WearCam concept: Maybe camera
The following are experiments that the writer
has conducted and purposely taken to the extreme in order to (a)
illustrate a point and (b) experience reactions and observations first
hand. It is not likely that the average reader would go to these extremes
but some more subtle variations of these experiments
will still provide similar insight or reactions.
You cannot patent a mere ``idea'', but, rather, the idea must first be
reduced to practice. Similarly, you cannot copyright an idea, it must
first manifest itself as some tangible form. Conceptual art, however,
provides us with a means where the idea itself is the contribution.
- Take one piece 1/8 inch black or dark acrylic,
cut to 3 by 4 inches.
- Obtain a bulky sweatshirt in your size.
- Print the words: ``For YOUR protection, a
video record of you and your establishment may
be transmitted and
recorded at remote locations. ALL CRIMINAL ACTS PROSECUTED!''
in large letters, on the front of the shirt.
Lay out the lettering so as to leave room for the acrylic
between the words ``locations'' and ``ALL'' (``locations'' to
be at the end of one line of text, and ``ALL'' to begin the
next line of text).
- Affix the acrylic securely to the shirt.
- Wear the completed shirt into a department store
or other location where
- video surveillance is used but
- photography is prohibited (this
criterion can be determined experimentally even before
the shirt is made, by entering the proposed establishment
with a 35mm camera or the like,
and taking pictures within said establishment
in a somewhat obvious manner).
(See also a
picture of maybecamera shirts on exhibit at Gallery TPW,
as well as other pictures
of maybecameras and domewear)
The above piece is entitled ``Maybe Camera --- Who's Paranoid?''.
Just as the customer doesn't know what's in the mysterious
ceiling dome of wine-dark opacity, and must therefore be on
his best behaviour at all times, so too, the shopkeeper
doesn't know what's inside the customer's shirt, and likewise
must be on his best behaviour at all times.
Depending on the level of paranoia, if `Maybe-Camera...' is not ``understood''
by your audience, then perhaps the following
conceptual/performance/reflectionist piece would be:
The above piece is called `Probably Camera --- Who's Paranoid?'.
Probably Camera and Maybe Camera can be worn together of course, since
one uses the front of the body, while the other uses the back.
- Obtain one miniature (12
inches in diameter or smaller) ceiling dome of wine-dark
opacity, together with a camera and pan-tilt-zoom mechanism
suitable for that dome.
- Affix dome to backpack, facing backwards, cutting
appropriate mounting hole in backback,
leaving sufficient space, and installing appropriate housing
for camera and pan-tilt-zoom mechanism.
Leave the camera out for the time being.
- Insert a small battery powered computer equipped with video capture
hardware, and means of controlling the function of the pan-tilt-zoom
- Insert into the pack, means of wireless communication to/from the
Internet, or to/from an Internet gateway/server.
- Prepare software to allow the function of the apparatus to be controlled
remotely via a WWW page, with ability to capture and display images
from the camera if the camera is present. Make this WWW page
world-accessible and known to various people around the world.
- Leave the work area and have someone else do the final assembly in your
absence, according to the following instructions:
Roll two dice, and:
- If the total comes to two or three, insert into the dome
a small light bulb, affixed to the pan-tilt-zoom sensor
but connected to it in no way, together with sufficient
ballast into the pack to make up the difference in weight
between the bulb and the camera, so that the wearer could
not determine this difference by weight.
- If the dice total exceeds three, insert the camera, properly
mounting it and
connecting it to video digitizer. Verify its operation
using a Web browser of your choice.
- Wear backpack together with shirt (`Maybe Camera...'), into
a record store, preferably ``Tower Records'',
where ceiling domes of wine-dark opacity are used.
If asked if it is a camera, or what it is, indicate that you're
not certain, but point out the domes upon their ceiling and
indicate the similarity, so that perhaps it could be a light
fixture. (Security guards at Tower records
have informed the author that their ceiling domes of wine-dark
opacity are ``light fixtures''.)
