Thursday, February 10, 2011

Surveillance—Then and Now

How Little We Know of Our Neighbors

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

presented in collaboration with SFMOMA in association with the exhibit Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera Since 1870

Mass-Observation was an astonishing long-term social research project founded in Great Britain in 1937 by a small collective of creative anthropologists, writers, photographers and filmmakers. Conceived as an innocent homegrown quasi-ethnographic experiment, Mass-Observation eventually involved hundreds of citizen volunteers and amassed a huge archive of observation journals and surreptitious photography documenting the quotidian of life of mid-century Britain. The complete story of Mass-Observation—including the crucial participation of the great British “surrealist documentarian” Humphrey Jennings—is told in Rebecca Baron’s fascinating 2005 film How Little We Know of Our Neighbors. Tracing the movement’s evolution from eccentric hobby to wartime domestic spy unit to its final manifestation as a market research firm, How Little We Know… reflects greatly on the present day condition of heightened security, public surveillance and voluntary market profiling. Also screening: Photofinish Figures (Il finish delle figure), Paolo Gioli’s impressionistic array of faces in the metropolis and Scott Stark’s Posers, a documentation of photographic posturing, filmed on San Francisco’s Embarcadero. (Steve Polta)

Download program notes (PDF)