Voyeurism is, for many artists, a necessary part of the creative process. But some take the act of watching the unaware a step further, into surveillance or espionage. As the 2011 SF MoMA and Tate Modern show “Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera Since 1870” reminded us, these activities have been going on in art for at least a century—and right now, in our age of Edward Snowden’s revelations and our daily self-tracking through social media, they’re rampant.
Still others see spycraft as a necessary form of “adult disobedience,” to quote John Waters’s commencement speech for the 2015 graduating class of the Rhode Island School of Design, in which he also advised the students to “Spy. Be nosy. Eavesdrop.” Below are a few other artists who seem to be heeding his call.