Julia Scher experiments with performance, video, installation and sculpture to interrogate psychic landscapes of surveillance. Appropriating feminine icons and domestic technologies, Scher crafts multi-media environments that probe the boundaries between exhibitionism, self-surveillance and violent state supervision.
Over the past three decades, Scher has dedicated herself to extensive research and teaching in the then-nascent but now firmly established field of Surveillance Studies. Scher’s interest in privacy and safety originates from a concern with gender politics, particularly the feminization of surveillance. Her unique vocabulary—the uniforms of her security guards, the “hidden” cameras, the whips and chains that intertwine with exposed coaxial cables—points to the psychosexual and the pleasure in being seen. Scher’s works question the fluctuating boundaries between the private and public spheres in a society built on social control. Her interactive installations place viewers in the dual position of watcher and watched. Scher’s focus on the manipulative and voyeuristic qualities of the cybersphere far preceded and anticipated the magnitude of contemporary surveillance society.
Julia Scher (b. 1954, Hollywood, California) lives and works in Cologne, Germany. Recent solo exhibitions of her work include Julia Scher: Maximum Security Society, Kunsthalle Zürich and Abteiberg Museum, Mönchengladbach, Germany (2022–2023); Wonderland, Maison Populaire, Montreuil, France (2022); Planet Greyhound, Kunsthalle Gießen, Gießen, Germany (2022); and Julia Scher, MAMCO, Geneva (2021). She has exhibited solo installations and projects at the Collective for Living Cinema, New York (1988); The Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio (1990); Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center, Buffalo (1992); Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne (1994); the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco (1998); and Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, Aachen, Germany (2018). Her work has been featured in multiple survey exhibitions, including Signals: How Video Transformed the World, the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2023); Day Jobs, Blanton Museum of Art, Austin and Cantor Arts Center, Stanford, California (2023–2024); Art in the Age of the Internet: 1989 to Today, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2018); The Condition of Being Art: Pat Hearn Gallery and American Fine Arts, Co. (1983–2004), Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York (2018); and NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star, New Museum, New York (2013). Scher has taught at a number of institutions, including Columbia University; Harvard University; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton; the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Southern California; and the Academy of Media Arts, Cologne. Her work is in the permanent collections of public institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Harvard Radcliffe Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts; MAMCO, Geneva; Kunstsammlungen, Wiesbaden, Germany; and Le Consortium, Dijon. Scher has received several awards, including the NEA Grant for Installation Art (1992), the Bunting Institute Fellowship for Surveillance Studies at Harvard University (1996–1997), the John F. Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for Installation Art (2005), and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Preservation Grant for Media Arts.