Art for Spooks

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NSA, GCHQ, found documents, Zelda, markov models, iPad, iOS


2014 to 2016

Art for Spooks is an augmented book that takes a poetic angle to electronic surveillance. It combines texts and images from “leaked” NSA documents that evidence mundane concerns of NSA employees with grooming etiquette, gossip and surveillance at the work place; the development of encryption and psychological profiling tools modeled on alleged historical links between magicians and the military; and a delirious imaginary steeped in the world of modern folklore, populated as is with UFOs, popular media archetypes of evil and good, as well as (apparently) a taste for buffalo meat, high art, and orientalist and gendered themes. These materials are juxtaposed with graphics read through a tablet interface. The act of reading generates randomized data in the forms of new images and texts which are concurrently uploaded to various social media platforms. The traces of this data are refracted through algorithmic manipulation. Art for Spooks suggests that the intense categorization and cataloguing of facts, phenomena, and life under current modes of surveillance, demands the invention of new ones that resist the stultifying effects of this kind of instrumentalization. With this in mind, the project concerns the creation of feedback meant to augment the paranoiac impulses of the spy (unburdened by such trivialities as plausibility or verification) through the fabrication of evidence for unprovable verification and the grafting of this evidence on the world.

The Art for Spooks app is available for download from the Apple App Store.

You can also download the Art for Spooks book.

Art for Spooks has been discussed in the following places:

  1. The Creator’s Project, “Augmented Reality App Asks, 'How Do NSA Employees See The World?',” January 20, 2015, accessed January 23, 2015.
  2. DJ Pangburn, “‘Art for Spooks’ Makes Paranoid Augmented Realities for NSA Spies,” Motherboard, December 25, 2014, accessed December 31, 2014.
  3. Peter Maas, “Art in a Time of Surveillance,” The Intercept, November 13, 2014, accessed December 31, 2014
  4. Matt Linares, “Spies, Art and Monsters,” Medium, October 28, 2014, accessed December 31, 2014.


Art for Spooks Installation View
Art for Spooks Installation View
Art for Spooks book close-up
Art for Spooks book close-up
Art for Spooks augmentation example
Art for Spooks augmentation example

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