Only the Envelope: Opening up participation, surveillance and consent in performance
McKenzie, V. (2017). Only the Envelope: Opening up participation, surveillance and consent in performance. Performance Matters 3 (2), 57-71.
As a citizen I have limited understanding of the large-scale data gathering performed through the Australian Government’s Data Retention Act, with which most of us are, perhaps unwittingly, involved. This sense of collective complicity was the main impetus for the research project Only the Envelope, offering a recursively playful performance of faith in “science” that troubles a distinction between the apparently private experience of viewing art with the apparently public experience of being surveilled. There was little evidence of resistance among those who gave their consent to participate in the work, though a greater freedom of response was observed among those who implicitly participated by observing the work or refusing to be involved. I suggest that the process of gaining “informed consent” is associated with a loss of power and knowledge. The work may serve as a timely reminder that refusing to comply by opting out of digital surveillance is extremely difficult to accomplish; raising awareness around the illusion of choice and the facts of digital surveillance are more realistic goals.