Surveillance art: Genre and political action

 The genre of surveillance art is multidisciplinary but it usually coheres around lens-based and sometimes performance practices. The genre arrived on the critical agenda in the 1970s and 1980s with the attention given to Foucault’s political analyses of the gaze in Discipline and Punish and The Birth of the Clinic (translated into English in 1979 and 1973). In Foucault’s terms: “Our society is not one of spectacle, but of surveillance”. This new regime toppled the scopic regimes of Western ocular centricism because it implicated everyone in the disciplinary process. Subsequently a generation or more of literature concerned with the gaze and power spawned a plethora of artwork which homed in on the disciplinary aspects of the gaze.

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