Artists’ Survey: On Surveillance

Title: Artists’ Survey: On Surveillance

Mr Tim Burns, Artist, Western Australia


This  paper  examines  the  role  of  the  artist  as  a  surveillance  proponent  through  the  history  and development of artistic observation, aspects of control, developments in observational technologies and the  moral  landscapes  that  shape  the  cultural endeavor.   The  core  concerns  the  work  of  the  presenter looking at a selection of his  past works where  the aspects of control have been reversed or the  intended outcomes have been subverted.

'Control controls in order to control', as William Burrough's said. Like it or not, we're all in it for keeps.


“...Tim Burns is a legendary figure in the history of Australian underground art. He rose to notoriety in the early  1970s  with  a  series  of (literally)  explosive  art  actions,  before  decamping  to  New York, where  he remained,  on and off until the  mid-­‐1990s.  He  now resides on a large  property near the  town of York, in Western  Australia.  Rather  than  identifying  as  a  painter,  filmmaker,  karaoke  videographer,  installation artist, theatre  director or performer (although  he  has  done  all these  and more), Burns  calls  himself “a context artist”. What unites the hugely varied set of projects Burns has worked on over the last forty years is  a  constant  desire  to  set  up  situations  which  critically  reflect  on  our  hypermediated,  industrialised western society. His  interventions are  usually created live, in the public sphere, rather than being quietly crafted in the privacy of a studio setting. More often than not, they result in some sort of dramatic surprise or shift in the participants' attention.”

  Lucas Ihlein (2011) for Artists Profile, Sydney

Recently Tim has been living and teaching film, art and interactive broadcast television in Perth, Western Australia  at Edith Cowan University  and Curtin University  and  is  currently  completing  a  Phd. in Future Filmic discourses, Surveillance and Interactivity at Murdoch University where he has taughtDocumentary and film production. He has an MFA from the University of Western Australia on determinism in the Pintubi community in the Western desert on which he  wrote  a feature  film  script 'The  Stolen Film' with support from Screenwest, the WA state film commission.

His  work  has  been  exhibited  in  numerous  major  shows  and  art  institutions,  worldwide,  including The Beaubourg Paris, ICA  London, ICA Boston,  MOMA New York, The  Hirschorn Museum Washington,   The National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of NSW and South Australia, The National Gallery of Australia and the Sydney Biennale. He is represented in public and private collections internationally.