“I Know That You’ve Been Around”: Holly Herndon Takes on the NSA with New Video

Directed by Dutch design studio Metahaven.

September 16, 2014

On her new song “Home,” Holly Herndon sings about the National Surveillance Agency: You know me better than I know me. She also sings: I want you to show your face. It’s not debatable whether the surveillance the NSA has done and continues to do—legally—is an egregious invasion of privacy. But how exactly do you hold a faceless organization accountable, especially one this powerful? How do you even interact with them? How do you have a relationship with invisible government agents that have been watching you without your knowing? It’s a nuanced process. 

On “Home,” Holly Herndon incisively engages these questions—and the vulnerability they incite—with incredible clarity, provocation, and as always, impeccable sound design. “For my debut album, I communicated an intimacy with my laptop,” says Herndon in a press release. “The ongoing NSA revelations fundamentally changed this relationship. I entrusted so much in my device, to learn this intimacy had been compromised felt like a grand betrayal. Is everything done privately on my laptop to be considered a private performance?" 

Here, Herndon enlists Dutch design firm Metahaven—who are responsible for some very important essays on exactly what should worry us about the cloud—to direct the song's video, and the results are stunning: NSA symbols stream across the screen like “data rain," in Metahaven’s words, and Herndon is constantly obfuscated and surveilled in new, inventive ways. Read our GEN F profile on Herndon, from 2012, right here

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“I Know That You’ve Been Around”: Holly Herndon Takes on the NSA with New Video