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City Gallery Wellington presents Eavesdropping

22 August

They’re listening … but so are you.

City Gallery Wellington presents Eavesdropping.
On now until 17 November 2019 | Free entry

City Gallery Wellington presents Eavesdropping—an exhibition that explores the politics of listening in our post-Snowden moment. But it isn’t just about big data, surveillance, and security, it’s also about our personal responsibilities as earwitnesses.

Co-curator Joel Stern says “One of the unique features of this project for me as a curator, has been working in collaboration with James, a legal academic. This has allowed us to intervene in sonic art by shifting from the production of sound to the laws and politics of listening.”

Eavesdropping explores diverse technologies (audiotape, radio telescope, networked intelligence) and politics (surveillance, settler colonialism, detention). Melbourne artist Sean Dockray stages a philosophical dialogue between an Amazon Echo, a Google Home Assistant, and an Apple Homepod. Meanwhile, Fayen d’Evie and Jen Bervin (with Bryan Phillips and Andy Slater) present research into ‘cosmic eavesdropping’, scrambling accounts of individuals dedicated to listening for extraterrestrial signals with relevant field recordings.

For the curators James Parker (Melbourne Law School) and Joel Stern (Liquid Architecture), it’s an exciting project to bring to New Zealand. “We’re thrilled to presentEavesdropping on a grander scaler in New Zealand—even though the show was first presented in Australia, it addresses global themes.”

There are politically charged works that address what can and can’t be heard. Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s works consider the oppressive regime of silence enforced in a Syrian prison, the use of accent tests to deny Somalians refugee status, and analysis of audio-ballistic evidence that led to an Israeli soldier being tried for manslaughter. The Manus Recording Project Collective—a group of men detained by Australia on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea—made recordings daily for the original show, prompting us to consider our position as earwitnesses.

Parker and Stern note “The show feels timely—Lawrence Abu Hamdan has recently been nominated for the Turner Prize. The Manus Recording Project Collective work addresses an ongoing political crisis. It’s a different piece of work now—it was produced in real time but at City Gallery is presented as an archival work, even though five of the six men are still in detention. It’s worth noting that New Zealand offered asylum to some of the refugees, and that one of the exhibiting artists Behrouz Boochani has won numerous literary prizes for his writings from detention.”

Co-curator James Parker says “As a legal academic, I think it’s really important to work with cultural institutions—the gallery is also a law school. Both are places in which senses of justice are fashioned and faculties of judgment shaped.”

Eavesdropping: A Reader is being produced to accompany the exhibition with essays by the curators, plus interviews with and writings by the artists.

Eavesdropping is an ongoing collaboration by Liquid Architecture and Melbourne Law School. The exhibition was first presented at the University of Melbourne’s Ian Potter Museum of Art, last year.

Curators James Parker (Melbourne Law School) and Joel Stern (Liquid Architecture) will give a keynote lecture at September’s Tuatara Open Late on Thursday 5 September.


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