(In)Security Camera

2003
Variable Dimensions
Interactive Robotic Installation
Collaborative project with Ben Chang and Dmitry Strakovsky

In recent years we have seen a dramatic increase in the use and sophistication of electronic surveillance systems in public space, in both physical and information space. In Chicago, for example, the mayor’s goal is to cover the entire city with a complete blanket of video surveillance. Recent technological developments include camera networks with facial identification software which can be programmed to track specific individuals. The promise of greater security always brings with it the accompanying danger of potential abuse and the suppression of dissent. Video surveillance is just one of the ways in which we are increasingly blurring the lines between public and private space, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

The (In)Security Camera is a robotic surveillance camera with advanced computer-vision software that can track, zoom, and follow subjects walking through its field of view, assessing threat levels in real time and responding accordingly.

However, the camera is, in fact, a little insecure. Easily startled by sudden movements, it is shy around strangers and tends to avoid direct eye contact. The intention in creating the (In)Security Camera is to invert the relationship between the surveillance system and its subjects, giving the machine an element of human personality and fallibility that is by turns endearing, tragic, and slightly disturbing. This behavioral reversal can be read as an expression of the anxieties and fears underlying the security camera’s authoritative role; as an anti-voyeuristic refusal of visual pleasure; or as a kind of withdrawal, avoiding difficult questions and challenges.