Monday, 29 October 2012

Surveillance Blog Post 2

Art and Surveillance: What is Art?

I believe that Art is subjective and is up to each individual to decide what Art really is.

"Art completes what nature cannot bring to finish." - Aristotle

"Art is the most intense mode of Individualism that the world has known." – Oscar Wilde

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." – Pablo Picasso

"Art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can only be explored by those willing to take the risks." – Mark Rothko

Last weekend, a Mark Rothko painting exhibited in the Tate Gallery was defaced by a Russian man. The Russian stated that he is not a vandal, and that “Art allows us to take what someone’s done and put a new message on it.” He added that we should now “abandon and live art” and said in his defense that he was acting in the name of Yellowism. I had to look up Yellowism, as I did not know the exact meaning. I came across which includes a manifesto. Yellowism is an art movement, which states that "Yellowism is not art or anti-art," it is “an autonomous phenomenon in contemporary culture" which is "derived from the visual arts and despite this fact, is not classified as art, what is in accordance with its essence". Yellowism "brings together, in the surprising way, works presented before in the well known galleries, transforms them into the pieces of Yellowism". Once a work of art is tagged as Yellowism, it becomes a form of Yellowism and whatever original meaning the work had is removed.

This raises many questions such as: what is Art? Did the defacing of the Rothko painting add value? Is the Russian man an artist, vandal or a criminal? Should we put Art under constant surveillance and security measures? It is difficult to comprehend why the vandal didn’t just create his own piece of art and call that Yellowism, instead of vandalizing another’s hard work? He even suggested that he increased the value and worth of the painting! In regards to the issue of security at the Tate, the Russian man was shocked that he was actually able to walk out of the Gallery without being stopped. This shows that security at the Tate needs to be reinforced. However, there is already so much security and surveillance in place to ensure the viewers of the art do not get too close. For example, the rope sectioning off artwork and the guards and ushers who tell us if we get too close is for the artworks own protection. On the other hand, this protection can sometimes prevent the viewers from enjoying the art.

Initially, what came to my mind on this issue was a series of essays by Susan Sontag called “On Photography” in which she examines photography in relation to art. She argues that people should enjoy that moment in time, instead of taking a photograph of it. She says that “The painter constructs, the photography discloses.” She deems photography as an abomination stating that photography is parallel to that of stealing and theft, as when you are taking someone’s picture, you are taking a part of their morality. For example, “To take a photograph is to participate in another person's mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time's relentless melt." This is what I believe that the Russian man has done to the Rothko painting. By defacing it and putting his own tag onto it, he has stolen its original identity, which can never be replaced.

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Surveillance Blog Post 1

Banksy, London.

Big Brother is watching you. You are being watched. George Orwell's depiction of a totalitarian world in Nineteen-Eighty-Four was way ahead of his time… and he got it spot on! In today’s society there is a constant threat of CCTV security cameras invading our personal space and freedom. We have all seen and read the relentless signs “CAUTION: C.C.T.V In Operation.” In Brent Cross, my local shopping centre, I have read signs stating, “SMILE: You’re on camera!” which makes people aware that they are being surveyed and scrutinized. It seems as if the government is trying to make a joke about it, to make it seem light hearted in a way. Yet there is nothing light hearted about the fact that we, the people, are being constantly watched and surveyed by Big Brother, the government. Somewhere, right now, you are being watched by cameras, spies.  Who knows where its stops…an artificial/ alien intelligence perhaps? Who knows?!

So why are we accepting this oppressed way of life? We have no freedom, no private space and each individual’s personal rights are being compromised. Well the government would say that CCTV cameras are in place for our own security and safety. To deter criminals by making them feel as if they are being watched. If a crime is committed then the CCTV cameras can be used as evidence in a court of law. I had Jury Service this whole summer, and in my cases I was shocked to realize how little CCTV cameras actually helped in convicting criminals. The CCTV footage from the security cameras was absolutely useless! Most cameras were not switched on, many were faulty and did not work while others where pointing in the completely wrong direction and in strange angles. I therefore came to the conclusion that CCTV cameras are ineffective. They do not deter criminals, it is extremely hard to prosecute criminals with the lack of CCTV evidence and they do not make me feel safer as a women walking along the street in the daytime, let alone walking home alone at night! It was interesting to discuss in the seminar that more women feel safer with the presence of CCTV cameras than man, showing how space is gendered. Men feel as though they lack control and become emasculated as the power of scrutiny shifts and the men no longer have control of the power of looking.

I have read 1984 for my English A Level and have found some interesting quotes that follow on from my entry:
“War is peace
Freedom is slavery
Ignorance is strength”
- Official slogan of the Party. 

“In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy.”

“Freedom is the freedom to say that two and two make four. If this is granted, all else follows.”

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