Art Uncovered - Covert Ops

Premiere DateNov 25, 2014
00:00 Covert Operations
03:24 Demonstrable Information
05:15 Jenny Holzer
08:01 Memorial for the New American Century
10:12 Working the Line
14:37 Corridos
18:04 Spying on Yourself
21:26 Potential Terrorists
24:12 CIA
26:20 Finish

Jenny Holzer, Phoenix yellow white (detail), 2006. Oil on linen, seven elements, text: U.S. government document, 33 x 25 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches each. Courtesy of the artist and Cheim & Read, New York. © 2006 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Covert Operations: Investigating the Known Unknowns is the new exhibition at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona.  The show is a deep dive into the post 9/11 security state as seen by 13 contemporary artists.

All the artists in Covert Operations actively engage with the techniques, tools and bureaucracies of the national security apparatus to make their work. For some, this means working with  FOIA requests or gaining access to off-limits government sites. Others artists conduct extensive field research or re-purpose imagery from government sources. A few artists draw on their own experiences as targets for surveillance and terrorist profiling.

Last week I got to speak with the curator of Covert Operations, Claire Carter. We talked about CIA agents, secret tunnels, and artists like Jenny Holzer,  Kerry Tribe, David Taylor and more.

The Covert Operations catalog is available from Radius Books.

Kerry Tribe, Untitled (Potential Terrorist) (stills), 2002. 16mm black-and-white film; 30 min., dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and 1301PE, Los Angeles. © Kerry Tribe

Anne-Marie Schleiner and Luis Hernandez Galvan, Corridos (still), 2005. Interactive video game in arcade installation; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artists. © Anne-Marie Schleiner and Luis Hernandez Galvan

David Taylor, Seismic Sensor, Texas, 2007, from the series “Working the Line,” 2007 – 10. Pigment print mounted on Dibond, 29 1/2 x 36 3/8 inches. Courtesy of the artist and James Kelly Contemporary, Santa Fe, New Mexico. © David Taylor

David Taylor, Camera Room, New Mexico, 2007, from the series “Working the Line,” 2007 – 10. Pigment print mounted on Dibond, 29 1/2 x 36 3/8 inches. Courtesy of the artist and James Kelly Contemporary, Santa Fe, New Mexico. © David Taylor

Trevor Paglen, Untitled (Reaper Drone), 2010

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Thomas grew up in Northern California where he fell in love with music and photography while going to punk shows and shooting skate photos. He photography in college, which may or may not qualify him to host an…

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