Digital Art Surveillance Privacy

We had a chance to visit the really thought-provoking exhibitions at the Kelowna Art Gallery and look more closely at “Monitor”, a group video installation project produced by UBCO-BFA students that investigates issues of surveillance. Let’s think about the exhibition and reflect on the following questions stemming from class readings on this topic:

  • What is the status of the work or art in the post-Internet era?
  • What are the implications of mass media and the screen becoming our communal spaces, as Vierkant (2010) puts it?
  • How has the internet transformed our concepts of original and copy?
  • What is your take on Manovitch’s (2001) program to resist the “digital attack” (pp. 2-7)? Is “Monitor” such a response?
  • Finally, what is your response to the way in which “Monitor” addresses issues of surveillance and privacy?


Artie Vierkant – The Image Object Post-Internet (2010)

A project on Language Removal Services


Browse Luigi Amato Volume (2014)

Lev Manovich – Post-Media Aesthetics (2001) – The Piracy Project (“The Impermanent Book“)(2012)

Photo credit: made by Cody Sampson with maya & after effects ( )


4 thoughts on “Digital Art Surveillance Privacy

  1. Moved by Art as a Basis for Aesthetics

    The installation “Monitor” inadvertently continues the age-old discussion: what is art and what is its purpose? Although digital art is accepted in this century as part of the art spectrum, it is still rare to see this type of art in a public gallery. As forward thinking as the Kelowna Art Gallery is, it would be unusual to see a digital installation in the main gallery, and so we witnessed on Thursday – and therefore participated in – the public debate concerning digital art in a post-internet era.

    I am reminded of a set of questions that I ask myself about meaningful art, regardless of its form or arbitrary genre. These questions, although not asked formally while viewing, are non-the-less part of my mindset when experiencing art, whatever the genre. The reflection inside my head goes something like this: How was I moved? What are my emotions, why am I moved? What has the artist shown me in a new light? Does this change my views on a topic? Is something deep inside me being validated; am I moved that this feeling has been expressed so perfectly and publicly by the artist? These informal questions are part of how I interact with art, and how I proceed through my world after being inspired by art.

    I was moved by many of the digital pieces in “Monitor”. The one titled “home invasion” caused a feeling of guilt, due to invading their privacy as a voyeuristic looker. One piece targeted a girl in a coffee shop, locking onto her face with facial recognition capabilities in order to make a sale to her on her personal cell phone; this made me feel scared, my heartbeat increased and my adrenaline pumped. Being moved in these ways, helps me recognize this art as meaningful.

    The purpose of art should be at the core of informing the aesthetics of art, and how we categorize and organize art in order to discuss it. Manovitch suggests a “program for Post-media aesthetics” (p. 4) that includes “how a cultural object organizes data and structures user’s experience of this data” (p.5). This focus on data makes his suggested system of organizing digital art seem overly complicated and informed by computer science, rather than informed by a humanities generated definition of art. For me, Manovitch places too much emphasis on “software” and its functions, which he admits “shifts the emphasis from media/text to the user” (p. 8). This focus on software capabilities puts emphasis on the artist (user of the software). I think that a system for post-media aesthetics should be closely linked to the material used for production, regardless of individual software capabilities and how the data is organized.

    In watching the children at the gallery create their own art inside the space where computer screens depict art, it is doubtful that their generation will question the validity of digital art. I hope they will see all meaningful art as something that can move them as individuals and as a society, in ways that cause them to see the world in a new light. I am confident that they will find ways to discuss the aesthetics, organized into uncomplicated categories that are organic to arts purpose.


  2. The landscape of art and culture is continuously changing, and “Monitor” is an example of how it has evolved. The term art is and always has been subjective. During his career Van Gogh was given little credit towards his work, it was not considered artful. Now, if you ask someone to name just one famous artist, the name Van Gogh will undoubtedly be on most lips. Is “Monitor” and digital art the way of the future? I cannot say. Technology is rapidly evolving and fads cycle through our present-day culture so quickly that it is hard to predict what will be lasting.
    The themes presented in the “Monitor” pieces, are a reminder that we are being constantly monitored. Through surveillance cameras to the fact that our web searches are saved and sold by companies such as Google to make a profit, it makes you wonder what level of privacy do we actual have? The video of the girls dancing in their kitchen I think really pushed this issue. In our pockets are surveillance devices, and the act of sharing online has become so commonplace that little thought is actually given to any repercussions. Being monitored has become like white noise in our society. We are aware of it, but it is often pushed to the back of our minds. Exhibitions like “Monitor” remind us that that our lack of privacy is prevalent and real and asks us to question; is this okay? Is this normal?


  3. I remember being one of those people who only viewed traditional forms of art that have identifiable figures in the pieces and that they are made from traditional mediums: canvas, paint, paper, pencil, pigmented India inks, and so on.

    As I progressed with the course FINA 171 and CMNS 130 the idea of digital art and abstraction has broadened my view as what I accept as art. Being able to design abstract art and learning art theory I realized that excluding cruelty to animals or human most anything could be considered as art.

    The trip to the Kelowna Art Gallery reminded me of this when we went to view Monitor. It was art because it was an exhibition to provoke thought. It brought forward the idea of being constantly monitored.

    Even in our place of privacy, we are being monitored and this was brought forward by the piece called Home Invasion. The idea behind the piece was that you had to be careful with connected technology because someone could get ahold of it and the next the seemingly private moments could be pasted all over for a public viewing.

    This exhibition also made me want to safeguard what information that is left to keep private–private. Even simply by being knowledgeable about how I use my technology at home, but not going so far as to become paranoid, and a shut in. Just to be cautious and aware while I am in my private space.


  4. Going to the Art gallery was a very interesting experience for me, I have not been too interested in traditional Art but the “Monitor” exhibit really intrigued me. Prior to visiting the Art Gallery I was reading an article about how even Mark Zuckerburg is putting tape over the webcam and microphone of his MacBook.

    This really brought to my attention that being “monitored” is an actual problem is society today, not only for Tech Billionaires but for everyday people. The exhibit really showed how anyone can peek into your day to day life and see what you’re actually doing. This spoke to me, with the growth of social media and the obsession of sharing our every move we have given up our privacy. For some this doesn’t bother them, “if they want to look, let them look” but for some this is a serious concern. I personally have not gone to such an extreme of taping over my webcam, but I do exercise some personal censorship when posting online. Posting content that I am okay with anyone seeing at any time is a smart way of maintaining privacy. I believe that privacy on the internet is strongly in the hands of yourself, do not post content that you do not want to be seen.


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