“Das Feld hat Augen, der Wald hat Ohren” (The Field Has Eyes, the Woods Have Ears) – reads the title of an anonymous German woodcut from 1546. The message accompanying this image is a warning from the distant past: “Be careful! You are watched and listened to!” And this advisory is proven topical even now, because surveillance is a highly newsworthy subject.
There were other eyes that controlled people before the omnipresent eye of the camera took over. In the era of the Enlightenment the state and its laws were symbolized by an all-seeing eye, which stood for the clear view of reason. An iconographic starting point for such secular motifs is the religious symbol of the eye of God, which could register the thoughts and actions of a believer, and consequently made a powerful impact. Whether the eye of God, the view of state, or the lens of the technical apparatus – the psychological pressure from a higher, invisible authority, which ultimately cannot be verified, forms the constant factor underlying this genealogy. The catalogue uses 75 works to explore the pictorial history of surveillance, drawing on connections that span from early prints to surveillance photographs dating from 1960–80.