Projects home



Justina M Barnicke Gallery 
Hart House, University of Toronto

January 24–March 16, 2014

With contributions by Anonymous, Abbas Akhavan, George Antheil, Gregory Bateson, BBC, Walter Benjamin, Lene Berg, Black Cat Systems, Sir Anthony Blunt, Mel Bochner, Bertolt Brecht, Adam Broomberg + Oliver Chanarin, Bill Burns, Canadian Army, Raymond Cass, Center for Land Use Interpretation, CIA, Lt. Col. Jim Channon, Dana Claxton, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali, DBI Architects, Jan Dibbets, Encounter Magazine, Arthur Erickson, Harun Farocki, FBI, Coco Fusco, Dan Graham, Hizbollah, Albert Hofmann, Douglas Huebler, Israeli Defense Force, Donald Judd, Yves Klein, Joseph Kosuth, Hedy Lamarr, Alfonso Laurencic, An-My Lê, Libyan Minister of Culture and Ethnic Affairs, Lucy R. Lippard, El Lissitzky, Mark Lombardi, Gordon Matta-Clark, Simon Menner, Major. Vera Michael, Lee Miller, Richard Mosse, Sang Mun, MoMA NYC, NSA, Trevor Paglen, Palestine Arab Delegation, Roland Penrose with David Sherman, Queen's Press, Walid Raad, Fabian Reimann, Steve Rowell, Peter Paul Rubens, Raúl Ruiz, Ed Ruscha, Paul Ryan, Secret Level, Joshua Simon, Robert Smithson, Edward Snowden, Anna-Sophie Springer, Charles Stankievech, Deborah Stratman, Abbott Handerson Thayer, Tor Project, Tamas St. Turba, Ubisoft, US Army, Paul Virilio, Edward Wadsworth, Eyal Weizman, Wikileaks, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Amir Yatziv, Philip R. Zimmermann, and others.

Curated by Charles Stankievech



Installation Views


CounterIntelligence, a project by artist Charles Stankievech, contemplates the intersection of art and military intelligence communities over 400 years, gleaning historic examples ranging from the 17th century Papal court, a 1930s anarchist double agent who designed Spanish torture cells based on Surrealist and Bauhaus aesthetics to a civilian bookwork circumventing the NSA’s control of encryption. Instead of focusing on the mechanics of propaganda or questioning the power of the image in today’s media saturated Military Industrial Complex, this exhibition explores the hidden gestures and strategic deceptions of a shadow world, covering a spectrum of work from historical military artifacts to contemporary artwork.

At the core of the show lie the concepts of the double agent and the secret, specifically where a historical figure or artifact appears to serve one community but also functions in the realm of another. Strategically, the exhibition counterpoints maneuvers-of-circumvention alongside artwork-as-ciphers expanding the field of interpretation through poetic connections such as black sites vs. non-sites, interrogation vs. performance, field manuals vs. bookworks, decoy vs. readymade.

Methodologically, CounterIntelligence questions the contemporary role of the exhibition as caught in the no man’s land between the didactic museum and the conceptual gesture. Much like camouflage, appearances can be deceiving and surface meanings often misleading when tactics such as double agents and ‘security through obscurity’ are executed with the explicit intention not ‘to make the invisible visible’ as Paul Klee would say, but rather to use the image to hide what matters most.

Awards | Exhibition of the Year and Best Curatorial Essay
Selected Reviews | Artforum | Toronto Star | Canadian Art | CV