Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0
Luis Hernandez Galvan
Claire C. Carter
Investigating the Known Unknowns. The exhibition includes works by 13 multidisciplinary visual artists and collaboratives. Their 35 artworks employ the tools of democracy to bear witness to attacks on liberty and to embrace democratic ideals, open government and civil rights.
Curated by Claire C. Carter SMoCA Curator of Contemporary Art
Covert Operations: Investigating the Known Unknowns is the first major survey of a generation of artists working in the violent and uncertain decade following the 9/11 terrorist attacks to collect and reveal previously unreported information. This group of international artists includes Ahmed Basiony, Thomas Demand, Hasan Elahi, Harun Farocki, Jenny Holzer, Trevor Paglen and Taryn Simon. They use legal procedures as well as traditional research methods and resources such as the Freedom of Information Act, government archives, field research and insider connections, to create sophisticated artworks that push beyond conventional thinking. The thirty-seven artworks included in Covert Operations employ the tools of democracy to bear witness to attacks on liberty and to embrace democratic ideals, open government and civil rights.
The exhibition title is a direct reference to Donald Rumsfeld’s eerie insight into our post 9/11 landscape. In 2002 he commented to the press corps: “[T]here are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” His assertion, although obfuscatory, is both logical and rhetorically accurate. Covert Operations presents works that directly address citizens’ constitutional rights and the vast expansion of federal power. Many of the artists examine the complicity of both governmental and individual actors in human rights violations. Others pry into the hidden institutional structures and economy of the United States intelligence community. Other subjects include Black Sites, the geographic sites of clandestine governmental operations. Still other artists testify to personal discrimination in the name of national security. A visual art exhibition is a potent vehicle for shedding light on the complicated relationship between freedom and security, individuals and the state, fundamental extremism and democracy. As former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis observed, “Sunshine is said to be the best of disinfectants.”
The exhibition’s rich conceptual themes include secrecy and disclosure, violence, power, subterfuge, surveillance, territory, geography and the visible versus the hidden. Subjects range from classified military sites and reconnaissance satellites to border and immigration surveillance, terrorist profiling to narcotics and human trafficking, illegal extradition flights to nuclear weapons.
Covert Operations will include works by thirteen multidisciplinary visual artists and collaboratives: Ahmed Basiony (Egypt), Thomas Demand (Germany), Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0 (United States), Hasan Elahi (Bangladesh/United States), Harun Farocki (Germany [German-annexed Czechoslovakia]), David Gurman (United States), Jenny Holzer (United States), Trevor Paglen (United States), Jenny Perlin (United States), Anne-Marie Schleiner and Luis Hernandez Galvan (United States; Mexico), Taryn Simon (United States), David Taylor (United States) and Kerry Tribe (United States).
Publication: Designed and published by Radius Books featuring essays by SMoCA Curator Claire C. Carter and Sandra S. Phillips, Curator of Photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dana Priest. The book is available internationally courtesy of D.A.P.
Covert Operations is made possible by an Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award. The Exhibition Award program was founded in 1998 to honor Emily Hall Tremaine. It rewards innovation and experimentation among curators by supporting thematic exhibitions that challenge audiences and expand the boundaries of contemporary art. Additional support for the exhibition catalogue generously provided by Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation.
The nonprofit Scottsdale Cultural Council is contracted by the City of Scottsdale to manage the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and Scottsdale Public Art.
Image: Jenny Holzer, Ribs, 2010. Eleven LED signs with blue, red and white diodes, text: US government documents, 58 1/4 x 5 1/4 x 5 3/4 inches each. Courtesy of the artist and Cheim & Read, New York. © 2010 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay
Lesley Oliver, Marketing and Public Relations Manager 480.874.4654 firstname.lastname@example.org
Sep 27 7:00 – 9:00p | Free to the public
Opening Reception & Book Release and Artist Signing
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA)
7374 E 2nd St Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 12:00p — 5:00p
Thursday, Friday and Saturday 12:00p — 9:00p
Closed Mondays and major holidays