Exhibited at Otis Art Institute, 1975
Against the backdrop of massive illegal monitoring of individuals, political parties, and activist groups in the 1970s, this installation explored the implications of the U.S. government’s surveillance. A white chicken was placed in a small interior cage lined with thick rough-processed cotton batting where it spent 24 hours a day for 21 days under the glare of an overhead bare light bulb and the perpetual gaze of a closed circuit video camera recording its every movement. Its actions were simultaneously projected onto a monitor sitting within this cramped space. Between the viewer and the chicken’s activities stood an open wall covered by chicken wire fencing, making the spectator a participant in both the actual surveillance and its monitoring.
Inspired by revelations of illegal surveillance on American citizens by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well as by the US Army and its Military Intelligence Group, Dailey developed Closely Watched as a vehicle for expressing contempt for the blatant violation of basic civil rights. The knowledge that the US government’s Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) had collected records on more than 25,000,000 people and more than 760,000 organizations further motivated the artist to construct this work.