Control: Annotated Bibliography

Potolsky, M. (2019). The national security sublime: On the aesthetics of government secrecy. 

The book explores the aesthetics of government secrecy and representations of the national security apparatus in modern culture. The author claims that the relationships between citizens and the state have transformed over the last decades, and the recently created National Security Agency has become closely associated with surveillance and control. The book analyzes the artistic works on the subject of surveillance created since the Cold War, including Trevor Paglen’s Code Names and Hasan Elahi’s Thousand Little Brothers. The author claims that they reflect the growing sense that the secret state apparatus devoted to protecting the nation has become so pervasive that it passed beyond the reason of measurable (Potosly, 2019). It has become so large and complex that its role and contours can only be communicated through aesthetics. Artistic representation has become a way to grasp something unavailable and unknown. In the project, these ideas can be used to analyze how and in what way the chosen media examples represent the changing nature of government security.

Monahan, T. (2018). Ways of being seen: Surveillance art and the interpellation of viewing subjects. Cultural Studies, 32(4), 560-581. Web.

The article by Monahan explores how artists rethink the relationship between people and the systems of control. The author analyzes the artworks that aim to “render surveillance visible and cultivate a sense of responsibility on the part of viewers and participants” (Mohanah, 2018, p. 564). One of such works is Dries Depoorter’s Would You Like to Report the Jaywalker which uses open video feeds from cameras at city intersections to capture individuals in the act of jaywalking. The viewers are asked whether they want to report the jaywalkers or not, which makes them involved in the system not as passive witnesses but as agents (Monahan, 2018). Monahan (2018) claims that people’s perception of surveillance changes when they recognize their role in the system and start questioning it. The more ambiguous these questions are, the more emotions and participation they produce from viewers, and the more uncomfortable they become in relation to surveillance (Monahan, 2018). Being in control of a particular instance of surveillance makes them realize their powerlessness within the larger matrix of surveillance systems. The study’s conclusions can be used to analyze how artwork uses the anxiety of viewers concerning control to create the desired effect and raise important questions.

Gill, V. (2017). Point and shoot: Operating a camera in the age of surveillance and espionage. Sunday Guardian Live. Web.

In the article, Gill discusses the role of photography in modern society and the role of cameras as a weapon of surveillance. He claims that photography is nowadays regarded not only as a means of preserving historical memories but also as a security measure and an instrument of deterrence (Gill, 2017). This idea is explored through the example of several works of modern art, among which is Hasan Elahi’s Thousand Little Brothers. Elahi’s project is a collection of 32,000 photographs depicting the artist’s daily goings-on that he sent to the FBI when the agency was investigating him. It is “a personal version of the struggle” that intends to show the viewers how surveillance has changed the way people engage with the world around them (Gill, 2017, para. 12). Gill (2017) claims that the modern culture of “fear and manipulation” is fueled by the people’s love for images and their unhealthy and even dangerous fixation with the camera (para. 14). These observations can be used in the project to explore how cameras are used for control and in the artworks to reflect the changes in modern society.

References

Gill, V. (2017). Point and shoot: Operating a camera in the age of surveillance and espionage. Sunday Guardian Live. Web.

Monahan, T. (2018). Ways of being seen: Surveillance art and the interpellation of viewing subjects. Cultural Studies, 32(4), 560-581. Web.

Potolsky, M. (2019). The national security sublime: On the aesthetics of government secrecy. Routledge.

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