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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

a call for artists

echelon: who is watching you?
August 3 - September 1, 2007

"One cannot use spies without sagacity and knowledge, one cannot use spies without humanity and justice" - Sun Tzu

"It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself..anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face.. was itself a punishable offense."
- George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 5

US surveillance began centuries ago with the concept of slave passes, which allowed slave-owners to monitor and control the mobility of their "chattel." Yet the slave pass system was sometimes subverted by the rare slaves who could write, such as Frederick Douglass. These literate slaves could create their own passes and might thus gain freedom for themselves and other slaves. Trafficking in passes and "free papers" soon became a burgeoning business, one that the slave system grappled with for nearly two centuries.

From slaves, the history of surveillance next turns to the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which restricted Chinese immigration to the United States. All Chinese laborers were forced to register with the government and subject themselves to being photographed and fingerprinted. A whole apparatus of surveillance was created.

In the 1920s, government surveillance spread to political radicals, especially workers trying to organize union activity. J. Edgar Hoover headed this government surveillance unit which would later become the FBI. As the 20th century advanced, computer technology proved a powerful enhancement to the regime of surveillance. This allowed most devices and databases to be monitored and evaluated, including automobiles, Your car can be tracked by GPS, and your spending habits can be gleaned from accessing your credit card records. Internet and email are monitored in the workplace and cameras are just about everywhere.

For this show artists will explore the history of surveillance and how this affects us at this present time. They will in turn create work dealing with this theme which will include 2D work, installation, and new media.


1. Send a couple of jpegs of the type of work that you do along with a short one paragraph Bio and CV(in word or PDF format). If you do video then send links to any online work.

2. Write a short one paragraph statement about the work you would like to create that deals with the theme.

3. The show takes place in Chicago so any work that is selected from another city must be easy, small and cheap to transport via UPS, FEDEX or Postal Service (you ship it to Chicago and we pay for the shipping back). We do not receive any funding from the government and we do not have insurance. But in the 10 years of organizing shows nothing has ever been stolen or damaged.

For more info: http:// www.polvo.org/echelon.html

EMAIL: info@polvo.org

Polvo is an alternative space located in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood and is operated by the artist collective Polvo, originally formed in 1996. Polvo's history consists of organizing artistic and cultural venues with Chicago / Pilsen-based community spaces. In addition to venues, the collective generated a magazine focused on arts and culture followed by an online website that initiated an international array of visual artists, writers, and cultural critics (Polvo maintained a Pilsen gallery space in 1999). Since February 2003, the collective has been organizing and curating art exhibits at the Polvo space where we showcase contemporary art including installation projects, new media and performance by a diverse group of emerging and established artists.
5 : : : P O L V O : : :: a call for artists echelon: who is watching you? August 3 - September 1, 2007 "One cannot use spies without sagacity and knowledge, one cannot use spie...

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