‘Smile, You’re on Camera!’ VPA art exhibit explores surveillance

'Smile, You're on Camera!' VPA exhibit explores surveillance

The art show muses on the moral issues of surveillance and is open through Nov. 16.
Published: November 13, 2018
Prints by Noa West featured in 'Smile, You're on Camera!'

It’s no secret that every footstep we take today, both in the digital and real worlds, can be tracked using some form of surveillance. From Snapchat’s SnapMap feature, to freakishly personalized targeted ads, to the security cameras at your local corner store, the use of surveillance is ubiquitous in today’s world. This is the theme that Visual and Performing Arts seniors Amy Chasse and Noa West explore in their new art show, Smile, You’re on Camera!

“The show itself is about how surveillance is not just integrated into our lives, but also how it is a dominating force that impacts the way that we act and how we think,” said West, an art history major.

The exhibit is currently on view at the Coyne Gallery (by Manley Field House) located on the second floor of Syracuse University’s Comstock Art Facility. The show, which opened on Nov. 9, features a mix of printed collages and acrylic paintings on cardboard. These are new mediums for both West and Chasse, who normally do printmaking and oil paintings on canvas, respectively.

Chasse and West have been working together since their sophomore year. While their mediums differ, they’ve found common ground in their thematic interests. “In terms of our perspective on art and life,” said West, “it’s very much the same, so the topic of surveillance interested the both of us.”

The artists first dreamed up the show in late September, when they applied to use the space via a survey. The survey, emailed to VPA students by the School of Art’s Director, Joanna Spitzner, required students to propose a theme for their show, as well as the kinds of artwork they wanted to exhibit. When their proposal was accepted, West and Chasse only had a month to put the show together. According to West, most of the art was made in a span of two weeks.

With their exhibit, Chasse and West hope to bring the realities of surveillance to life. “We wanted to make [the show] really creepy and unsettling because surveillance is always there,” said Chasse, who majors in studio art.

Perhaps the most eerie piece in the exhibit is Chasse’s “Incognito,” which depicts a series of three heads peering over a computer screen.

Amy Chasse's
Amy Chasse's "Incognito."

“The piece is about when you’re on your laptop and you’re searching for things in ‘incognito,’ whether it be really strange questions, porn or anything that you wouldn’t want to share with the world,” said Chasse. “If you accidentally left those things up on your phone or computer, someone could still see it. Those are very personal things that could be easily exposed.”

West hopes that people will leave Smile, You’re on Camera! with a different perspective on surveillance. “I want people to be more cognizant of the camera lens,” said West, “I want people to take away that surveillance and its accessibility is so easy that it can also be dangerous.

Smile, You’re on Camera! will be at the Coyne Gallery through Friday, Nov. 16.