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CounterIntelligence: A Preliminary Report



Saturday, November 9, 2013 at 1:00 pm 
Image Credit: Encounter Vol.1, London, (1953), Camouflage of Large Installations, London, (1939), Apéndice I, Barcelona, (1936).  Collection: Stankievech

In the context of SBC’s Focus Program on Sovereignty and Trevor Paglen’s exhibition around drones and security issues, SBC Gallery is proud to invite Charles Stankievech to present his preliminary research for his exhibition project CounterIntelligence that opens at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery (Toronto) in January 2014.


DO keep in the shadow, and remember the shadow moves.

- Canadian Army, Training Pamphlet No.1, 1940


Guideposts for the dim, replicate half-world where counterintelligence raises deception to the second and third powers.

- Observations On The Double Agent, CIA Studies in Intelligence Journal, 1962


During WWII, Sir Anthony Blunt worked for the British counterintelligence Ministry of Security Service popularly known as MI5. After the war he was knighted and given several prestigious positions including the Surveyor of the Kings Pictures, director of the Courtauld Institute of Art, and consultant for the National Gallery of Canada, acquiring for the latter the 17th C. painting Augustus and Cleopatra by Poussin. However by the 1970s, cracks started publically surfacing in the dual identities of Poussin’s painting and Blunt’s persona. First in 1971, the National Gallery of Canada revoked Blunt’s attribution of the painting to Poussin relegating it to an unknown Italian painter—a decision never conceded by Blunt who maintained his original 1938 diagnosis to the end of his life. The crisis of identity doubled in 1978 with the parliamentary pronouncement by Prime Minister Margret Thatcher when she revealed to the public that Sir Blunt was a double agent working for the Soviets since the time he started his profession as an Art Historian at Cambridge, thus casting a dual blow to the legitimacy of both his “intelligences.” What appears at first to be a rare story in the art world reveals a pattern of secret crossovers between two parallel worlds.


CounterIntelligence contemplates the intersection of art and intelligence communities, exploring historic examples from 1930s Spanish torture cells based on Surrealist and Bauhaus aesthetics to a civilian bookwork circumventing the NSA’s control of encryption. Instead of travelling the well-worn path of propaganda or questioning the power of the image, the research explores the hidden gestures and strategic deceptions of the shadow world, covering a spectrum of work from historical military artifacts to canonical artwork. Strategically, the talk counterpoints maneuvers-of-circumvention alongside artwork-as-ciphers, expanding the field of interpretation through poetic connections such as black sites vs. non-sites, interrogation vs. installation, field manuals vs. bookworks, decoy vs. readymade and so on. Much like camouflage, appearances can be deceiving and surface meanings often misleading when tactics such as double agents and “security through obscurity” are executed. 


About Charles Stankievech:

Charles Stankievech is a Canadian artist who has lectured, performed and exhibited at dOCUMENTA13 (Kassel), Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin), the Palais de Tokyo (Paris), Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Copenhagen), International Symposium on Electronic Arts (ISEA2010, Germany), Xth Biennale of Architecture (Venice), ISSUE Project Room (New York), Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Canadian Centre for Architecture ( Montréal) and MASSMoCA. He has curated such unorthodox exhibitions as Magnetic Norths, A Wake For St. Kippenberger’s MetroNet, and the series OVER THE WIRE with Lawrence Weiner, Gary Hill, Center for Land Use Interpretation, Shary Boyle and others. His writings range from academic journals for MIT Press to experimental texts for art publications. His images have been published in a range of fields from the specialised NASA to the popular WIRED. Stankievech holds an MFA in Open Media with a thesis on sound and architecture and a previous critical theory thesis on Slavoj Žižek and Franz Kafka. He has participated in residencies with the Department of National Defense, Banff Centre for the Arts and Fieldwork in Marfa, Texas. He was a founding faculty member of the Yukon School of Visual Arts in Dawson City, Canada. Since 2011, he is co-director of the art and theory press K. located in Berlin.


artiste Charles Stankievech, Encounter, Contre-espionnage
artiste Charles Stankievech, Contre-espionnage, Encounter
artiste Charles Stankievech, Contre-espionnage
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