Arts » Arts Stories & Interviews

In the Age of Surveillance and Data Breaches, New UTSA Group Show Explores Idea of a 'Control Society'


  • Houston Fryer
Following recent data breaches to the tune of 50 million (thanks, Facebook!) and 500,000 users (you too, Google!), Computerworld Executive Editor Ken Mingis tackled the concept of “surveillance capitalism” in an online video summing up our digital reality as such: “Data breaches have become so common, and so frequent, that when companies like Facebook or Google admit to data leaks or outright hacks, users fret, the companies pledge to do better, and government regulators (sometimes) issue stern warnings. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.”

Tech giants are allegedly trying to protect us from hackers and malware but they’re also so hell-bent on capitalizing on us that our phones function as tracking devices, personal shoppers and astute observers of our behavioral patterns (see iPhone’s creepy “Significant Locations” feature, ironically filed under Privacy>Location Services). While most tech users have probably thought twice at this point about what they’re sharing and how they’re sharing it online, these concerns should be taken into consideration in terms of how we present ourselves, our ideas, our work in real life as well.

Co-curated by sharp, conceptual artists and educators Christie Blizard and Mark McCoin, UTSA’s new group show “Then There Is Us: Art in the Time of Surveillance” explores how artists have “adapted/responded to the idea of a control society, particularly one where the conditions of surveillance are both imagined and real.”

Posing increasingly relevant questions of personal liberties, censorship and artistic freedom, the exhibition looks at how creatives “function in such a culture” through the eyes of artists Houston Fryer, Cristina Goletti, Jason Eric Gonzales Martinez and Justin Korver. A foundations and new-media instructor at UTSA, California native Fryer studied drawing and painting before relocating to San Antonio and currently runs the university’s offsite gallery Terminal 136. A well-traveled movement specialist who currently teaches at the University of Texas at El Paso, Goletti choreographs works informed by her research in “dance dramaturgy, interdisciplinary performance practices and gender studies.” Creatively influenced by his indigenous ancestry and the Mexican-American experience in Texas, Gonzales Martinez addresses hybridity and intersectionality through compositions that establish a “visual dialog based on a critical mestizaje, the area of overlap that constructs identity beyond race and ethnicity.” As for Korver, who grew up in Iowa, teaches at Texas A&M-San Antonio and has an admitted “passion for hardware stores,” his work often takes everyday items (including tools, gloves and trucker hats) out of context and places them in unusual, witty arrangements involving embroidery, sculptural elements and dripping layers of paint.

Free, opening reception 5-7pm Wed Oct. 17, on view 10am-4pm Tue-Fri, 1-4pm Sat through Nov. 16, UTSA Main Art Gallery, UTSA Main Campus, One UTSA Circle, (210) 458-4391,

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