Artist builds camera surveillance helmets and records passers by in covert surveillance performance

 
 

I returned to London in 2008 after 25 years working overseas on location based projects; only to find the city and in particular my neighbourhood Canary Wharf / Newham overrun with over 200,000 cameras at that time.

I returned to London in 2008 after 25 years working overseas on location based projects; only to find the city and in particular my neighbourhood (Canary Wharf) overrun with over 200,000 cameras at that time.

Over a period of several months I sketched & fabricated four headset designs to mimic a lifelike security camera. Camerias at the time were very bulky and in steel housings with a windscreen wiper - pictured below. after they were built, I installed myself at locations around the city, not only as a temporary performance art installation; but also as a covert recoring site as I myself was in fact fully equiped with digital recording gear built into the design.

old style surveillance camera design circa 2006

artist protest against video surveillance by private corporations

I had a lot of fun with this project, at the time people thought I was mad and either laughed at me or moved away concealing their faces. Since that time my neighbourhood of just over two square miles now has over 335,000 cameras; all recorded to huge data banks by privately owned corporate data collectors and the government itself.

The implications of video surveillance at the time were not fully known publicly, for example China was already implementing facial recognition software to automatically check and reference peoples movement. Credit ratings would be linked to your good behaviour, citizens were being penalised for crossing the road but not at an authorised junction or crossing point. The reach of this involuntary handover of rights to me were a step too far. Now these processes are in fact with us in the west; and whilst we do not see an increase in our mortgage payments for 'J' walking; what is next ? As an artist I believe it is my role to explore these threads of thought,. Thoughts that become words, that become actions are all that interest me. 

The helmet design recorded in HD, and in order to respect all those that have been recorded without first obtaining their permission; the hard drives have themselves been deleted. Yet another memento mori threading through my work for a time that was, for that very moment, beautiful and self determining.

second design for covert camera surveillance helmet

alternate design for covert camera surveillance system by ecocide artist alexander james hamilton