I Spy

From CT4CT: Creative Tools for Critical Times

(Redirected from Surveillance)

I Spy: The Art of Surveillance

This page is a work in progress. Please visit the Discussion section for links to more projects.

Stencil by Banksy

Surveillance is the monitoring of behavior. Although the word surveillance in French literally means "watching over," the term is often used for all forms of observation or monitoring, including dataveillance.


Artistic Projects


2.4GHz, 2008

Benjamin Gaulon's (AKA RECYCLISM) 2.4GHZ (2008) detects and records wireless video feeds from CCTV systems. The videos are then publicly displayed, alerting others of the presence of surveillance cameras.

According to Gaulon:

The 2.4Ghz™ project uses a wireless video receiver to hack into wireless surveillance cameras. This device (which is now part of consumers popular products), can be use for wireless surveillance camera but it can also be used for parents to keep an eye on their pupils. Those systems are getting more and more popular as they are getting cheaper. But what most users of those devices don't realise is that they are broadcasting the signal. This project (in progress) has several layers. Initially I have been walking around different town in Europe to collect and record footage received with the device, see below for the collected movies. The second part of the project (also in progress) consist of placing the device in the street to reveal the presence of the cameras and to make obvious the fact that anyone can receive those signals.

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Big Brother State

Big Brother State, 2007

Big Brother State (2007) is a short animated film that challenges the notion that citizens must give up privacy and civil liberties in exchange for security.

According to Big Brother State:

The Big Brother State is an educational film about what politicians claim to be protection of our freedom, but what we refer to as repressive legislation. Since terrorism has become a global threat, especially after 9/11, governments all over the world have started enforcing laws which, so the governments say, should increase national security. These laws obviously aim at another goal: the states gaining more and more control of their citizens at the cost of our privacy and freedom.

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COMMONspace, 2006-07

REBAR's COMMONspace (2006-2007) is a project that explored, evaluated, and mapped San Francisco's privately-owned public spaces.

According to REBAR:
In an effort to provide more public space downtown, the City of San Francisco has partnered with private developers to create a number of privately-owned public spaces. Some of these spaces are open and inviting - activated by public use. Others are under heavy surveillance, difficult to find, appear private, or are fundamentally inaccessible. To date, these spaces have not been systematically evaluated. The goal of COMMONspace is to evaluate, activate and reclaim these spaces as a critical part of the public realm and as a valuable component of San Francisco's intellectual and artistic commons.

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Freedom Not Fear: The Big Picture

Freedom Not Fear: The Big Picture, 2008

Freedom Not Fear: The Big Picture (2008) is a photo mosaic of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made up of photos of surveillance cameras and other things that embody people's day-to-day lives in the surveillance society. The Big Brother-esque work was created by the Open Rights Group and No2ID to celebrate Freedom Not Fear Day using Creative Commons licensed photos that were uploaded to Flickr by citizens around the UK.

Freedom not Fear is an international day of action for democracy, free speech, human rights and civil liberties.

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The Get Out Clause

The Get Out Clause, 2008

The Get Out Clause is a Manchester, UK band that used some of Britain’s 13 million CCTV cameras to create a music video. Unable to afford camera equipment and a film crew, The Get Out Clause set up their instruments and proceeded to play in front of CCTV cameras in over 80 locations around Manchester.

To obtain the film footage of their performances, the band then filed requests under the UK's Data Protection Act. Only one quarter of the organizations handed over footage but that still provided enough for the band to create a video that included 20 different locations.

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One Nation Under CCTV

One Nation Under CCTV, 2008

Banksy's One Nation Under CCTV (2008) is a guerilla artwork painted on a wall above a Post Office yard in central London, UK. It includes the slogan "One Nation Under CCTV," in stark white capitals printed above the figure of a police officer with a dog filming the scene. It is a direct critique of the increasing amounts of surveillance employed by officials in the United Kingdom. The artwork is made more impressive by its size (several stories high) and the fact that it was created in an area that is under the surveillance of a real CCTV (Closed-circuit Television) camera.

According to the Mail Online:

Banksy pulled off an audacious stunt to produce what is believed to be his biggest work yet in central London. The secretive graffiti artist managed to erect three storeys of scaffolding behind a security fence despite being watched by a CCTV camera. Then, during darkness and hidden behind a sheet of polythene, he painted this comment on 'Big Brother' society.

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Spy Box

Spy Box, 2006

Tim Knowle's Spy Box (2006) consists of a digital camera inside a parcel that looks out through a small hole and captures images of its journey through the postal system.

According to Knowles:

A digital camera inside a parcel looks out through a small hole and captures images of its journey through the postal system. The Spy Box was sent from my studio to the gallery taking an image every 10 seconds recording a total of 6994 images these were then edited together to create an animated slideshow.

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The Tactical Ice Cream Unit

Tactical Ice Cream Unit

The Center for Tactical Magic's Tactical Ice Cream Unit is a mobile surveillance and information station disguised as an ice cream truck. It is used to distribute educational materials about social and environmental issues and can also be used to monitor dangerous activities in the community including police brutality and corporate dumping.

According to the Center for Tactical Magic:

The Tactical Ice Cream Unit (TICU) rolls through the city in an act of intervention that replaces cold stares with frosty treats and nourishing knowledge. Combining a number of successful activist strategies (Food-Not-Bombs, Copwatch, Indymedia, infoshops, etc) into one mega-mobile, the TICU is the Voltron-like alter-ego of the cops' mobile command center. Although the TICU appears to be a mild-mannered vending vehicle, it harbors a host of high-tech surveillance devices including a 12-camera video surveillance system, acoustic amplifiers, GPS, satellite internet, a media transmission studio capable of disseminating live audio/video, and of course, ice cream. With every free ice cream handed out, the sweet-toothed citizenry also receives printed information developed by local progressive groups. Thus, the TICU serves as a mobile nexus for community activities while providing frosty treats and food-for-thought.

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Tracking Transience

Tracking Transience, 2007

Hasan Elahi's Tracking Transience (2007) is an artistic project and website that documents his entire life. Elahi was detained by the FBI in 2002 as a terrorism suspect. He was released after taking lie-detector tests but the experience convinced him of the need to maintain an alibi at all times. To document his entire life, he created a website that syncs up with a personal GPS device and tracks his every movement. The site also includes his uploaded credit card receipts and over 20,000 photos.

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External Links

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