Simultaneous exhibitions at Western Gallery expose privacy, surveillance issues

The Western Gallery on the campus of Western Washington University is presenting simultaneous exhibitions that raise challenging issues around privacy in our age of digital media and surveillance. "In the Open," organized by Western Gallery Adjunct Curator Lee Plested, brings international artists whose work resonates with the issues brought forward by Arne Svenson's "The Neighbors,"  which is also on display at the Gallery from Jan. 4 – Mar. 10.

The exhibitions are free and open to the public.

Arne Svenson’s project The Neighbors started when the artist inherited a telephoto lens. Svenson began pointing it out his studio through his neighbors’ windows in the building across the street. In these evocative, un-postured moments of domestic life Svenson brings a painterly attention to light reminiscent of 17th – century Dutch paintings, most closely to Johannes Vermeer. Some of Svenson’s unsuspecting subjects saw the photos, objected and sued in 2013, citing violation of privacy. The case was dismissed, even surviving an appeal, and the artist’s right to publish the photos was defended under the 1st Amendment. Through his investigation of the world at his door step he effectively, if unintentionally, captured the anxiety of living in the densely populated, camera obsessed, media saturated, world of today.

Organized as a complementary exhibition, In the Open presents an international and multigenerational group of artists who have utilized the invasive potential of the lens to capture images in public spaces. Featuring the works of Michel Auder, Fiona Bowie, Dries Depoorter, Janice Guy, Antonia Hirsch, Ron Jude, Garry Neill Kennedy, Evan Lee, Wanda Nanibush, Roxy Paine, Bettina Pousttchi, the art in the show probes the increasingly slippery boundaries of what constitutes public or private use of images, and our inability to control their contextualization. A series of panels and talks will be presented to further the questions raised in these exhibitions, please contact the gallery for a full list of events.

The Western Gallery is located in the Fine Arts Building. It opens Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. and Saturdays at noon. The gallery closes at 4 p.m., except on Wednesdays, which offers extended evening hours until 8 p.m. The gallery is closed Sundays. Visitor parking information is available by calling 360-650-2945 or at Weekday parking permits are available, and free parking is available in certain lots on weekends. For more information about the gallery, visit or call 360-650-3900.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016 - 9:43am

Arne Svenson, "Neighbors #1," 2012, archival print