CCTV camera installations

I, A Machine, Am Showing You a World the Likes of Which Only I Can See, DVD, 7 min., 2004

The presence of CCTV equipment in urban centres can be felt everywhere, from reality TV shows to late night corner shops, concealed in neo-classical domes above suburban malls and in trees in city-parks. London has the largest number of closed circuit cameras in the world, while Johannesburg’s city centre is covered with cameras that can zoom in on any person walking on street level and follow them. During a normal day in the city centre, one is likely to be filmed over 400 times. In a recent postal strike, post office authorities suggested implementing CCTV to observe illegal strikers. The film, featuring the music of Guy Debord, asks how panic and insecurity are being visualised in contemporary culture, and whether this results in “the defence of luxury a proliferation of new repressions in time and movement” (Mike Davis, City of Quartz, 1990) or is CCTV closer to the utopian role that Dziga Vertov assigned to the camera: “I, a machine, am showing you a world, the likes of which only I can see” (Dziga Vertov, “Manifesto of the Beginning of 1922). Placed in their own ‘natural’ habitat, taken away from their original function and placed in full view, do hidden cameras still somehow retain the sense of paranoia and the power structures that were programmed into their very existence or do they speak a language all their own?

Collages from a series commisioned for Centrefold 2: You Are Not Safe Here