After four years of highlighting global cultures through regularly scheduled film festivals, the museum’s Doris Duke Theatre staff were ready to explore ways to expand programming. Theater director Taylour Chang led a staff brainstorming session and one of the topics that emerged was “surveillance.”
A year later, Chang has organized CLASSIFIED, a one-week program of a talk, workshops and films that examine the intersection of art and surveillance. From J. Edgar Hoover’s sometimes illegal midcentury COINTELPRO to Facebook devouring every bit of information we post, surveillance in many forms has always been a part of modern life—only now people are aware of it, and scared of it. And the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality rules makes CLASSIFIED even more timely.
It’s also a topic that has been inspiring artists big time—think Jenny Holzer’s 2009 Redacted Paintings and more recently the 2014 New York show Watching You, Watching Me, organized by the Open Society Foundations. For the public talk on Jan. 6, Chang has rounded up a heady panel that includes NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden (via video chat) and Ben Wizner, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project discussing surveillance with artists such as Trevor Panglen, who imagines alternative futures, and Hasan Elahi, whose work was in Watching You, Watching Me.
Following the talk will be a reception that includes the opportunity for guests to have a custom tour developed for them through software that uses surveillance technologies such as face-detection and an object-detecting neural network crated by design-and-technology duo Pas de Chocolat.
The program kicks off Jan. 5 with the mother of all surveillance stories—1984, Michael Radford’s adaptation of George Orwell’s seminal novel that brought us the term “big brother.” Other films include Harun Farocki’s Eye/Machine, a probe into the creation of electronic warfare using Gulf War images taken from projectiles homing in on targets, and Risk, the latest documentary from boundary-pushing Laura Poitras (Citizenfour).
Husband-and-wife Kyle McDonald and Lauren McCarthy, New York–based artists who work with code, give the hands-on Social Hacking Workshop on Jan. 7, while Elahi leads Watching the Watchers, a workshop aimed at high school and college students and limited to just 10 spaces on Jan. 7.
It’s a fascinating program that offers the Honolulu community access to visiting artists and scholars addressing the concept of surveillance and its as-yet-to-be-fully-seen consequences on society.
See the full schedule and purchase tickets online.