Sun, 23 Sep 2007

A web of indifferent watching devices

Last April I discovered the manifesto for CCTV filmmakers, a proposal for a creative use of the Data Protection Act. I still haven't seen the movie Faceless. The DVD is not yet available but an excerpt and the trailer are on YouTube. Manu Luksch and Mukul Patel, the filmmakers, published their first-hand experience of the Data Protection Act in a very interesting essay titled Faceless: chasing the data shadow. This short essay (11 pages) runs through the many different types of replies they received to their subject access requests made under the Data Protection Act. It explains the general confusion of many data controllers, how so many CCTV systems are not functional and why the process of obtaining images became much more difficult from 2004.


Sound editor Walter Murch, in an interview published on BldBlog briefly mentions a different work also done one the principle of the manifesto for CCTV filmmakers:
Murch: Well, there was a short film made a few years ago where the filmmaker had worked out the location of all the surveillance cameras along a cross-section of London, and how many of those cameras were operated by the municipal authorities. If the cameras were operated by the city, then he could get access to the footage. So he mapped out a pedestrian trip for himself across town knowing that, at every moment he would be on CCTV: as soon as he was out of range of one camera, he would come into focus on another. So he walked the walk, wrote to all the relevant authorities, got the footage, and then edited it all together into a continuous narrative. It’s very amusing in a dystopian, Warholian kind of way. You only “get” the joke after a few minutes of watching.

But George Lucas’s THX-1138 was kind of like that, except it was made in 1971. Much of the action takes place on video surveillance cameras. In fact, the job of the girl in the film is to monitor banks of surveillance cameras. She eventually gets fed up, stops taking her Prozac, or whatever, and tries to escape this completely video-monitored world – which, it turns out, is completely underground because of some disaster that had happened on the surface many years earlier.
As for the efficacy of cameras making us more secure, This is London just reminded us that ‘a comparison of the number of cameras in each London borough with the proportion of crimes solved there found that police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any.’

In Faceless: chasing the data shadow, the authors include a quote from Ian Sinclair's Lights out of for the territory that neatly sums up the situation with CCTVs:
Vague spectres of menace caught on time-coded surveillance cameras justify an entire network of peeping vulture lenses. A web of indifferent watching devices, sweeping every street, every building, to eliminate the possibility of a past tense, the freedom to forget. There can be no highlights, no special moments: a discreet tyranny of “now” has been established. “Real time” in its most pedantic form.

websiteblogblog archivenews feedfeedback