Karlsruhe exhibition explores global online surveillance and control

With media organizations and news outlets under increasing political pressure, censorship on media, specifically on the Internet, as well as surveillance are among hotly debated issues in Turkey these days.
One very timely exhibition on display since September in a German museum takes a closer look at the subject through the works of more than 70 international contemporary artists and initiatives, including Turkey’s Halil Altindere, iener andOzmen and Osman Bozkurt.
Titled “Global Control and Censorship,” the exhibition, which is slated to run until next spring at the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, is part of a colossal 300-day series of exhibitions and other events hosted at the museum under the larger framework “GLOBALE: The new art event in the digital age,” launched in June and scheduled to run until April 17, 2016.
The series of exhibitions, concerts, performances, lectures, conferences and symposiums “show the decisive trends of the 21st century” and propose a “new art format” with “GLOBALE — An Art Experience,” broaching the cultural effects of globalization and digitalization, its organizers say in a press release announcing the series issued in April.
“Art of the 21st century is no longer just about expression or self-expression,” the press release reads. “Instead, it reports on scientific and social systems and media, which are changing the world.”
“In this context, the digital revolution has introduced the new era of the ‘infosphere.’ As well as the atmosphere, which is inevitable for the life of mankind on this earth as a biological being, an infosphere is also necessary for the cohabitation of 7 billion people as social beings,” the press release goes on to explain.
Livia Rozsas, one of the curators of “Global Control and Censorship,” explained in an interview with Sunday’s Zaman that the most important motif they aimed to debate with this show was mass online surveillance, revealed in detail by whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden.
“Knowledge is power. And power is possessed especially by whoever controls the flow of information. This applies particularly in digital culture, where all the information in the World Wide Web can be manipulated, uncontrolled. For a long time, a hope for new forms of democratic participation arose from the use of these digital instruments, but recently they have been misused as the ideal door opener for the surveillance of billions of people,” co-curators Bernhard Serexhe and Rozsas explain in the press release.
“Artists from Turkey contributed to the exhibition with iconic works,” Rozsas told Sunday’s Zaman, referring to iener andOzmen’s carpet-portrait of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange Halil Altindere’s “Mobese” Osman Bozkurt’s photographs of graffiti in Istanbul made during the Gezi Park protests of 2013 and a work by Selma Alaandcam, a German-based Turkish artist.
“Bozkurt reflects on a specific result of the uprisings in 2013,” Rozsas says about the artist’s photos of the “censored” and painted over graffiti and inscriptions on the streets of Istanbul.
Altindere’s “Mobese” is a stand with gold-plated replicas of four surveillance cameras from Istanbul’s Taksim Square, which “reminds [the viewer of the Gezi Park protests] of the increased surveillance as the state’s reaction to the uprising,” adds Rozsas, noting that other works by Altindere featured in the exhibition are also related to control, but in a rather metaphorical manner. His videos “Who are you looking at?” and “Who shot the artist?” are about various aspects of the psychology of control in society.
Alaandcam, on the other hand, stamps her face with the German federal eagle symbol as “a sign of control in identity, a sort of self-censorship, which is the most immeasurable of all control mechanisms,” Rozsas says.
Other international artists featured in the exhibition include Trevor Paglen, who presents “Autonomy Cube,” developed in collaboration with journalist and computer security researcher Jacob Appelbaum, which according to the curator, “resembles a minimalistic sculpture providing access to the Internet though the Tor project.” “Tor helps one defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance, which threatens personal freedom.”
Another significant work is Hasan Elahi’s “Stelae,” a gigantic 317 cm by 992 cm installation of translucent pigment prints on lightboxes, consisting of a tremendous number of photos. For this work the cuthrough the street until they were escorted to police cars in an operation carried out against the faith-based Gandulen movement, popularly known as the Hizmet movement and inspired by the teachings of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gandulen. The operation was carried out over charges of providing financial support to alleged members of the and”parallel structure,and” a term invented by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to refer to the Gandulen movement.
Images of the suspects in handcuffs, in particular those of headscarf-wearing women, sparked public outcry. Following the reactions, Ceren was suspended by Manisa Governor Erdogan Bektai upon an order from Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoilu.
Ceren was appointed Manisa police chief in June of last year. Since then, Ceren has made controversial statements and conducted controversial police operations in Manisa. He ordered police raids on three and”reading roomsand” that provide a beneficial environment for children from disaantaged socioeconomic backgrounds as well as 11 civil society organizations, which were raided on April 30 based on the much criticized and”reasonable suspicionand” clause that was signed into law by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Dec. 12.
Speaking to the press about the raids on the Manisa CSOs, Ceren declared their owners, educators and businessmen criminals despite these people having no criminal record. Ceren even likened these people to members of the terrorist Kurdistan Workersand’ Party (PKK), which has killed over 30,000 people so far.
Even former Deputy Prime Minister and former Justice and Development Party (AK Party) spokesman Bandulent Arinandc criticized the police raids ordered by Ceren at the time.
During a news program on May 6, Arinandc acknowledged that the raids were government-led and criticized them, saying that something suspicious was going on in Manisa and that these operations would lead to a loss of votes for the AK Party, adding: and”Iand’m going to ask Manisa to vote [for us], as I already have. Wonand’t they say to me: andlsquoWe know you and we like you, but [police under pressure from the AK Party] are raiding other people we likeandhellip The police chief is doing this and that like the head of a gang!and’ How can I reply when they say this to me?and”
Arinandc, continuing in his criticism of the raids on the CSOs, said: and”[Police] are conducting raids in the middle of the day. What are they looking for? The CSO are innocent. It is a very grave matter to these people that their associations are being raided like terrorist organizations.and”
Other controversial operations:
April 8: Teams from the Manisa Police Departmentand’s counterterrorism unit conduct simultaneous raids on five CSOs in Manisa: the Manisa Workers Union (MAandcAD), the Manisa Education Volunteers Union (MEGDER), the Manisa Active Educators Association (AKED), the Manisa Millennium Public Servants Association and the Industrialists and Businessmen of Manisa (MASiAD) — all raided by dozens of police officers based on and”reasonable suspicion.and”
May 5: Police raid six associations in Manisa, among them the Manisa branch of Kimse Yok Mu, a charity.
May 13: Seven businesses, including a media distribution office, are raided by the police in Manisa. The raids targeted Cihan Medya Daiitim A.i., which distributes the Zaman and Todayand’s Zaman dailies.
Aug. 26: Police officers and inspectors from several government bodies raid Gandulen-inspired private and prep schools in Manisa, including a kindergarten.
Aug. 30: Police raid the iehzade Mehmet Primary and Secondary Schools in Manisa.


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