Watching Over U

Watching Over U I by Terrell Davis

“Watching Over U” is a series of 2 pieces focusing the inequity that police surveillance has on justice, inside and out of the prison system. It’s become a pattern seeing black people’s bodies used as entertainment online, through the constant sharing of their murders caught on camera and the responses made from them. Usually, though these cases have an abundance of video evidence, whether it’s a surveillance camera on the corner of a street, someone’s phone a couple of feet away from the scene, or a police-ordered bodycam, they never get justice and the brutal killer cops go off free to set their eyes on their next victim. It’s interesting to see blatant injustice take place when these cameras were placed or videos filmed solely for evidence, but somehow though we are constantly being watched through these lenses, it’s still not enough.

Watching Over U II by Terrell Davis

The first piece focuses on the absurdity of constant surveillance through the participation of random people off public cameras found on websites like EarthCam. These people, though walking, oblivious to the fact that people may be watching them, didn’t ask to be a part of this piece or be watched, yet the abundance of cameras everywhere make it impossible to have a sense of privacy, even in your own home (webcams can still easily be hacked into). In reality, I question, who is this really helping? I notice that though surveillance is everywhere, I rarely see it being used to bring justice to cases, mainly police killings. My question is, the videos are there, and with the way cops handle themselves in these videos, is there really a need to question them? If you’re not going to use these systems for good then what’s the point of having them there in the first place? Why use these systems when they’re convenient for them (them being the justice system)? If a person were to steal something and it was caught on camera, there would be no questions asked as it’s obvious someone stole something, so why must there be such great deliberation on footage of police brutalizing people of color? Who is teaching these police to use such brute force? I could go on for days.

The second focuses on remembering those who died unjustly in the name of racism and surveillance. If you look, you see their names, Sandra Bland, Korryn Gaines, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and countless others. Their deaths were all caught on tape through self-recording, dash or bodycams, and surveillance cameras whether inside or out of prison. These videos were widely spread, with most like-minded people believing that these videos obviously show unnecessary brutalization in the hands of the police, yet these killer cops still walk free with their jobs unscathed. Instead of showing a piece with pain, I wanted to share a lighthearted memorial to them as a reminder that their lives mattered and still do, just like all black lives, whether one is black and gay, trans, a woman, a man, nonbinary…the list could go on forever. Their lives matter, you matter, I matter. Everything needs to change.

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Terrell Davis is an 18-year old artist and curator. He is the founder of Tensquared Gallery, which he has been running since 2014 (née 100% Net Gallery), and now runs with curator Joygill Moriah. Terrell’s work focuses on the connection of his life from his childhood to who he is now, expressing themes of femininity and fantasy that he couldn’t freely express as a young boy.

The Opacity Paradox

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Yeezy Season 2 Look Book, Google Search, Screen Shot, 09/12/2016

If Kanye West had a superpower, it would be ‘the ability to be invisible.’ Despite being one of the most famous and provocative men on the planet, married to one of the most famous and photographed women, Kanye West would rather go unseen. The irony of this statement is not lost on West, and in a recent Vogue interview about Yeezy Season 4, he acknowledged his own hyper-visibility and stated that he has put ‘that longing for invisibility into the clothes.’ Through its camouflaged colour palette and oversized aesthetic, West’s apparel line seeks to express the ‘perfect anonymity’.

Kanye West is not alone in his desire for invisibility. In the highly mediated (post) internet moment, in which everything we do is so public and so accessible, it is unsurprising that trends are increasingly focused on blending in rather than standing out (see, for example, the normcore aesthetic of 2014/15 coined by K Hole). This drive might be less towards invisibility than opacity: which can be understood as a refusal of visibility. Opacity is not about disappearing (or in the case of the internet, going offline), but rather it is the conscious negation of recognition and readability.
Opacity is, essentially, hiding in plain sight, and might be achieved online through the use of a VPN or irl by wearing a mask or clothing that conceals your identity.

The 2013 Snowden leaks forced many around the globe to acknowledge and respond to the pervasive mass data surveillance that monitors almost every aspect of our digital lives. This is especially true in the art world, where strategies of opacity have gained prevalence. In the past three years the art world has seized on privacy and surveillance as major exhibition themes, with blockbuster shows such as Big Bang Data, Electronic Superhighway and the Laura Poitras solo show Astro Noise at the Whitney. These shows critique government and corporate surveillance, and promote digital privacy tactics.
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Visions


Visions by Mark Sabb

Mark Sabb, aka Mark Digital, is a net artist and founder of the FELT collective. Mark’s art focuses on themes related to gangsta rap, black history and culture, and the youth-oriented energy of hip hop. From the initial founding of FELT Mark has infused politics and protest into his brand of internet art.

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Visions is a 3D interactive website exploring the concept of mental deterioration due to solitary confinement in prisons.

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“… in 1951 researchers at McGill University paid a group of male graduate students to stay in small chambers equipped with only a bed for an experiment on sensory deprivation… The plan was to observe students for six weeks, but not one lasted more than seven days. Nearly every student lost the ability “to think clearly about anything for any length of time,” while several others began to suffer hallucinations. “One man could see nothing but dogs,” wrote one of the study’s collaborators, “another nothing but eyeglasses of various types, and so on.”

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Stuart Grassian, a board-certified psychiatrist and a former faculty member at Harvard Medical School, has interviewed hundreds of prisoners in solitary confinement. In one study, he found that roughly a third of solitary inmates were “actively psychotic and/or acutely suicidal.” Grassian has since concluded that solitary can cause a specific psychiatric syndrome, characterized by hallucinations; panic attacks; overt paranoia; diminished impulse control; hypersensitivity to external stimuli; and difficulties with thinking, concentration and memory. Some inmates lose the ability to maintain a state of alertness, while others develop crippling obsessions.”