Stéphanie McKnight

Stéfy McKnight 

if a tree falls in the bush and there is no one around, does it make a sound?

February 24 - May 4, 2018

Opening Reception Friday, February 23, 2018 from 7 - 9 PM  

Artist Talk: Wednesday, April 18, 2018   2:30 PM

When viewing Stéfy McKnight’s video, there is an distinctive sense of anonymous observation. The viewer watches McKnight while being safely at a distance, on the other side of the camera. As a culture, this feeling is not unfamiliar. With rapidly changing technology, we have a constantly adapting concept of privacy. Organic Surveillance is the term Stéfy McKnight uses to describe her current body of work, which utilizes research-based installation and performance art in order to explore ideas relating to settler identity, governance, security, privilege and activism.


McKnight draws clear distinctions between rural and urban surveillance. Rural areas are characterized by more traditional deterrents, such as signs, fences, dogs, while urban areas are surveilled by omnipresent cameras and elaborate security systems. However, these lines are starting to blur as urban surveillance culture impacts smaller communities, leading to things such as hunting cameras being used in place of more conventional CCTV cameras.


Stratford is situated somewhere in the middle. It is simultaneously urban and rural. The downtown core contains electronic surveillance systems while just outside of town, there are areas where there may be no direct delineating of space, and trespassing could easily be committed. All the various types of systems explored by McKnight are present within Stratford: signs, fences, dogs, alarms, cameras.

McKnight’s work addresses the myth that rural areas are “wild.” Wilderness as we understand it doesn’t exist, and if it does, it’s far from here. Places that seem “wild” are filled with elements of human inhabitancy and surveillance, as documented in if a tree falls in a forest does it make a sound? where McKnight situates herself in front of a hunting camera. We see her transition from peaceful stretching to livid gesticulation. As with much of her work, the medium is the message. The use of the hunting camera highlights both its capabilities and how it indiscriminately watches both humans and animals alike – while lacking context, as the viewer is unable to hear. It also makes the point that surveillance has an aspect of entertainment – there is something pleasurable in watching something that does not realize it is under observation. In this case, McKnight herself is both the surveilled and the surveiller. But it extends further than this, directly involving the public as a collective surveiller. By implicating the individual viewer, McKnight reminds us of our unavoidable participation in an ever-present, ever-changing world of surveillance.  

Image: Detail of: if a tree falls in the bush and there is no one around, does it make a sound? (video still)2017