Ambient.TV’s Mapping CCTV around Whitehall.
Review by Rob Myers.
Two-part exercise to map CCTV cameras around Whitehall, London, within a zone covered by SOCPA (Serious and Organized Crime and Police Act 2005). A map of the hundreds of cameras in the zone was made over two days of observation. The second part involved mapping the range of one of these cameras, no. 40 in Villiers street, by intercepting its signal as it was transmitted wirelessly without encryption. As passers-by entered the marked area covered by the camera, they were alerted to the its presence and handed a copy of the map of CCTV cameras in Whitehall.
“Mapping CCTV around Whitehall”, 2008, is, as its name implies, a performance of mapping Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) security cameras around the UK’s parliament in London and a video record of that performance by Ambient.tv’s Manu Luksch. Starting with a HAL 9000-like image of a CCTV lens, the video of “Mapping CCTV In Whitehall” has a glitchy techno aesthetic of sound and images with a post-MTV-Style Guide reportage feel. The first half consists of a recording of the police stop-and-search interviewing Luksch under anti-terrorism legislation, with a map of the area superimposed. The second half consists of CCTV views of the range of Camera number 40 being taped out, and of the people caught within those bounds. Words flash on the screen to identify the subjects of CCTV. This redeployment of the language of mass media visual persuasion opens up what we see rather than closing it down, making it a very effective encapsulation of the project’s ideas and aesthetics.
Mukul Patel and Manu Luksch codirect Ambient Information Systems (AIS), a crucible for the conception and production of collaborative, interdisciplinary, and critical artworks, events, and tools. They work as artists under their own names and also as ambientTV.NET. They have a history of conceiving works that integrate curatorial and collaborative aspects (e.g., VBI), research (FACELESS and the Data Protection Act), community involvement (BOW SPACE), and hybrid media installations (ORCHESTRA OF ANXIETY). Of particular interest are concrete, contemporary issues that arise at the interface of social and technical infrastructures: access to information, privacy, surveillance. The establishment of participative processes, creation of tools, and archiving and documentation are signal features of recent projects.