New York’s ICP reopens with survey of surveillance

Curator Charlotte Cotton reveals the ideas behind the radical show


The International Center of Photography (ICP) reopened on the Bowery, New York, in June in a ground-floor space it bought for $23.5m. The new venue has roughly the same amount of exhibition space as the museum’s former Midtown site, where its photography school will stay until at least 2018.

The inaugural show, Public, Private, Secret (until 8 January 2017), tackles surveillance and the issue of privacy in the digital age, mixing historical and contemporary works, and still and moving images, with the first room devoted to four video works. “For this new chapter of the organisation’s story it was important that it tied its colours to the mast of the social implications of our visual world and not be too caught up with whether its exhibitions will always concentrate on the already culturally validated sections of photography,” says Charlotte Cotton, the ICP’s curator-in-residence. “The mission of the ICP [founded in 1974] has always been aligned with how photography impacts on our understanding of the world.

“We brought together and combined three types of content in the exhibition: historical precedents, works by post-internet artists, and the curation of real-time media streams. They’re animated by each other and their context. The central section—I guess the heart of the exhibition—is bound up with an alternate reading of a climate of surveillance, and the ways in which social change is being activated collectively.” Gareth Harris