Dan Graham uses video time delay together with mirrors, etc., to create
a delay between cause and effect. His video feedback involves
both senses of the word ``feedback'': (1) the cameras ``sees'' the screen
which is displaying the output from the camera, and (2) the users who see
themselves on the screen adjust their behaviour according to this
A conceptual piece, involving time-delay, to symbolize the disjointness
between cause and effect that video recording creates
is now described:
The piece is called `No Camera --- Who's Paranoid?'.
- Place pinhole camera and microphone into baseball cap, and record
video from an establishment where photography, filming, and the like
is strictly prohibited, but where video surveillance is used,
and where there are documented cases of hidden cameras having been
used. While recording video, talk to members
of establishment, including manager. Ask
whether or not they use video surveillance,
and if so, why they are videotaping you without your permission. Ask
``ceiling domes of wine-dark opacity'' are, if any are present.
- Leave this establishment, and return with the following,
but without the camera:
- Flat-panel television screen affixed to shirt.
- Source of previously recorded video material.
- Means of switching between previously recorded material
and standard broadcast television channels.
- Play the previously recorded video on the television screen,
and if you are informed that photography, filming, or the like,
is prohibited, indicate that there is NO CAMERA, and that what
you are wearing is merely a television.
Switch through the
various channels, indicating that one of them (the one playing the
previously recorded material) looks like it ``must be a local
channel --- a VERY local channel''.
`My Manager', borrows from the Stellarc/Elsenaar
tradition in performance art: not just that the
author's `third eye' might be analogous to Stellarc's third hand, but,
more importantly, that the body is controlled remotely. `My Manager'
allows participants to, via Radio TeleTYpe (RTTY), become managers and
remotely contribute to the creation of a documentary video in an
environment under totalitarian surveillance
(where photography, video, etc., other than by the
totalitarian regime is prohibited).
The artist is metaphorically a puppet on a ``string'' (to be precise,
a puppet on a wireless data connection) who, for example,
dutifully marches into the
establishment in question, goes over to the stationery department,
selects a pencil for purchase, and marches past the magazine rack
without stopping to browse the magazines. In this example,
he has been sent on an errand to purchase a pencil for a higher
and unquestionable authority. When challenged by the department
store's infrastructure, as to the purpose of the cameras he is
wearing, the artist indicates that his manager requires him to wear
the apparatus so that she can make sure that he does not stop
and read magazines while he is performing errands on company time.
Just as representatives in an organization absolve themselves of
responsibility for their surveillance systems by blaming surveillance
on managers or others higher up their official hierarchy, the artist
absolves himself of responsibility for taking pictures of these
representatives without their permission because it is the
remote manager(s) together
with the thousands of viewers on the World Wide Web who are
taking the pictures.
The subjects of the pictures, for
example, department store managers, who had previously stated that
``only criminals are afraid of video cameras'', or that
the use of video surveillance is beyond their control, either implicate
themselves of their own accusations by showing fear in the face of a
camera, or acknowledge the undesirable state of affairs that can arise
from cameras that function as an extension of a higher and unquestionable
If their response is one of fear and paranoia, they are handed a
form, entitled RFD (Request For Deletion)
which they may use to make a request to
have their pictures deleted from the
artist's manager's database (they are informed the images have already
been transmitted to the manager and cannot be deleted by the artist).
The form asks them for name, social
security number, and the reason for which they'd like to have their
images deleted, and requests that they sign a section certifying that
the reason is not one of concealing criminal activity,
such as hiding the
fact that their fire exits are illegally chained shut.
Through `reflectionism' the department store attendant/representative
in the bureaucratic ``mirror'' created by the artist who is
a puppet on a (wireless) ``string''. `My
Manager' forces attendants/maintainers/supporters of the video `Surveillance
Superhighway', with all of its rhetoric and
bureaucracy, to realize or admit
that they are ``puppets'' for a brief instant, and
confront the reality of what their blind obedience leads to.
A number of individuals who may or may not be wearing cameras that may or
may not be transmitting to what may or may not be a WWW site, may or may
not reduce crime.
Project funded, in part, by the Council for the Arts at MIT.
Privacy issues of wearable cameras
versus surveillance cameras.
List Visual Arts Center exhibit
invited plenary lecture at Ars Electronica 97, both of which
feature "maybe camera" and "probably camera" embodiments.