Eavesdropping background


Tuesday 24 July 2018 - Sunday 28 Oct 2018


Eavesdropping used to be a crime. According to Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England (1769): ‘eavesdroppers, or such as listen under walls or windows, or the eaves of a house, to hearken after discourse, and thereupon to frame slanderous and mischievous tales, are a common nuisance and presentable at the court-leet.’ 250 years later, eavesdropping isn’t just legal, it’s ubiquitous. What was once a minor public order offence has become one of the most important politico-legal problems of our time, as the Snowden revelations made abundantly clear. Eavesdropping: the ever-increasing access to, capture and control of our sonic worlds by state and corporate interests.

But eavesdropping isn’t just about big data, surveillance and security. We all overhear. Listening itself is excessive. We cannot help but hear too much, more than we mean to. Eavesdropping, in this sense, is the condition – or the risk – of sociality per se, so that the question is not whether to eavesdrop, but the ethics and politics of doing so. This project pursues an expanded definition of eavesdropping; one that includes contemporary mechanisms for listening-in but also activist practices of listening back, that are concerned with malicious listenings but also the responsibilities of the earwitness.

for the full programme, please visit
Eavesdropping Exposed

Eavesdropping is a unique collaboration between Ian Potter Museum of Art, Liquid Architecture, and the Melbourne Law School, comprising an exhibition, a public program, a series of working groups and touring event which explores the politics of listening through work by leading artists, researchers, writers and activists from Australia and around the world.

Curated by Joel Stern (Liquid Architecture) and Dr James Parker (Melbourne Law School).

Exhibiting artists: Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Susan Schuppli, Samson Young, Fayen D’Evie and Jen Bervin, Sean Dockray, Joel Spring, Michael Green, AndrĂ© Dao, Jon Tjhia Abdul Aziz Muhamat

Talks and performances: Peter Szendy, Sam Kidel, Robin James, Susan Schuppli, Fjorn Butler, Andrew Brooks, Brian Hochman, Jake Goldenfein, Jasmine Guffond, Anja Kanngieser, Jennifer Stoever, Morag Grant, Sara Ramshaw, Tom Smith, Samson Young, Mehera San Roque, Ceri Hann, Jasmine Guffond, David Chesworth and Sonia Leber… with more to be announced.