Thursday, December 16, 2010
Reflection: Interactive Surveillance, a live digital art installation by Annabel Manning and Celine Latulipe
Interactive Surveillance, a live installation by artist Annabel Manning and technologist Celine Latulipe, was held at the Dialect Gallery in the NoDa arts district of Charlotte, N.C. on Friday, December 10th, 2010. I attended this event with the intention of capturing some of the interaction between the participants and the artistic content during the experience, but I came away with so much more. The themes embedded in the installation struck a chord with me on several different levels.
Friday's version of Interactive Surveillance provided participants the opportunity to use wireless gyroscopic mice to manipulate simulated lenses on a large video display. The video displayed on the screen was a live feed from a camera located in the stairway leading to the second-floor gallery. When both lenses converged on the screen, a picture was taken of the stairway scene, and then automatically sent to Flickr. Although it was possible for one person to take a picture of the scene holding a mouse in each hand, the experience was enhanced by collaborating with a partner.
Interactive Surveillance Art Installation pic-n-pic video from Celine Latulipe on Vimeo.
A smaller screen was set out on the refreshment table so participants could view the Flickr photostream of the "surveillance" pictures taken of the stairway. On a nearby wall was a smaller digital picture frame that provided a looping video montage of Manning's photo/art of people crossing the border.
The themes explored in the original Interactive Surveillance include border surveillance, shadow, and identity, delivered in a way that creates an impact beyond the usual chatter of pundits, politicians, and opinionators. The live installation provided another layer to the event by providing participants to be the target of the "stairway surveillance", as well as play the role of someone who conducts surveillance.
In a way, the live component of the present installation speaks to the concerns of our present era, where the balance between freedom and security is shaky at best. It is understandable that video surveillance is used in our nation's efforts to protect our borders. But in our digital age, surveillance is pervasive. In most public spaces it is no longer possible to avoid the security camera's eye. Our images are captured and stored without our explicit knowledge. We do not know the identities or the intentions of those who view us, or our information, remotely.
We are numb to the ambient surveillance that surrounds us. We go about our daily activities without notice. We are silently tracked as we move across websites, dart in and out of supermarkets and shopping malls, and pay for our purchases with plastic. Our SMART phones know where we are located and will give out our personal information if we are not vigilant, as our default settings are often "public". It is easy to forget that the silent type of surveillance exists. It is not so easy to ignore more invasive types of "surveillance". We must agree to submit to a high degree of inspection in the form of metal detectors, baggage searches, and in recent weeks, uncomfortable physical pat-downs, for the privilege of traveling across state borders by plane, within our own country. In some airports, we are subject to whole-body scans that provide strangers with views of our most private spaces. We go along with this effort and prove our innocence on-the-spot, for the greater good. Conversely, we have multiple means of conducting our own forms of surveillance, through Internet searches, viewing pictures and videos posted to the web, and playing around with Google Streetview.
This is a revision of an original post on the Interactive Multimedia Technology blog.