Blog – Threads of Surveillance


Threads of Surveillance

I propose to examine the tools of surveillance, question the notion of privacy and address the meaning of civil liberties in the context of a pandemic. By the end of March 2020, nearly 3 billion people, or every 5th person on this planet, found themselves under total or partial lockdown. Quarantine enforcement, contact tracing, flow modelling and social graph-making are some of the data tools that are being used to tackle the covid-19 pandemic.

In the various states of emergency that different countries around the world are experiencing today, mass surveillance is becoming normalised. As citizens, we are asked to sacrifice our right to privacy and to give up civil liberties in order to defeat the pandemic. What happens once the state of emergency is over? Do the new rules remain in place, including normalized surveillance? Decisions taken today will influence the way we are going to live tomorrow, yet there is little discussion about this.

For this project I am interested to investigate the tools of surveillance, the notion of privacy and the meaning of civil liberties within the context of flight. Hovering on this intersection of historic appropriation and contemporary reflection, I am interested to develop ideas around tangible and intangible flying objects that conjure up various elements of surveillance mechanisms.

The initial works that I am developing as a series of embroidered drawings that reflect on the notion of surveillance. The process of making a drawing using thread refers to a surveillance trap of a kind. The associations that I am developing are those of insects being trapped in webs, like a fly trapped in a spider’s web, or images of airplanes following flight charts, or surveillance and spy maps used by pilots. The threaded and embroidered drawings might inhabit the gallery space as real and imagined lures, objects trapped in their own webs, suspended, pulled or stretched within their physical environments.

Threads of Surveillance II – Research

I am interested in researching the domains of information technology, data harvesting, surveillance and privacy-related legislation. Through the process of drawing, I am particularly interested in exploring the invisible side of surveillance and imagining the intangible elements of surveillance mechanisms. Over the past few months I have been collecting the research material from online and media sources, including newspapers, magazines and industry-specific publications, and making drawings and watercolour studies. Working in the medium of drawing allows me to be flexible and to produce a diverse range of material over a relatively short space of time.

This project is grant funded by the Arts Council of Ireland