Inverted Gaze: Watching the Watchers in a Well-Watched World panel at DNL

Inverted Gaze: Watching the Watchers in a Well-Watched World panel at DNL

As surveillance tends towards omnipresence yet invisibility, art, activism, and hacking intersect to highlight, critique, disrupt and counter the encroachments of the surveillance state and extractive personalised data economy.

Our information environment is subject to extraordinary interference. As both traditional and user-driven social media landscapes fall vulnerable to automated surveillance, disruption and trolling, and as the datasphere more broadly becomes a target and product of machine analysis and management, so the distinctions between democracies and authoritarian regimes are becoming blurred. This is further fuelled by growing influence in the sports, culture and education sectors bought by nations and corporations engaged in reputation management.

Under these circumstances, ๐— ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐˜‚ ๐—Ÿ๐˜‚๐—ธ๐˜€๐—ฐ๐—ต seeks to carve out new niches for action and engagement by inhabiting the space between art, film, academia and activism. Straddling disciplinary boundaries with hybrid forms opens up diverse information cultures and distribution channels. She will present ongoing initiative that focuses on the case of Emirati blogger, poet, engineer and father-of-four Ahmed Mansoor. In 2017, Mansoor was jailed for 10 years for a tweet that allegedly insulted the ‘status and prestige of the UAEโ€™. A few months prior, he had exposed his governmentโ€™s purchase of spyware to exploit an insecurity on his iPhone.

Behind Mansoorโ€™s personal tragedy lie power struggles within the sheikhdom and the region, the scramble for a post-oil tech-utopia, and a foreign investment strategy that implicates the UK government and affects football fans in the stadium. Alongside the development of a feature documentary, this project has resulted in academic publications, posters, a translation of Mansoorโ€™s poetry, a graffiti campaign, gallery installations, and witness statements to a UK Parliamentary Seminar.

๐—Ÿ๐—ฎ๐˜‚๐—ฟ๐—ถ ๐—Ÿ๐—ผ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ will focus on how art and hacking enable critical discourse on the erosions of unwatched spaces and uncommodified selves, reclaiming technology to enable creative expression, agency and praxis, unobscuring, averting and inverting the gaze through “sousveillance” โ€“ strategies for empowerment via monitoring and vigilance from below. He will discuss how artists and hackers employ sousveillance, both to reverse the gaze onto power structures and challenge the status quo, question normative boundaries of privacy, and reimagine agency in our data-saturated society.

This keynote addresses artivism and artistic practices in the age of surveillance and sousveillance, reflecting on critique and empowerment at the frontiers where future unfurls. Can dialogue displace defeatism? Can aesthetics embrace artifice? Can the umwelt of the underseers uphold digital rights, privacy, and democratic engagement?

ARTIVISM: The Art of Subverting Power

23 Jun 2023


Berlin (DE)