Where is the art in surveillance?
It is lurking in the shadows.
It is hidden in the grey areas.
It is echoed by an unheard whisper.
It is illuminated by intent.
Richard Lowenberg has worked with electronic imaging tools since 1968, exploring the artistic applications and social implications of these imaging systems that are used extensively in military and scientific information acquisition. Through connections within the 'military-industrial complex' he is able to experiment with technology that is inaccessible to most private citizens and many countries. Lowenberg sees himself as a cultural agent subverting the original intent for these tools to generate public awareness of our information based society.
Lowenberg's current series of work 'Information Revolutions', started in 1986, centers around two imaging systems developed for the military, FLIR (Forward Looking InfraRed), and image intensifiers. The FLIR system, used in aerial reconnaissance and heat-seeking missile guidance, generates a video image from the invisible infrared spectrum. The process records variations in temperature from both animate and inanimate objects. In addition to creating still images Lowenberg has used this system in performances where blind actors perform on a dark stage.
Image intensifiers, also known as nightscopes or starlight scopes, were first developed and used in the Vietnam war to detect movement in almost total darkness. The electronic amplification of existing light allows Lowenberg to photograph private moments of individuals without their knowledge. The photographs themselves become beautiful and seductive objects, obscuring the question of invasion of privacy inherent in the voyeurs perspective despite the public location.
The repercussions of living in an information based society, under surveillance, has been foretold through artistic representation from George Orwell's 1949 novel, 1984, to Terry Gilliam's 1985 film, Brazil. As these technologies become more accessible to private citizens there is the uncomfortable realization that our actions and conversations can be observed without our consent. Richard Lowenberg believes 'the best defense is a cultural offense,' and to this end his work is about intelligent awareness.
Gary Hesse (c)1991
Richard Lowenberg lives in Santa Fe, NM, and participated in the Artist-in-Residence program in 1990. He describes himself as "Creative explorer of information ecosystems." Please view his website at http://www.radlab.com/
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