Galeria de la Raza
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Digital Mural Project: Los Cybrids
3/24/2001 - 4/28/2001

The emergence of a technologically driven surveillance society is the central issue of El Webopticon, a public art project on Galería's Bryant Street billboard, created by Los Cybrids, a trio of Latino artists who focus on the dark side of the information age, particularly as it relates to communities of color and the production of content.

  Galería Exhibitions Digital Mural Project: Robert Karimi & Conchita Villalba <2001>
Atlas(t): A Mapping Expedition/Exhibition <2001>
Digital Mural Project: Los Cybrids <2001>
In the Heart of the World: Photos, Videos and Art from the Zapatista Insurgency <2001>
Digital Mural Project: Los Cybrids <2001>
Los Cybrids: Tecno-Putografía Virtual <2001>
Digital Mural Project: Los Cybrids <2001>
Ester Hernandez: Everyday Passions <2001>
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CURATORIAL STATEMENT El Webopticon is a striking mural by Los Cybrids that seeks to inform viewers of the emergence of the Webopticon, a system of surveillance wherein the world wide web that automates data collection and transmission through computers in homes, work places, and schools; mobile surveillance devices and mobile policing devices; and systems such as cell phones, PDA's and others that use global positioning satellites (GPS). ARTIST STATEMENT The emergence of a technologically driven surveillance society is the central issue of El Webopticon digital mural on the wall of Galería De La Raza. "Whether residents of Latino barrios ‘opt in’ or ‘opt out of computers and the web, they are affected by privacy issues related to information technology," reports Praba Pilar, a member of Los Cybrids, the trio of cyber-critical Latino artists responsible for the mural. "From roadside fingerprint searches to your own DNA bar code, police forces are gathering more and more data on more and more people for instant identification," she adds. Developed by the military in 1963 as ARPANET, the Internet has extended surveillance into all areas of our lives. Extremely sophisticated surveillance systems and robotic devices have been developed in Silicon Valley and universities with funding from DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Eighteen states in the US operate web sites that list the names, pictures, criminal records and sentences for current inmates and those on parole for public view. The website that the Florida prison system maintains with inmate and parolee data recorded more than 2.2 million hits in December of 2000. Maricopa County, Arizona offers 24 hour access to its “jail cam”, where a person browsing the web can actually view people being booked, searched, processed and detained in county holding cells. More and more states are promising to get these systems online. In the barrio, we see digital red-lining by the police, as people are tracked before any crime is committed. Not to be left behind in the information age, cops brag about their mobile computing / wireless data services units. Computers, cellular phones, PDAs, and the world wide web provide the mechanism and network for our fingerprints, DNA prints, police, FBI and international police profiles, location tracking and more to be sent out via satellites. Fingerprints, which used to take weeks to confirm, can now be checked roadside. Immigrants can now be instantly identified through the INS’ biometric computer system IDENT, with 227 terminals around the country that currently contain fingerprints and pictures of nearly two million people for instant digital identification. Meanwhile, surveillance cameras are all over public space, set up to not only recognize people’s faces in the street, but to spot "abnormal" behavior, such as moving too fast or too slow, or lingering in a place for too long, and "predict" when a crime is about to be committed. We are constantly being watched: on the street, at work, on public transit, in schools and in government offices. We are further watched through online monitoring of activity. And it's gonna get worse: The Federation of American Scientists reports that the US military is right now building the most expensive program in the history of surveillance, a $25 billion space satellite system for very detailed surveillance known as Future Imagery Architecture. It’s the Webopticon, the policing device of the new international e-con order, the latest weapon in the continuing war on the poor and communities of color. The Bad news is: you do not need to be connected, to be affected. With so much talk about the digital divide, we need more talk about this racial divide online and digital convergence offline. El Webopticon was a collaboration between Los Cybrids (John Leaños, Monica Praba Pilar, Rene Garcia) and Galería de la Raza. The collaboration was supported by the Creative Work Fund.