Images of Surveillance

Sunday program

Goethe-Institut New York




Between Data Protection and Repression: Discussing Surveillance Discourses
Nils Zurawski

Glances into the Dark: The Bundestag's Intelligence Investigatory Committee and its Repercussions on the German Public Debate about Mass Surveillance
Ulf Buermeyer

Moderated by Michaela Soyer 


Surveillance Artivism: Performing the Data Body
Alessandra Renzi, moderated by Jack Bratich


Autonomy Cube
Trevor Paglen, artist talk


Jacob Appelbaum (Munich) in conversation with Trevor Paglen (New York), videoconference, moderated by Birgit Frank (Munich)


Marcus Steinweg intervenes


Big Art Group’s SOS
Caden Manson & Jemma Nelson in conversation with Gideon Lester

Simon Denny in conversation with Peter Eleey


The World a Third Time: Or, how to win the war against positivism
Diedrich Diederichsen, final remarks

​4th FLOOR


Strategic Mapping: Surveillance and the Battlefield from ‘Radical Theory’ to ‘Facts on the Ground’
Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, seminar

With Ajay Singh Chaudhary
Both surveillance and its theories have multiple, sometimes contradictory, valences. In their now seminal works Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateus, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari provide new topographies and new critical apparati to understand the networked and “rhizomatic” forms of capital and state in the contemporary world. Viewing their work as paradigmatically “radical” – overturning repressive and oppressive structures in politics, psychology, and epistemology – Deleuze and Guattari sought to provide a “toolkit” for a new revolutionary philosophy and politics. In this session, we will look at an unanticipated application of their radical theory for military use in remapping battlefields and generating new, interactive, creative thinking about outmaneuvering opponents in asymmetrical warfare. We will read Eyal Weizman’s “Walking Through Walls” in which he discusses the use of Deleuze of Guattari in officer training manuals for the Israeli Defense Forces and corresponding short excerpts from A Thousand Plateaus to explore how surveillance by the state and the counter-hegemonic surveillance proposed in theory are not as diametrical as they may first appear. Finally, we will interrogate the question as to just how and when “radical theory” is “radical politics.”
Ajay Singh Chaudhary is the founding Director of the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research and Lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. He holds a Ph.D. from Columbia’s Institute for Comparative Literature and Society through the MESAAS department specializing in comparative philosophy. His work on  education, political theory, cultural theory, Iranian and Islamic intellectual history, critical theory, religion, media studies, and post-colonial studies has appeared in Social Text, Dialectical Anthropology, The New Yorker, The Jewish Daily Forward, The New York Times, Filmmaker Magazine, 3quarksdaily, and The Huffington Post.


Media, Society, and Spying for the State: Transatlantic Reflections on Autonomy, Social Expression, and the Antinomies of Surveillance
Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, seminar

With Jordan Kraemer, Michael Robert Stevenson, and Ajay Singh Chaudhary
Between 1943 and 1949, Herbert Marcuse, Franz Neumann, and Otto Kirchheimer – three theorists from the “Frankfurt School” – formed a key component of a working group for the “Office of Strategic Services” (OSS) in the United States, the forerunner of today’s CIA. These theorists saw the necessity of putting the tools and analyses of “critical theory” – without shying away from many of its arguments that would be unpalatable – at the hands of the American state first as part of the struggle against fascism and then in the goal of the surveillance, domination, and restructuring of the new postwar West Germany. In a kind of paradox, each of these theorists wanted to preserve what little hope remained for autonomous thought and autonomous life in liberal democracies that they saw as always already compromised and on the precipice of crisis and catastrophe. In this session, we will first look at the German philosophical tradition in Kant to begin a conversation about what autonomy meant in the Enlightenment tradition and then in critical theory. We will then look at a few of the papers produced in this working group for the OSS. We will also consider transatlantic approaches to contemporary social media and surveillance structure in the Germany and the United States more broadly to engage session participants in a wide ranging discussion of the value of autonomy, the power and role of theory, and the salutary and corrosive nature of surveillance regimes.
Jordan Kraemer is an anthropologist of media and technology, with a PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of California, Irvine. She is currently working on a book about emerging social and mobile media in late 2000s Berlin, titled Mobile Berlin: Transnationalism, Design, and Social Media. She teaches courses on emerging media, digital ethnography, and feminist technology studies, covering topics such as the materiality of information, ethnographies of infrastructure, media and affect, and interaction design, most recently as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Wesleyan University’s Center for the Humanities.

