Comment: Surveillant Camera Man

(for some reason, it would let me embed the video, so follow the link to watch it on youtube)

I sort of have to give it to this guy for intruding on people’s personal space and challenging their notions of “privacy” in public areas. It made me laugh. It inspired me to think a little deeper about this idea of surveillance. It also reminded me of the Brad Downey interview we read in class, and his notion that “Public space is irrelevant it does not exist.”

This project is similar to Paolo Cirio’s “Street Ghosts” in that it flamboyantly addresses surveillance. I think most people will quickly conclude that these videos are a commentary on the fact that our lives are under constant surveillance; From CCTV to the NSA to the cookies that tell banner ads what to sell us, so on and so blah. I wondered if the cameraman is consciously/deliberately attempting to exaggerate what CCTV cameras do all the time – record and observe us – to call our attention to it. To encourage us to be sensitive to it? Maybe. Maybe his intentions are totally irrelevant from the meaning each individual takes.

The reaction of the film’s subjects are interesting because there is a very obvious pattern and similarity among all people, regardless of language, gender, age, etc. The confusion over being filmed quickly turns into fear, which quickly manifests as anger and aggression towards their stalker. Many seem to think they reserve some sort of right to grant permission to those who want to capture them on film (which is not an actual right – you can be filmed in public space). The most common reactions from the people being recorded, when they’ve failed to shoo away their filmed through words, is the use or threat of either calling the police or violence/physical force.

What emerges are two reactions we saw from the US public in response to the NSA: one group who is feels privacy is a human right and feels outraged by the government’s violation of this. The other group who thinks “Well, they can spy all they want because I’m not doing anything wrong.” I think this “Fuck the poor vs. help the poor” public performance piece characterized that public response. We’re willing to voice that we care. We’re not willing to do something about it.

Perhaps we are voicing that we disagree with these things but what actions have we taken? Have we gotten violent about it? Have we threatened to call the police? Have we asked our government why they need to constantly observe us? These are the reactions given to Surveillant Camera Man.


“Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither”