Description of campaign/project
The goal in making our panoptICONS project was to create more awareness about the presence of surveillance cameras in public space. We feel people accept camerasurveillance too easily, because while they may 'know' in an abstract way that there are cameras, they don't actually 'feel' the fact that they are constantly being watched. We feel that there would be a lot more resistance to surveillance cameras if people would be actively aware of their presence and their gaze. We tried to accomplish this with the panoptICONS.
The main reasons that people don't notice surveillance cameras are that they blend in very well with their surroundings and so are ignored like all other streetfurniture, and that they are situated above streetlevel. To solve this visibility issue we needed to get people to look up more in their daily lives. By making weird-looking birdcameras with things like blinking leds, moving heads and sound we hoped we could draw people's attention and get them to look up. Once they've seen one of the camerabirds our hope was that people would look above street level for the rest of the day to see if they can spot more camerabirds, causing them to see the enormous amount of real surveillance cameras in the city. Our goal was not to specifically tell people that surveillance cameras are bad, but we feel that people should be really aware of their presence before being able to form a worthwhile opinion about this issue.
By making people aware of their surroundings again, they can make informed decisions when it's time too vote or when the placement of new surveillance cameras is announced in their city or neighbourhood. By making them aware of the problem and how it affects them personally in their daily lives they can try to resist this trend of increasing surveillance.
We learned that it can be quite hard to reach people in public space, because they are so entrenched in their routine of walking to work or the shops that they don't look around with interest or curiosity anymore. It was also interesting to see that some people, after noticing the camerabirds, were very concerned about their privacy and then realised that there is very little difference in that aspect between our camerabirds and real surveillancecameras.
Curators comments More info on Curators & Editors ›
Bas van Oerle; Thomas voor 't Hekke
Concept author year(s) of birth
Concept author(s) contribution
Bas: Concept, software, electronics; Thomas: Concept, electronics, design;
panoptICONS addresses the fact that we are constantly being watched by surveillance cameras in city centres. The surveillance camera seems to have become a real pest that feeds on our privacy. To represent this, camera birds - city birds with cameras instead of heads - were placed throughout the city centre of Utrecht where they feed on the presence of people. In addition, a camera bird in captivity was displayed to show the feeding process and to make the everyday breach of our privacy more personal and tangible.