Terror Contagion. Surveilling the Surveillance — Edward Pérez-González

[Summer 2022]

By Edward Pérez-González

It was with my head full of the rave reviews I’d read in the local press – “a show that sends shivers down your spine,” “a blood-curdling exhibition” – that I went to the temporary site of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC), in Place Ville Marie, to see Terror Contagion.1 Throughout my visit, I wavered between curiosity and skepticism.

Organized by John Zeppetelli, executive director and chief curator of the MAC, with curators Lesley Johnstone, Geneviève Senécal, and Denis Labelle, the exhibition brought together a visual installation and several audiovisual documents produced by the research collective Forensic Architecture (FA). It provided a space for consideration and denunciation of the complex enterprise of mass surveillance, human rights violations, and state violence. As the presentation text puts it, “Terror Contagion tells the story of a complex form of digital targeting that aims to silence and eliminate collaboration networks formed by individuals who are the subject of surveillance.”

The exhibition is presented in three sections. The visit starts with a modest gallery right in the lobby of the “museum,” where two animation videos produced by FA are presented in alternation. Despite the obvious good intentions of the “scenography” and the use of headsets, the ambient noise in the reception area interfered with the experience of the projections.

The first video, The Enforced Disappearance of the Ayotzinapa Students, shows the results of an investigation conducted in 2014 in the town of Iguala, Mexico, where a group of students was attacked by the local police, in collusion with criminal organizations and other branches of the Mexican security forces. The incident caused six deaths, forty people injured, and the disappearance of forty-three students, whose fate is unknown to this day. Using 3D modelling and other technologies, FA produced an interactive mapping platform that makes it possible to locate and explore the relationships among events, people’s movements, communications, killings, and how the incident developed…
Translated by Käthe Roth

1 December 1, 2021, to April 18, 2022.

[ Complete issue, in print and digital version, available here: Ciel variable 120 – FIGURES OF AFFIRMATION ]
[ Complete article and more images, in digital version, available here: Terror Contagion. Surveilling the Surveillance — Edward Pérez-González ]