Special Operations: Deploying artists’ methods to investigate surveillance

BUTLER, Rose (2023). Special Operations: Deploying artists’ methods to investigate surveillance. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Link to published version:: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00605


Surveillance methodologies incorporating processes of observation, technique, imaging and analysis, have extensive material and processual crossovers with the work of artists. Creative practices employ the material qualities of new technologies and examine their application beyond specialist use. Artists’ practices span or blur ways of working straddling disciplines that have conflicting authorities, histories or representation. Arts research has the potential to extend what is visible, whilst working in response to specific environments, and expand established methodological frameworks. Some arts practices share commonalities or collaborate with investigative journalism. However, the idiosyncratic nature of arts practice means that its unique value has the potential to be overlooked or fall ‘under the radar’. The study adds definition to the unique characteristics of arts research through three key questions: can artistic practice enact a critical analysis into the optical regime of surveillance practices; how might an understanding of the materials and techniques of surveillance inform our knowledge of the political and ethical frameworks that authorise its use; how might the processual and material qualities of arts practice and investigative journalism complement each other? The study draws from key artists’ work to understand the affordances of the ‘image’ and shifts in relation to the technologies that determine them: Harun Farocki’s work on militarised visioning; Hito Steyerl’s analysis of the pervasiveness of surveillance in a contemporary image; Eyal Weizman’s examination of the stratification of vision and image hierarchies; and a forensic analysis of materials by Susan Schuppli and Lawrence Abu Hamdan. These expanded qualities of the image consider how these forces exert as well as disrupt authorship and, through this, authority. The study considers artists’ ability to straddle roles through performative resistant practices by Lewis Bush, Jill Gibbon, Kypros Kyprianou, Ian Nesbitt, Jack Tan, Mark McGowan and the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army. The research takes place at the Houses of Parliament, London, during the passage of the Investigatory Powers Act (2016) followed by analysis of archival film, video and photography from hidden cameras at the Stasi Records Agency. Research methods employ props, writing, performance-lectures, and exhibitions. Retro spyware is used covertly whilst the Investigatory Powers Bill is debated, to question what might become visible when surveillance techniques are repurposed to look at surveillance. Research findings emphasise, iterative, nuanced and minor processes founded in making art that extend technique through grounded, situated and relational critique. A search for definition within the study is examined within images, arts methods, surveillance and ethics. The study emphasises the importance of arts research within wider contexts and its potential to question established research orthodoxies.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Autogena, Lise [0000-0001-5888-4273] (Affiliation: Sheffield Hallam University)
Thesis advisor - Cotterrell, David (Affiliation: Sheffield Hallam University)
Thesis advisor - Shaw, Becky [0000-0001-6835-6044] (Affiliation: Sheffield Hallam University)
Additional Information: Director of studies: Prof. Lisa Autogena / Supervisors: Prof. David Cotterell and Dr. Becky Shaw
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00605
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2024 15:53
Last Modified: 20 Apr 2024 02:01
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/33606

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