Athanasius Kircher Musurgia Universalis (1650)

Presented by the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Liquid Architecture and Melbourne Law School

Tuesday 24 July – Sunday 28 October 2018


EAVESDROPPING used to be a crime. According to Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England (1769): ‘eavesdroppers, or such as listen under walls or windows, or the eaves of a house, to hearken after discourse, and thereupon to frame slanderous and mischievous tales, are a common nuisance and presentable at the court-leet.’ Two hundred and fifty years later, eavesdropping isn’t just legal, it’s ubiquitous. What was once a minor public order offence has become one of the most important politico-legal problems of our time, as the Snowden revelations made abundantly clear. Eavesdropping: the ever-increasing access to, capture and control of our sonic worlds by state and corporate interests.

But eavesdropping isn’t just about big data, surveillance and security. We all overhear. Listening itself is excessive. We cannot help but hear too much, more than we mean to. Eavesdropping, in this sense, is the condition – or the risk – of sociality per se, so that the question is not whether to eavesdrop, but the ethics and politics of doing so. This project pursues an expanded definition of eavesdropping therefore, one that includes contemporary mechanisms for listening-in but also activist practices of listening back, that is concerned with malicious listenings but also the responsibilities of the earwitness.


Eavesdropping is a unique collaboration between Melbourne Law SchoolLiquid Architecture and the Ian Potter Museum of Art, comprising an exhibition, a public program, series of working groups and touring event which explores the politics of listening through work by leading artists, researchers, writers and activists from Australia and around the world.

Curators: Joel Stern (Liquid Architecture) and Dr James Parker (Melbourne Law School).

Exhibiting artists: Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Samson Young, Susan Schuppli, Fayen d’Evie and Jen Bervin with Bryan Phillips and Andy Slater Joel Spring,  Sean Dockray, Michael Green, André Dao, Jon Tjhia, Abdul Aziz Muhamat, Farhad Bandesh, Behrouz Boochani and Shabbir Hussein.

Talks and performances: Andrew Brooks, Anja Kanngieser, Brian Hochman, Ceri Hann, David Chesworth and Sonia Leber, Jake Goldenfein, Jasmine Guffond, Jennifer Stoever, Mehera San Roque, M J Grant, Peter Szendy, Poppy de Souza, Robin James, Sam Kidel, Samson Young, Sara Ramshaw, Susan Schuppli, Mark Andrejevic and more.