Michael Robert Stevenson teaches philosophy at Columbia University. He earned a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MPhil and a PhD from Columbia University. He specializes in the German philosophical tradition, especially Kant, post-Kantian Idealism, and 20th century phenomenology.

Ajay Singh Chaudhary is the founding Director of the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research and Lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. He holds a Ph.D. from Columbia’s Institute for Comparative Literature and Society through the MESAAS department specializing in comparative philosophy. His work on  education, political theory, cultural theory, Iranian and Islamic intellectual history, critical theory, religion, media studies, and post-colonial studies has appeared in Social TextDialectical Anthropology, The New YorkerThe Jewish Daily Forward, The New York Times, Filmmaker Magazine3quarksdaily, and The Huffington Post.



Nils Zurawski is a Senior Researcher and Associate Professor at the University of Hamburg, Institute for Criminological Research, and during the current semester also a Visiting Professor at the Technical University of Darmstadt. His research focuses on identity, culture and the Internet, national security, and surveillance. He recently co-edited The Anthropology of Security (Pluto Press, 2014), a volume about Europe’s vast security industry and its use of biometric identification systems, CCTV, and quasi-military techniques to police migrants and disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Ulf Buermeyer, LL.M. (Columbia Law School) is a judge in criminal cases at Berlin Superior Court and a prolific researcher and author, who regularly covers cutting-edge topics at the intersection of constitutional law, privacy, criminal procedure and information technology. After studies in law and political science he worked at the German Federal Department of Justice and the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe. In cooperation with the NGO Chaos Computer Club, he analyzed government malware thereby uncovering the widespread use of unconstitutional surveillance technology by German law enforcement. He is also associated with NGOs like Privacy International (UK),, and Digitale Gesellschaft.
Michaela Soyer is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Hunter College. She received her PhD in Sociology from the University of Chicago and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Justice Center for Research at Penn State University. Her current work focuses on delinquency, incarceration, recidivism, and social theory. She has also conducted research about resistance in oppressive regimes. Currently Michaela is engaged in data collection for several collaborative mixed-method projects about inmate networks and their significance for reentry and recidivism. Her next book will be based on in-depth interviews with 30 juveniles adjudicated as adults and their families. Relying on this interview data she seeks to understand the young men's pathways into crime, the negative turning points they experienced as teenagers as well as the role childhood trauma and extreme deprivation played in their criminal career.
Alessandra Renzi is an Assistant Professor in Emergent Media at Northeastern University where she explores the relays between media, art and activism through collaborative ethnographic studies and practice-led research. Currently, she is completing a book manuscript on pirate television and emerging forms of media activism and is researching data activism. Renzi’s art interventions interrogate and build upon the habits and practices at the intersection of face-to-face and interface. This work has been featured internationally in venues like the Transmediale Festival in Berlin and the Queens Museum of Art in New York. Her recent projects include the book Infrastructure Critical: Sacrifice at Toronto’s G8/G20 Summit (ARP Books, 2012) and the Open Source collaborative documentary Preempting Dissent: Policing the Crisis, both dealing with the surveillance of social movements.
Jack Bratich is Department Chair and Associate Professor of Journalism and Media Studies at the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University. He has a PhD from the Institute of Communications Research, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Jack uses critical cultural studies to analyze the politics of popular culture. He studies media culture as an intersection of power, knowledge, and subjectivity. He has written articles that apply autonomist social theory to such topics as audience studies, reality TV, political intellectuals, and popular secrecy. His book is called Conspiracy Panics: Political Rationality and Popular Culture (SUNY, 2008). He is co-editor, along with Jeremy Packer and Cameron McCarthy, of Foucault, Cultural Studies and Governmentality (SUNY, 2003).
Trevor Paglen is an artist whose work deliberately blurs lines between science, contemporary art, journalism, and other disciplines to construct unfamiliar, yet meticulously researched ways to see and interpret the world around us. Paglen's visual work has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and in many other solo and group exhibitions. He is the author of five books and numerous articles on subjects including experimental geography, state secrecy, military symbology, photography, and visuality. His most recent book, The Last Pictures (University of California Press, 2012) is a meditation on the intersections of deep-time, politics, and art. Paglen lives and works in New York.
Jacob Appelbaum is an independent journalist, computer security researcher, and hacker. He is a core member of the Tor Project, a free software network designed to provide online anonymity. He represented WikiLeaks at the 2010 HOPE conference and contributed extensively to the publication of documents revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013. Appelbaum currently lives and works in Berlin.
Marcus Steinweg is a philosopher working at the intersection of philosophy and art, notably through public lectures and collaborations with artists such as Thomas Hirschhorn and Rosemarie Trockel. He teaches at the University of the Arts in Berlin and holds a guest professorship at the University of the Arts in Hamburg. His recent books include Gramsci Theater (Merve, 2015), Philosophie der Überstürzung (Merve,  2013), Kunst und Philosophie / Art and Philosophy (Walter König, 2012), Aporien der Liebe (Merve, 2010), and Politik des Subjekts (Diaphanes,  2009). Steinweg lives and works in Berlin. 
Big Art Group is a New York-based performance ensemble founded in 1999 by Caden Manson and Jemma Nelson. Big Art Group uses language and media to push the formal boundaries of theatre, film, and the visual arts. It creates culturally transgressive works and innovative performances using original text, technology, and experimental methods of communication. The work blends high and low technology, marginal and mainstream culture, and blunt investigation to drive questions about contemporary experience. Over the years, the company has produced eighteen original works, including House of No More (2004), Dead Set #2 and #3 (2006-2007), The People (2007), Cinema Fury: The Imitation (2008), and SOS (2008). Big Art Group’s work has been featured in internationally prominent publications and festivals including Festival d’Automne à Paris, Wiener Festwochen, Szene Salzburg, PS122, Wexner Center for the Arts, and The Kitchen.

