Surveillance and the Mystery of db
During the run of db by Tommy Smith, CoHo’s lobby gallery will feature art by Martin Gremm from the series “Surveillance,” curated by Kiera Coughlan. Also on the walls, text and images related to the historical case of D.B. Cooper compiled by CoHo Artistic Fellow and Dramaturg Jessica Dart.
Martin Gremm’s photographs from the Surveillance Series puts us in the middle of a “dragnet” of mass data, his art lets us peer inward at the collection of moments gathered when we see everything.
From security cameras to cell phones to browser histories to drones, we live in a world that has become highly visible, verifiable and documented. This technology is able to provide a certain kind of truth… We can trace things. We can trace events, and we can trace people. It helps us track down who was where, and when, and who they talked to.
It might have even helped to track down the real D.B. Cooper.
This kind of surveillance and this kind of knowledge can be a monumental gift, but it carries with it an inherent loss; the loss of mystery. It’s a tradeoff that often seems worth it, especially in an age of terrorism, and whenever we are afraid, but in db, playwright Tommy Smith introduces us to characters that exemplify what mystery provides.
The human soul delights in characters that could be anyone, we come alive when we feel that we could be anyone. Memory is fallible, and without a digital record, we experience the same thrill of delving into the unknown when we look at the past as we do speculating about the future. As it turns out, for many of us this thrill is what makes life worthwhile.
Of course, D.B. Cooper was at one point a real man made of flesh and blood. Those aboard the plane he hijacked were real people whose lives were affected in real ways. But we don’t know what happened to him, and in that mystery lives enough sustenance for legends, conspiracy theories, obsession and endless interpretation of meaning.
What is the value of our own interpretation, and if the mystery were solved, if he had been tracked, traced and captured bymodern surveillance, how would we quantify the value of what was lost?
In Surveillance, Gremm presents a meditation on a modern world where intimate and public moments alike become collated, collected and part of a grid. It is a world where we see everything. And yet, both within his elegiac and shifting photographs and in Smith’s groundbreaking script, we are reminded that even facts can change depending on who you are talking to.
Both artists take us deep into the debate about what we will give up for certainty and a certain kind of truth, and what we won’t, because we humans, we need a good mystery.
– Curator’s Note by Kiera Coughlan, CoHo Operations and Patron Services Coordinator & Lobby Gallery Curator
Artist Statement by Martin Gremm
We are under surveillance wherever we go and whatever we do.
Cameras record our actions in public and sometimes also in private places. Our cell phones disclose our location, our browsing habits, and who we communicate with. Drones offer a cheap and easy way to record people in their back yards, in the neighborhood park, on a jogging trail, and very nearly everywhere else.
In addition, much of the information captured by blanket surveillance remains available indefinitely, which shifts power to those with access to the data. The information can be used to identify terrorists such as the Boston Marathon Bombers, but it can also be used to coerce us or to stifle dissent.
This project consists of eight large 225-image grids that show surveillance equipment in the lighter squares, and my interpretation of what it captures in the remaining squares. The prints are large (36x36in or 44x44in) and intentionally dense in information to represent how all-encompassing and pervasive surveillance has become.
The individual squares show the variety of mostly private events and activities that are swept up in the dragnet of surveillance. The viewer will discover scenes that could be from their own lives and realize that blanket surveillance is not an abstract concept, but something that affects all of us.
This is the purpose of this project: to transform blanket surveillance from an abstraction to a personal experience in order to encourage debate over the balance between privacy and the benefits of surveillance.
Five of the grids focus on security cameras in contexts ranging from an intersection in Houston, Texas that is being watched by 27 cameras to industrial facilities. One grid focuses on cellphones as tracking devices; one collects footage from open live webcams to represent freelyshared surveillance; and one collects footage I recorded with a surveillance drone I bought for this purpose.
- 36×36 inch prints are $1500 (edition of 6) or 44×44 inches $3000 (edition of 2).
- 8×8 inch individual images are $50 (open edition).
- A ‘Make Your Own Grid’ Kit consisting of any 9 individual 8×8 images is $300.
- All prints are on archival paper, not on PVC board as the display pieces.
Exhibitions and Collections
- One print is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Art Houston.
- Solo Show at Camerawork Gallery in Portland, April 2015, as part of Portland Photo Month
- One print was part of United Photo Industries Secrets and Lies show.
- The series was featured in the literary magazine Under the Gum Tree in 2016.
For more information, please see http://martingremmphotography.com or contact Martin Gremm at (713) 203-2169 or firstname.lastname@example.org