Secrets for Senators

Set in the context of telecom immunity debates of 2007 and 2008, Secrets for Senators is a performative intervention in which intimate secrets are confessed over the phone to senators who support warrantless wiretapping. This work considers the current threat of pervasive surveillance and illegal spying as a kind of psychic violence inflicted by the state. Secrets for Senators aims to subvert this violence by repositioning the violation of privacy as a deliberate and empowering act of self-exposure. I am interested in amplifying an awkward juxtaposition between private and public voices. In the video above callers leave answering machine messages sympathizing with the government’s need for secrets about its citizenry, and then, in an elaborate quid pro quo, proceed to divulge intimate secrets in exchange for the senator’s opposition to retroactive immunity. In other examples (not shown here), I spoke live to staffers while taking on an aggressive anti-privacy persona in order to co-opt the narrative that those who complain about surveillance must have “something” to hide.