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Beyond Snowden: Surveillance and the Construction of Difference

"To Name It Is To See It" by Former Artist in Resident Ngo Huong

"To Name It Is To See It" by Former Artist in Resident Ngo Huong

Edward Snowden's leak of NSA documents, revealing the widespread surveillance of US citizens, awakened a general public's awareness of the overreach of the government into private conversations and information. What was perhaps not as evident was how surveillance has been enacted on particular marginalized populations by the US government since the very beginnings of its institutions. The criminalization of immigrants and the subsequent rationalization for their surveillance by way of heightened scrutiny around their documentation or the call of vigilant citizenry, is but one example of how certain populations experience surveillance differently. How else might we begin to see more clearly the often layered connections between surveillance and the construction of difference and critically engage as concerned citizens when marginalized communities are affected? Join former LATITUDE resident Huong Ngo in conversation with Tia-Simone Gardner, Lars McKenzie, and Simon Spartalian to examine aspects of intersectionality in relation to information systems, surveillance, image making, and digital identities.


Hương Ngô is a multidisciplinary artist whose work often incorporates performance, time-based media, and sculpture. She was recently awarded the Fulbright US Scholar Grant in Vietnam to continue a project, To Name It Is To See It (DePaul Art Museum, April 27-August 6, 2017), that traces the colonial history of surveillance in Vietnam and the anti-colonial strategies of resistance vis-à-vis the activities of female organizers and liaisons. Ngô was born in Hong Kong and is currently based in the US. She is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she studied Art & Technology, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she received her BFA in Studio Art, and recently a studio fellow at the Whitney Independent Study Program. She was a LATITUDE resident in June of 2015.

Lars Z. Mackenzie is a doctoral candidate in Feminist Studies at the University of Minnesota. His research examines political economical and socio-cultural representations of fraud, focusing particularly on the ways fraud interpellates transgender and gender non-conforming subjects in the United States. In particular, Lars’s work asks how information systems perceive, account for and handle unexpected bodies and what trans interactions with cis-normative systems reveal about the way data systems work. His writing has been published in Transgender Studies Quarterly.

Tia-Simone Gardner is an artist, Black feminist scholar, and educator. Her creative practice engages drawing and photography through ideas of ritual, iconoclasm, and geography. Merging drawing with fragments of film and video, Gardner's work attempts to collapse and expand the time and space of everyday encounters with race. Her diverse practice also includes socially engaged work. Gardner received her BA in Art and Art History from the University of Alabama in Birmingham, and her MFA in Interdisciplinary Practices and Time-Based Media from the University of Pennsylvania. She has participated as Studio Fellow in the Whitney Independent Study Program, and held artists residencies at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, New York; IASPIS in Stockholm; and the Frank Mohr Institute of Art in the Netherlands. Gardner is currently an artist instructor at Juxtaposition Arts.

Simon Spartalian recently started a non-profit named Gibberfish which provides an encrypted, zero-knowledge, online work environment for other non-profits and social interest groups. The project is based on Nextcloud, an open-source private cloud.