The Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art & Design Presents Monitor: Surveillance, Data, and the New Panoptic
On view from October 1 – December 10, 2021

PORTLAND, ME September 13, 2021 — The Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art & Design (ICA at MECA&D) is pleased to announce the opening of its fall exhibition, Monitor: Surveillance, Data, and the New Panoptic. 

Monitor: Surveillance, Data, and the New Panoptic exhibits the work of eight artists working in photography, sculpture, video, installation and print who explore the ways in which our lives are being influenced and determined by visible and invisible actions of “watching over,” reflecting on the prevalence of surveillance in contemporary contexts as well as its historical antecedents. The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive series of artist talks, discussions, and a film series; and is part of the statewide initiative, Freedom & Captivity. 

Surveillance has become an inescapable part of daily life. Phones record our every movement, call, and contact; cameras record our passage along the street; online sites record our interests and habits in order to engage in “better product placement.” Collected data streams to fusion centers, and while predictive policing targets specific communities for more intensive monitoring, Siri and Alexa listen. Through social media we surveil each other and ourselves. Connected to the economy and mass surveillance, from the high-tech to the low-tech and the mundane everyday, how are artists looking back at, contesting, and revealing the systems that monitor our daily lives? 

“At its root, surveillance is about who is seeing and who is being seen,” says ICA Director of Exhibitions and curator Julie Poitras Santos. “As an inquiry, it is particularly well-suited to investigation by visual artists. How can we not only understand the power and vulnerability inherent in these hidden networks and structures, but also address the history of what artist Kapwani Kiwanga refers to as ‘forced visibility, strategic concealment, and networks of resistance’?”


The works in Monitor: Surveillance, Data, and the New Panoptic reveal, challenge, upend, or complicate the power balances inherent in these dynamics. The artists take up questions raised by increasingly networked and pervasive globalized systems of monitoring in numerous ways, reflecting on historical trajectories as much as contemporary revelations, in order to provide us with perceptual and historical tools for assessing our current technological morass. 

Monitor: Surveillance, Data, and the New Panoptic visualizes surveillance histories and a surveilled present, challenging us to be active watchers in the world. In becoming more alert to the gazes that monitor our lives, we are empowered to look back at them, and to question and change them. 

Artists in the exhibition include Christoper Gregory-Rivera, Margaret Laurena Kemp + Abram Stern, Kapwani Kiwanga, Yazan Khalili, Ann Messner, Orphan Drift, and Trevor Paglen. 

Yazan Khalili, Medusa, installation, 2020. Photo: KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin

Monitor: Surveillance, Data, and the New Panoptic is funded in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, and additional generous support provided by Jeremy Moser and Laura Kittle. The exhibition is organized by Julie Poitras Santos, Director of Exhibitions, ICA at MECA&D, in conversation with Sophie Hamacher, Assistant Professor of Academic Studies at Maine College of Art & Design, and

Brendan McQuade, Assistant Professor of Criminology at University of Southern Maine, and will be accompanied by visiting artist talks and a panel discussion. A film series, organized in conjunction with the exhibition by Sophie Hamacher, will be screened at the ICA at MECA&D, Portland Museum of Art, Space Gallery and Congress Square Park. Please visit the ICA website for more information. 

Monitor: Surveillance, Data, and the New Panoptic is part of Freedom & Captivity, a statewide, coalition-based public humanities initiative to explore and promote abolitionist visions and organizing in Maine during fall 2021. Recognizing that mass incarceration is fueled by racism and profit-generating mechanisms that tear apart communities and families, the project offers opportunities for public engagement about imagining prison abolition and the redirection of resources toward community investments, the repair of racial and gender injustice, intergenerational trauma, and eldercare for the aging population in Maine’s prisons. The project is conceived with the participation of people in Maine directly impacted by the carceral system. 


The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), cultivates engagement and dialogue regarding contemporary visual art practices, aiming to foster discourse regarding the critical conversations of our time, and to enhance understanding of visual culture. Located in stunning galleries in Maine College of Art & Design’s landmark Porteous Building, the ICA at MECA&D presents an exhibition calendar of ambitious work by living artists, operates as a learning laboratory for MECA&D students, and a center for public programming regarding contemporary art that engages with the local, national and global art community.

Hosting five exhibitions each year accompanied by a dynamic series of public events and artist talks, the ICA at MECA&D also supports MECA&D graduate student exhibitions and Maine College of Art & Design events. We are dedicated to working across platforms collaboratively and thinking with others to inspire creative action, reimagine our future, and create compassionate communities together through visual art.

Open Wednesday–Sunday, 12:00pm–5:00pm. The ICA at MECA&D is always free. - -

COVID-19 Policies: For the health and safety of our staff and visitors, we ask that all visitors to the ICA social distance and agree to wear a mask at all times while inside the ICA, regardless of vaccination status. If you are feeling unwell please stay home and plan your visit for a later date.

Maine College of Art & Design (MECA&D, pronounced "Maine College of Art and Design”) has been activating students of all pursuits to make art, make an impact, and inspire change since its founding as Portland School of Art in 1882. Located in Portland's thriving Arts District, students have access to state-of-the-art facilities, 24-hour-a-day studios, a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and a community-based Artists at Work program—making MECA&D the right-sized school in the right-sized city for every student who wants to make their mark and be seen. MECA&D offers BFA Majors and Minors, Graduate Programs, Continuing Studies, Pre-College, and includes the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies and the Institute for Contemporary Art. Follow us at @mecaart.