Irene Fenara And The Innocence of the Eye

Who is Irene Fenara?

The Italian artist Irene Fenara uses surveillance cameras to create art. Her idea is simple. The act of vision is the central element of her work. Optical devices often used as instruments of control, in her work, bring attention to the notion of a mystery: who observes and who is observed? (

She exhibited her works in art galleries and public institutions, such as Fondazione Prada Osservatorio (2016), MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna (2018), Kunst Merano Arte (2019), and others. 

What’s special about her research?

Irene Fenara’s most popular series of photographs is “Supervision”. There is a difference between her work and that of the other artists. Fenara’s work comes from the cameras managed by other users. 

It makes us reflect on the always reversible relationship between the observer and the one being observed.

Another of her fascinating projects is a “Self Portrait from Surveillance Camera”. It is a series of self-portraits. The artist placed herself in front of surveillance cameras. They were already present in various places. Afterward, she traces the visual data back. (

A few years ago, the artist discovered an easy access, on the basis of the IP address, to surveillance cameras located all over the world. How is it possible? It’s simple. Home surveillance cameras’ owners have never changed their passwords. They were set automatically by the producers and never updated. 

In this way, she obtained an infinite number of images to use. Her works not only highlight an increasingly controlled society around us and the dangers of cloud camera surveillance systems. She also does something good for art itself. She asks the right questions and refreshes photographic genres like landscape and abstraction.

In “Self Portrait from Surveillance Camera” she places herself in front of pre-existing surveillance cameras. 

Fenara claims that:

“Overturning the look of control and intervening on the point of view is central to this work as a re-appropriation of the self and of the identity towards the constantly controlled world”.

It’s easy to notice her gaze. By looking directly into the camera, she becomes a rebel, she acts with resistance. She bluntly imposes her identity on this constantly controlled world.

The tools of contemporaneity determine our way of seeing

This theoretical basis becomes an opportunity to practice observation and reflection on images. With the use of an instrument foreign to art before, Fenara relates to power and vision. Environmental control becomes the beginning of the unique visual and semantic art journey. 

 “All my work is based on the investigation of that gesture that underlies every photographic operation: watching. In particular, I observe and interpret the way machines look”.


Fenara uses surveillance images to illustrate and emphasize the dichotomy between the observers and the observed, whether it’s plants, animals, or people.

Other interesting researches

Another artist’s work is “Three Thousand Tigers” (2019). For this project, she moves away from the surveillance camera to another type of optical machine. 

Using a generative algorithm, she creates a single image from the digital union of thousands of images of tigers, leaving only a few original characteristics. It addresses the fact that file reproduction reduces in quality over time. At the same time, it also refers to the threat to the species of becoming extinct. 

She explains: 

“There are currently more images of tigers than living ones. Tigers are very common in our imagery: in fashion house logos, on cereal boxes, on t-shirts… but they aren’t. Technology can change our perception of reality.”


Our Take – Standard security codes are easy to crack

Camera surveillance, especially the one connected to a cloud is a relatively new area. As part of the internet of things, we’re not really aware of all the camera surveillance dangers. It has not yet been thoroughly regulated from the social, cultural, or even technical point of view. The camera surveillance department leaves a gap where huge legal and privacy issues flourish.

Regardless of the priceless contribution to art, the core practical message is clear. We should never depend on the idea of privacy provided by cloud security surveillance systems. As presented in this marvelous research by a prominent artist, they are less than safe.