Julia Scher

Predictive Engineering2 — New Work

Julia Scher, Predictive Engineering 2, 1998


Artist Bio

Julia Scher's work explores issues related to electronic security. Using all sorts of surveillance gear, she constructs temporary, transitory installations and performances in which she captures data and then crunches, alters, and retransmits it, deliberately using and misusing it, and demonstrating its awesome power to exercise social control. Through her simulated monitoring systems she hopes to expose the dangers and ideologies inherent in a contemporary practice that we rarely question, or even think about.

Julia Scher, Predictive Engineering 2 (detail), 1998

Scher was born in 1954 in Hollywood, California. After high school she worked at a variety of odd jobs and eventually enrolled in the studio art program at the University of Minnesota. She began her artistic career as a painter, then after graduation experimented with combinations of painting and video before focusing her energies more specifically on video and digital recording.

Scher's installations and spoken-word CDs have been exhibited internationally at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York; Schipper & Krome, Berlin; and other venues as well as on the Web and the Electra recording label. Her numerous honors have included a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Bunting Fellowship at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, Cambridge. She has taught and lectured at several institutions, including Harvard University, Cambridge, and Princeton University, New Jersey. Scher has most recently served as a visiting faculty member in the Visual Arts Program of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Artist Statement

I originally saw surveillance in terms of looking at landscape, because indeed there was the landscape through the lens or eye of a camera rather than my own eye. I don't, however, agree that space is the battleground. More insidious and less visible to the human eye is identity, created through multiple data bases and hierarchies imposed and created without laws or the knowledge of those being judged. These virtual spaces are far more interesting for me and far more dangerous. At least you can see actual space. Virtual space is another ruse, because our virtual identities have to be created before we can pass through a virtual space. What kinds of hierarchies are going to be employed to keep us in or out of those virtual spaces? I can penetrate those walls without being a physical presence. I'm interested in the extremity of this battleground.

I have always found my best work to be "encounter work" — looking at the phenomenological world one enters. An experiential aesthetic interest. It continues here, in digital, programmable, plastic, and sensory testing areas. I have always thrived in initiating an impossible project (an invisible one, a ridiculous one) here in real new worlds (still smooth, new, and dependent new worlds) where visitors can deal with their own flexible script. It's not museum walk-through alone. It's cramming methodological reiterative tour guides — alongside on-your-own, have-what-you-will poem gardens. . . .

Surveillance space has been a metaphor for controlled space, controlled life. Electronic control devices in their earlier applications were placed at the edge of lived space (you would see the guard at the edge of the building underground, or hidden away). Now as surveillance and security (and kid scrutiny) has become more foregrounded in architecture, television, transportation, etc., its unmasking or its display has been FUN FOR ARCHITECTS.

To unmask (and deconstruct) was a way to criticize, undo, reveal, and be revolutionary. Now, it's part of an aesthetic of exposed foundations, a deconstruction of architecture. No longer on the edge, or behind the camera's hidden-eye security, THE APPARATUS comes out of its shell and acts as a prism and white-hot calculator in space.

Please Note

URLs listed above may change or become invalid after the close of the exhibition.

Excerpted from "Julia Scher interviewed by Paul D. Miller," Artbyte, October-November 1998, 42-47, and from an email interview with Julia Scher by Bruce Jenkins, Film/Video Curator at the Walker Art Center.



This exhibition is part of the Museum's New Work series, which features recent or commissioned work by both younger and established artists. The New Work series is made possible by the Collectors Forum, an auxiliary of SFMOMA. Special thanks to Pioneer New Media Technology for equipment support and to Zuma Digital for production support.