Everyone is watched, but not everyone is monitored in the same way. Surveillance crops up in many features of life through cameras, the internet, and cellular phones. That is to say, surveillance is acquiesced in privacy contracts on mainstream websites, yet there are more pernicious modes of monitoring that have constricted people especially in their ability to travel across political borders. Artists such as Laura Poitras and historian of science Peter Galison have shown how surveillance is intimately tied to militarization and censorship, respectively. Technological tools, albeit drones or spyware, are part and parcel of monitoring and circumscribing people’s everyday actions—including people’s movements, thoughts, and plans. Beyond that, surveillance produces racial subjectivities that are often intertwined with disease and medicine. Within the Mediterranean Sea, African and Arabs have been targets of surveillance, though for different reasons, under policing systems and military occupation. This collaborative project with visual artist, Vanessa Gravenor, considers the ways that surveillance and technology function within this history and current iterations of medicine.
Rebecca Beinart, British artist, educator and curator based in Nottingham, UK conducted a guest workshop for my course, “The History of Medicine for the Global Subaltern,” on herbal and medicinal plants. Beinart used archival and plant materials to engage with the history of therapeutics.
Primary resident artist Rebecca Beinart has been at ZK/U Centre for Art and Urbanistics (Berlin) undertaking a two-part residency to develop her project ‘Urban Antibodies’. Urban Antibodies is a long-term research project that imagines the city as a living organism, looking at sites of toxicity and vulnerability, healing and care – with a focus on plant knowledge and medicine. The project explores specific sites to investigate histories of industrial pharmaceutical companies in relation to plant knowledge, colonialism, and the role of women in the development of scientific knowledge.