CITIZENFOUR – talk and movie

Thursday, November 20th, 2014, panel-discussion at 6:00 p.m., movie at 8:00 p.m.
Cinema at the Dortmunder U, Leonie-Reygers-Terrasse, 44137 Dortmund
Organizer: Office

About the talk:
On November 20th, 2014, the office hosted a discussion on questions of discipline, control, surveillance and transparency through networked media in the cinema of the Dortmunder U – Zentrum für Kunst und Kreativität. The occasion was the screening of the documentary movie CITIZENFOUR by the american director and journalist Laura Poitras. Together with the journalist Glenn Greenwald, Poitras was one of the first people to gain insight into the secret surveillance programs of the NSA (National Security Agency) through the former secret service employee and “whistleblower” Edward Snowden. The highly exciting movie tells the story of these revelations, which made headlines worldwide and led to a public debate in Europe about the consequences of digitalisation and networking.

Prior to the film-screening, Dr. Inke Arns, artistic director of the Hartware MedienKunstVerein (Dortmund), Prof. Dr. Astrid Deuber-Mankowsky, professor at the Institute for Media Studies at the Ruhr University Bochum, and Stephan Urbach, net-activist and author in the context of digital culture, discussed various questions related to the Snowden-revelations. Special attention was given to the analysis of current developments in the field of digital culture, such as the drastically increasing commercialisation and surveillance on the net, as well as forms of emancipation, resistance and “data literacy” by modifying, repairing, reusing and hacking hardware and software. The different perspectives of the panelists on the thematic fields media art, media theory and activism made it possible to place the net-political discussion in an overall social and aesthetic context.

Some questions which were negotiated:

How can phenomena such as the omnipresent “fleeting surveillance” (Zygmunt Bauman) and Big Data be described? Which technological utopias (and dystopias) are linked to the new forms of data processing and analysis? How do power relations inscribe themselves in media? How can the invisible be made visible by art? Which images can we find for better understanding of the functioning of “post-visual media” such as algorithms? How do current projects in the context of media art and digital culture react to this discussion? And in which ways can a critical awareness of commercialization and surveillance on the Net be created? How can this knowledge be translated into critical action in the everyday use of networked media?

The talk-event was part of a series of activities of, which aimed to promote discussion in the region about current trends in the context of media art and about the aesthetic and social consequences of digitalization and networking. At the same time, the event thematically prepared the international, multi-day conference ‘Every Step You Take’ – Art and Society in the Data Age, which the office 2015 organized in cooperation with many different institutions and artists in Dortmund.

Moderation: Fabian Saavedra-Lara (Büro and Katharina Busch (art-historian)

About the movie:
CITIZENFOUR, USA 2014, Director & Camera: Laura Poitras, With: Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, William Binney and others, OmU, 107 minutes, FSK from 6

In January 2013 filmmaker Laura Poitras receives encrypted emails from an unknown person calling himself “Citizen Four”, promising evidence of illegal covert mass surveillance programs by the NSA and other intelligence agencies. In June 2013 Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong to meet with the unknown. It’s Edward Snowden. CITIZENFOUR is a thriller from reality, in which the dramatic events unfold minute by minute right before our eyes – the breathtakingly exciting story about the daring step of a young whistleblower, haunting, uncomfortable and of great political explosive power.

The film is already the third documentary by the US-American about the time after the attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the resulting war on terror. With MY COUNTRY, MY COUNTRY she was nominated for an Oscar. With THE OATH she won at the Sundance Festival.

“CITIZENFOUR is a film with a long lasting effect. Laura Poitras manages to make the totality of modern surveillance almost physically tangible. At the same time, she draws the psychogram of a person who lives without compromise in terms of civil courage. CITIZENFOUR is one of the very few documentaries that are not only politically highly explosive, but also deeply impressive as a work of art. (Claas Danielsen, Festival Director DOK Leipzig)

The office was funded by the Ministry for Family, Children, Youth, Culture and Sports of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. Office hosted by: Hartware MedienKunstVerein, Dortmund.

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