”, we must admit that we have entered a new age. Something akin to a hybrid vision of the imagined futures of Huxley and Orwell, it seems that we have been lulled into a kind of somatic state of passive acceptance with regard to the growing infrastructures of both physical discipline and neo-panoptic power, i.e., the mechanisms of self-regulating techniques.  As these networks continue to grow, and to reinforce the corporatization of mass incarceration, the naturalization of detainment camps, the ease-of-use associated with drone warfare, and even the militarization of the policing practices, we find ourselves entering a new period of governance that Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri deemed “Imperial Democracy”.

As a response to these changing historical conditions, the works included in A Matter of Public Record play with the meanings attributed to the term “record”. In the original Latin, the term corcord originally meant “heart” and its slow transformation into recordari, or “to remember”, referred to the need to give oral testimony in court “by heart” rather than “by the head”. In other words, the emphasis was on the empathic or beloved notion of finding the “truth of the matter” rather than merely providing an intellectual record of the dispute at hand. 

Thus, the metamorphosis of the term into old French as “recorder” referred to an “accounts keeper of remembrance”, or to the idea of a special functionary in government whose sole charge was that of bringing things forward “to be remembered” in judico-legal proceedings. Of course, this new use of the phrase was related to the dawn of the Enlightenment, which demanded that the facts of “the matter” be written down and testified to through intellectual observation and rigorous argumentation, absent the motivations of the heart or emotions. 

Finally, in the modern period of middle English the term took on a new inflection as both a transitive and an intransitive verb, the first meaning of which was to furnish evidence while the second meant to record something, be it an act, action, etc., by purely technical means. This, of course, is the post-Enlightenment horizon against which the works in A Matter of Public Record cast their conditions of inquiry.

As such, many of the artists in the show play with both the transitive and intransitive meanings of the word record. This includes addressing the kinds of questions that accompany the loss of ballast attached to heartfelt testimony in light of the greater weight that now is given to practices of prescriptive profiling, predictive analytics, facial recognition software and the ever-expanding digital dossiers of big data. Thus, the works in A Matter of Public Record illuminate both the conflicts and contradictions of the body socius, or even of the social fabric in total becoming something like a collective-correlative subject that is now circumscribed by a multiplicity of documentary apparatuses.

As a result of these conditions, or rather these new types of conditioning, the woks in this exhibition explore the paradoxes that adhere to living in a world of self-regulating techniques, one well beyond the merely “interpolative” mechanisms that Althusser described in his theory of being “hailed” by repressive and ideological state apparatuses, or even the Foucaultian notion of bio-power as the totalizing exercise of power over life through practices of governmentality. In fact, the artists in A Matter of Public Record give us a first look at this New World that we all must Brave less we become not just subjects who routinely internalize the conscriptions of state power, but rather, who are pictured as a growing statistical multitude that has simply forgotten not to collude in our own coercion. As such, the works in this exhibition provide a critical rejoinder to the debates about the democratic enterprise becoming an imperium of intractability.


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