Thursday, October 8, 2015

"Covert Operations' at the San Jose Museum of Art

Snowden and Manning’s revelations, NASA spying on citizens, the Chinese spying on Ai Weiwei, the Russians killing one of their spies by radioactive poisoning- at times, it seems like half the world is spying on the other half. Understanding our post 9/11 world is difficult enough; the artists in “Covert Operations: Investigating the Known Unknown” at the San Jose Museum of Art (SJMA) are attempting to present the more disturbing facets of our 'Brave New World" via multimedia. The exhibition’s 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.

The title of the exhibition was inspired by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s response to a question at a 2002 news conference about the existence of weapons of mass destruction. “There 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.” Rumsfeld’s insight into our post-9/11 landscape illustrates the logic behind the phrase “war on terror." Luckily, the artists here are free to use our democratic freedoms to bear witness to the attacks on liberty and abuses of power.

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images courtesy of the SJMA/various artists

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