Gideon Lester is Director of Theater Programs at Bard College, where he curates theater and dance at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts and chairs the undergraduate Theater and Performance Program. He is co-curator of Crossing the Line, a cross-disciplinary international arts festival in New York City.
Simon Denny is an artist working with installation, sculpture, print, and video. His work often refers to the psychology and abstract language of the new media economy, invoking "clouds" of big data and the constant pressure to "update” our lives. He finds inspiration in the materials, advertising, and packaging produced by technology and media companies, and often deploys graphic interfaces borrowed from commercial displays to highlight connections between the utopian goals of the new media economy and those of historical modernism. Selected solo exhibitions include Serpentine Galleries, London (2015); MoMA PS1, New York (2015); Portikus, Frankfurt (2014); MuMOK, Vienna (2013); Kunstverein Munich (2013); and Aspen Art Museum (2012). In 2015, Denny represented New Zealand at the 56th Venice Biennale. He lives and works in Berlin. 
Peter Eleey joined MoMA PS1 as its Curator in 2010, and became Associate Director of Exhibitions and Programs in 2013. Eleey has organized 20 exhibitions at the museum, including premiere presentations of Ed Atkins, Darren Bader, and Matt Connors, as well as acclaimed surveys of Huma Bhabha, James Lee Byars, Lara Favaretto, George Kuchar, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, and Maria Lassnig, as well as Sturtevant at The Museum of Modern Art. He also curated September 11, a group exhibition organized on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in 2011, and oversaw MoMA PS1's expanded presentation of the Mike Kelley retrospective in 2013. From 2007 through 2010, Eleey was a curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, where he organized exhibitions with Trisha Brown and Goshka Macuga, along with the group shows The Quick and the Dead and The Talent Show. Earlier this year he organized Simon Denny: The Innovator's Dilemma, the artist's first major US museum show.
Diedrich Diederichsen is a cultural critic and professor of theory, practice, and communication of contemporary art at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna. He writes essays on music, cinema, theater, art, and politics and regularly contributes to periodicals and newspapers such as Texte zur Kunst, Die Zeit, die tageszeitung, Der Tagesspiegel, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Theater heute, Artscribe, Artforum, e-flux journal, and Frieze. His most recent book publications include Über Pop-Musik (Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2014), The Whole Earth – Kalifornien und das Verschwinden des Außen (Sternberg Press, 2013, co-edited with Anselm Franke), The Sopranos (Diaphanes, 2012), Psicodelia y ready-made (ADRIANA HIDALGO EDITORA , 2010), On Surplus Value in Art (Sternberg Press, 2008), and Kritik des Auges (Philo Fine Arts. 2008), among others.
The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research is an independent teaching and research center offering community-based education in the liberal arts and sciences. Working in partnership with local businesses and cultural organizations, BISR aims to bridge the artificial gap between academic and popular discourse and re-imagine scholarship for the 21st century.