KISSS The Kinship International Strategy on Surveillance and Suppression
  [strategies]    [events       [summit] [exhibition] [forum] [about] [contact]  

 

 

 

 

Art in Security and Security in Art
By Sara Raza


Issues pertaining to security, suppression and the demise of civil liberties are not entirely new statements being carried out by contemporary artists, evidence would point to much of the recently past 20th Century reflecting a highly critical critique of humanity’s crimes against humanity. Take for example historical and pivotal models such as Hans Haake’s sensational installation and public exposure of the, capitalist free for all, Shapolsky Real Estate scandal in New York in 1971, which led to the Guggenheim withdawing the show and firing the curator. Or Barbara Krueger’s epic billboards that decorated high rise buildings in New York to Ana Mendieta and Adrian Piper’s attack on race and misogyny to the Guerrilla Girls’ humorous and ironic hostage taking of the largely European and patriarchal art world, going from strength to strength as recently witnessed at the 51st Venice Biennale. Artists have always expressed the voice of a generation under siege, giving voice to the marginal through the emotional and intellectual discourse of visual art and culture. However, recently one bears witness to a drastic transformation in power issues that witness the clash between states of siege whereby the so-called foreign has collided head on with the domestic, peppered with a new taste for xenophobia.


Thus, marginal issues have turned full circle to reflect a colliding mainstream problem that has fast demanded full and undivided attention, both artistic and otherwise, such as the epic and tragic attacks in New York, Madrid, Beslam and London to the equal atrocities performed in Afghanistan and the ongoing war in Iraq in the name of the “War Against Terror.” Through this collision the infiltration of constrained methods of suppression and surveillance that were once exercised in more subtle fashion have taken these “worldly” issues as perfect opportunities to upgrade their tactics, albeit, more aggressively. For instance, the restrictive enforcements imposed by America’s Homeland Security, which post 9/11, has required that all Middle Eastern men living in the USA “voluntarily” comply with mandatory documentation in the form of photographing and finger printing. Across the Atlantic, Britain is seen to be lagging not too far behind the USA with the government’s bid to introduce mandatory ID cards and a much more antagonistic approach towards “foreign nationals,” which also included a similar stop and search policy, and further a more serious shoot to kill policy put into operation after the 7/7/05 attacks in London. Such measures, have largely forced artists and civilians alike to seriously deliberate over the question: whose security and freedom are we being asked to protect? The answer is of course self explanatory and highly disproportionate from all possible angles. The only beneficiaries are a privileged and elitist minority of share holders in wealth and power.


Consequently, artists across both sides of the Atlantic are being forced to reassess the dichotomy of security issues in opposition to personal freedom inspired by personal accounts of suppression or via the covert and overt rhetoric of the inhibition of countless others. What has become increasingly and acutely apparent are the ways in which artists are now re-appropriating the standard tools of suppression, utilising te