"Investigatory Power" is an exhibition by British artist Rose Butler bringing together the artist’s own photographic work captured in the UK Houses of Parliament with video footage and imagery selected from the Stasi Records Agency, Film and Video Archive. As part of her doctoral study, which centres on surveillance, Butler considers the ethics and politics of ‘looking’ through arts practice. The methods, technologies and techniques of the Stasi—to date the only intelligence agency whose activities have been made publically accessible—are held as a mirror to new UK surveillance legislation. The Investigatory Powers Act (2016), aka ‘The Snoopers Charter’ significantly extends the UK state agencies’ digital surveillance capabilities. Surveillance, as Butler argues, is the blind spot in a democracy. The files, images and data amassed as a result of contemporary state surveillance are missing from the exhibition. The access to comparable material of a fallen state power allows the artist to make this gap visible.
The exhibition of Butler’s research coincides this autumn with the commemorations of the 30-year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, which marked the end of the Cold War, and the (latest) Brexit deadline (the withdrawal of the UK from the EU).
Rose Butler is an artist, researcher and senior lecturer of Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University. She uses adapted technology and custom built software alongside early cameras and analogue technique to make interactive installations, single and multi-screen videos or large-scale photographs. Rose is currently writing up doctoral research that considers the ethics and politics of looking through surveillance and arts practice. Her interactive dance installation "Come & Go," which she showed in the Millenium Galleries in Sheffield in 2017, received an honorary mention as part of the Surveillance Studies Art Prize 2018. Her work has been screened and exhibited internationally, most recently it was part of the Abandon Normal Devices Festival (2017) and an exhibition at Kabinet Muz; Brno, Czech Republic (2017). This year, she presented her research at the Royal College of Art, The British Film Institute and University College London and NeMe, Nicosia, Cyprus.