Pierre Bismuth, Natalie Bookchin, Richard Serra, Vidéogazette, and new commissions by Pierre Musso, Gail Pickering, Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, and The Public School Philadelphia.
In August 1968 anti-war demonstrators chanted "the whole world is watching" outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago as TV cameras broadcast images of police brutality into private homes. This now iconic slogan urgently demanded access to information in order to monitor social injustices and ensure the rights of citizens. Taking its title from this moment in history, The Whole World is Watchinginvestigates notions of transparency and accountability that underlie the communication technologies at our disposal.
The Whole World is Watching stems from research into the history of Vidéogazette (1973-1976), a collective of activists and technicians who taught citizens in the newly built suburb of Villeneuve, Grenoble, how to use audiovisual equipment and produce their own television channel. In the early 70’s, Villeneuve and its experimental urban plan presented a model of co-habitation and communal life that attracted activists and filmmakers. In this context, the members of Vidéogazette took charge of the means of information production and played an active role in the local democracy. Vidéogazette claimed a political stake in the attempt to decentralize media channels and transform the role of the spectator into that of a producer. Despite the initial enthusiasm around the project, only a small number of inhabitants remained involved. Objections about who leads and determines the programs ultimately challenged the underlying premise of Vidéogazette.
Today the Internet creates a virtual architecture for social exchange and mobility, reinforcing Vidéogazette’s model of open communication. Interactive online platforms render information and knowledge accessible, and broaden the concept of "local communities" by connecting individuals around the world. Recently a re-politicization of technological tools emerges in different contexts by movements demanding democracy - from the Spanish Indignados to Occupy Wall Street - proposing a belief in the active participation of citizens. They emphasize the role of social media to spread a counter point of view, and combine the communicative functions of existing social networks with the political functions of assemblies. These events re-surface questions about who leads and engages in the decision-making process, problematizing our use of technologies and our position as both consumers and producers.
Modelled after Vidéogazette’s broadcasting studio "Agora", The Whole World is Watching transforms MAGASIN’s auditorium into an exhibition space and brings together a selection from the Vidéogazette print and video archives with a series of related video works: Richard Serra borrows the news teleprompter format to critique popular media, embodying the spirit of a generation of artists who, in the 70’s, contested the traditional passivity of the viewer; Pierre Bismuth’s installation appropriates a similar strategy to activate the role of the spectator, ultimately revealing the limits of this approach; Natalie Bookchin’s video installation collects hundreds of YouTube clips to ironically criticize the myth of the Internet as an ideal communication model of interaction and social exchange. Taking the Vidéogazette archives as a starting point, Gail Pickering revisits traces and fragments of this history to produce a specially commissioned work. Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, The Public School Philadelphia, and media theorist Pierre Musso contribute a roundtable of different perspectives on the role of technology in collective life, considering the Network both as a practical tool to organize multiple voices and a conceptual model that informs how we even think about organizing.
These works will be published online before the opening, and later translated into the exhibition space. Together, the works offer multiple points of entry into the collective space defined by technology in its contrasting characteristics: a self-determined community where individuals join together, a cacophonous collection of isolated and atomized voices, a territory claimed by centralized corporate and State power, and a laboratory for possible future scenarios.