Julia Scher (b. 1954, Hollywood) is an American artist. She uses a variety of mediums and is most known for her installation art and performance art works. Scher’s work critically engages electronic security and surveillance issues in our culture. She is interested in creating temporary and transitory web/installation/performance works that explore issues of power, control and seduction. Her spoken word CD’s and installations have been exhibited worldwide in physical art spaces – including recent solo exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Andrea Rosen Gallery in New York, and Schipper and Krome in Berlin – as well as on the world wide web and on the Electra recording label. She is the recipient of many grants and fellowships including a Bunting Institute Fellowship for Surveillance Studies at Harvard University, 1996-1997. She has taught and lectured at a number of top institutions including MIT, Harvard, Princeton, and Rutgers.
In the mid-1980’s, when savvy, politically minded artists were finding new uses for Pop art, Scher conceived ”Security by Julia,” a fictional company with pink-uniformed personnel equipped with the latest in surveillance technology. Scher has continued to produce theatrical installations satirizing a society in which electronic monitoring has become an increasingly familiar, paranoia-inducing experience.
Control and seduction are key themes for the artist. Scher’s performances, installations and Web-based artworks focus on surveillance and power in real and virtual environments. Through a deliberate misuse of technology, she exposes the hidden ideologies of objects that have become everyday: semi-hidden cameras and security systems.
In the ongoing series of art projects known as Security by Julia, Scher, an expert on surveillance technology and security systems, mimics their performance in a gallery space, playfully and sometimes not-so-playfully interacting with visitors who are put into a dialogue with the piece by seeing their own image, the images of others, and pre-taped images of people not in the room. While in real life one can never be sure when one is being watched, in Scher’s work one is always aware of the extent to which one is being surveilled. By creating ‘user-friendly’ surveillance, Scher can make the technologies of an otherwise closed and private system accessible to the public, opening up a space to question the widespread use of these same technologies in modern society.
In the following video, Scher discusses her work investigating “predictive engineering.”