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Ai Weiwei
Study of Perspective – Berne , 1995
Gelatin silver print
41.4 x 60.5 cm (16.3 x 23.8 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Ethan Cohen Gallery, New York

The act of surveillance, both governmental and social, has been a popular subject for artists to explore. Contemporary artists have used this as a way to express their critical and politically charged works. Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has made marble replicas of the cameras used by the authorities outside his home, commenting on the level of government surveillance in China. American artist Trevor Paglen visualizes the surveillance state through multimedia projects that involve maps of secret military projects and projecting military code names onto political buildings.

Artists have also explored the concept of surveillance in relation to power and control, drawing on the ideas of Michel Foucault's panopticon and the dystopian world of George Orwell's "1984." For example, Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger both incorporate political and social commentary in their work, often featuring bold text and images that challenge societal norms and expectations. Banksy, the anonymous street artist from the UK, has also used his work to address issues of surveillance and control, with pieces such as "One Nation Under CCTV" and "Spy Booth."

Through their work, these artists confront the idea of surveillance and its effects on society, drawing attention to the power dynamics at play and the potential for abuse. Their works raise important questions about privacy, control, and the role of the government in the lives of citizens.

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