Eavesdropping

Exhibition

Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne

Eavesdropping used to be a crime. According to Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England (1769) ‘eavesdroppers, or such as listen under walls or windows, or the eaves of a house, to hearken after discourse, and thereupon to frame slanderous and mischievous tales, are a common nuisance and presentable at the court-leet.’ Two hundred and fifty years later, eavesdropping isn’t just legal, it’s ubiquitous. What was once a minor public order offence has become one of the most important politico-legal problems of our time, as the Snowden revelations made abundantly clear. Eavesdropping: the ever-increasing access to, capture and control of our sonic worlds by state and corporate interests.

Curated by Joel Stern (Liquid Architecture) and Dr James Parker (Melbourne Law School), this project pursues an expanded definition of eavesdropping; one that includes contemporary mechanisms for listening-in but also activist practices of listening back, that are concerned with malicious listenings but also the responsibilities of the earwitness. Eavesdropping is a unique collaboration between Ian Potter Museum of Art, Liquid Architecture, and the Melbourne Law School, comprising an exhibition, a public program, a series of working groups and touring event which explores the politics of listening through work by leading artists, researchers, writers and activists from Australia and around the world. More

Image: Athanasius Kircher, Musurgia Universalis in volume 1 of Rome by Francisci Corbelletti [detail], 1650. Rare Music, Special Collections, University of Melbourne