There’s a chance you may leave this exhibition more paranoid than you entered it, maybe even with the urge to fashion some sort of tinfoil hat for yourself. Because British net art pioneer Suzanne Treister’s latest works mine the bottomless depths of government control and military surveillance in our post-Snowden/WikiLeaks society.
There’s a sense of a maniacal conspiracy nut behind a lot of the work on show here. Immense flow diagrams obsessively trace lines between miners, the CIA and terrorists. An intricate charcoal landscape depicts a fire blazing at the US National Security Agency. Abstract, suprematist-like black shapes imagine hidden CIA interrogation centres. The problem is, these aren’t conspiracies, and Treister is no nut. This is all information that has become readily available on the internet, proving – as if we didn’t know! – that, yes, we are being watched, and yes, our governments probably are up to some shady shit.
The most obvious reaction is to assume that Treister is drawing parallels between spying/observation and the nature of looking at art. Certainly, a lot of the pieces here lend themselves to that interpretation. Pretty watercolours depict orchids with militaristic names, leaked government papers are drawn on and abstracted. At the exhibition private view, a miniature drone flew over the assembled crowd; a video, ‘The Drone that Filmed the Opening of its own Exhibition’, relays images taken on the opening night. It all seems to make a point about the watchers becoming the watched, about the voyeuristic nature of art. And it’s hard to not leave the gallery feeling strongly affected. You’d just better hope you look good in aluminium.