In Occupational Placement, commissioned in 1989 by the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, images from live permanent security system cameras, temporary cameras, and pre-recorded video (fake feeds) are mixed with overlays of random computer-generated text, recorded and output to screens. Visitors become part of the artwork as they watch themselves on the monitors, seeing their images overlaid with such vaguely unsettling text as "you are not protected here but are being watched."
About Occupational Placement, Scher has said, “The viewing audience will be asked to consider the implication of being within an environment that, rather than being observed itself, is engaged in observing, collecting, organizing and transposing images. You look at the building – but the building looks back.”
Emerging in the mid 1980s as precise but playful analyst of social and technological changes, Julia Scher has been dealing with video surveillance for more than 30 years. Her work addresses surveillance both as a concrete phenomenon of control, including its apparatus and architecture, as well as its impact on private and public sphere. Her early performance and video installations drew attention to the effects of increasingly ubiquitous cameras and monitors.
The work has had different configurations, devised by the artist throughout its exhibition history. At the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio, it was presented on 10 hanging monitors, streaming the live stream from 7 surveillance cameras installed at the venue, mixed with pre-recorded material. This presentation established 2016 hours of recorded video footage that gave the base for later presentation configurations.
Included in the group exhibition Enemy of the Stars at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Occupational Placement was presented as an 8-channel video installation, shown on 8 black 20" Thomson monitors, mounted on wall brackets and distributed within the entire exhibition space. A durational exhibition project Post Institutional Stress Disorder at Kunsthal Aarhus included the work as a single-channel video, presented on a free-standing screen.