Laura Poitras: Astro Noise

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Leaked video being screened

While I was in New York, I visited the Whitney which was featuring this exhibit by Laura Poitras. The exhibit was making a commentary on surveillance–particular post 9/11. I felt like this New York Times article best sums how the installation made me feel with the following quote: “…its character is shaped by distinctly 21st-century doubts about the moral efficacy of art in a market-intensive, ideal-averse world.” There is something uncomfortably fragile about the idea of “justice” and “surveillance” which interacting with and being immersed in the exhibition was made more real to me as a viewer (many of the pieces were interactive–such as lit letterbox peepholes providing a view of censored letters and other controversial items).

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Bed Down Location

My favourite piece was definitely “Bed Down Location” which invited the audience to lay and stare at a time-lapse of night skies in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. The piece itself invites you to look at the sky from a different perspective as looking into a seemingly clear sky-until you realise that the smoke is from the bombs and the dots are drones. It invites you to think about daily circumstances through which the people of war torn countries under-go. However, my favourite part of the piece came later in the exhibit where there is a follow up piece which shows a live infared surveillance camera of those lying down in the exhibit. The feeling of being a subject of being watched, learning that you had been watched and then being the voyuer yourself was uncomfortable and brought home what it means for you as an individual to have the world being surveyed so closely.

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Screengrab of the surveillance camera looking at visitors viewing “Bed Down Location”

Overall it was awesome to go to the Whitney and see all the cool things that they were planning. I learned from the experience that I am a big fan of immersive and interactive art. If you are interested in Laura Poitras’s stuff, the exhibit is running until May 1.

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