Surveillance and Art

Essay written for MFA in June 2019 (James Tregaskis all rights reserved)


Introduction
Surveillance has been with us throughout western history. The use of technology opens up opportunities for covert activities. Increasingly sophisticated methodologies are employed with each advance in technology.
In this paper I set out examples of surveillance, contrasting desirable and undesirable outcomes in its use. I present examples of recent and more sophisticated techniques of surveillance to raise the question – is surveillance out-of-control? Evidence suggests that the Internet has accelerated the advancement and aggregation of bad actors in the commercial arena to a toxic extent, a manifestation referred by commentators on surveillance as ‘surveillance capitalism’ . Could it be that the government-initiated high technology surveillance methods used on their populations are a good thing and perhaps necessary for the ultimate survival and benefit of mankind? The resultant asymmetry of power does not only lie in global corporations but is also held by governments. How has the evolution of surveillance and the questions it raised been dealt with by artists and how do they approach the subject?

A conversation on race

[old friend]

(white man, middle-class, 67 years old, raised as a Jew)

…. sends me (white man, middle-class, 66 years old, raised as a Roman Catholic)

an email in response to my previous email containing a link to an obscure video ‘The Melting Pot’, written by Neil Shand and Spike Milligan in 1975 . It is very dated and poor quality, comprising the two main characters, played by Milligan and John Bird – both wearing brown makeup and speaking in typecast ‘stupid Indian’/’Peter Sellers-esque’ accents.

The pilot show never saw the light of day after its first broadcast, despite many episodes having been recorded. Perhaps the BBC thought it was well below Spike Milligan’s usually funny standards. Perhaps its racist humour finally propelled it into the dustbin of history… At the time, many TV shows were being broadcasted, reflecting in full sight, the public’s appetite for racist comedy accepted in the mainstream.

Unwisely I sent it to the [old friend], he is a big fan of Spike Milligan.

So, in response to this, the [old friend] replies:


[old friend]

How about the fros [sic] in the audience in this? Come on…


me
[I’m] Reading this at the moment…

[person_b] chose this excellent book for her book group. You might like to read it?

here is a taster…

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/30/why-im-no-longer-talking-to-white-people-about-race

Recap: MA Submission 2018

I graduated my MFA Computation Art at Goldsmiths University of London last year. The graduation ceremony took place January 2020, before the Covid 19 lockdown.

The submissions for each year can be found on the Goldsmith website, however, I have also prepared the contents of the final year project(s) here on Tregaskis.org.

This posting describes the end of year project 2018 for the MA as part of the two year MFA.

Links:

Year 1 – https://doc.gold.ac.uk/compartsblog/index.php/work/forgiveness-machine/

Year 2 – https://doc.gold.ac.uk/compartsblog/index.php/work/who-is-at-the-door/

Forgiveness Machine

Open Rights Group July 2019

Orgcon 2019

Following my visit to IFSEC I spent the day at Orgcon 2019, organised by the Open Rights group. Meeting was held at the modest premises of the Friends Meeting House in Euston Road. Contrast this with the enormous IFSEC exhibition held in the Excel Centre in June. I’ve already written about IFSEC and recall how Tony Porter the information Commissioner ridiculed the efforts of the likes of Open Rights Group in the opening keynote session (during his question and answer session).

Peter Fonda RIP

With my usual bout of insomnia, I read the obituary of Peter Fonda who has died, aged 79. Fonda was made famous by the film Easy Rider. Just now, an old friend, Tony sends me a WhatsApp message this morning. Tony, like me, a keen motorcyclist and lifelong friend. Tony co-ran London’s largest motorcycle showroom in 70’s; we grew up together riding motorcycles. Tony writes: “another style icon of our youth Peter Fonda is dead; he is more responsible for you riding a motorbike than you think”.

Clearing my mind

It’s already seven days beyond my tutor’s deadline. I am recompiling for the umpteenth time dlib and opencv after multiple attempts. I have to clear my mind I am surrounded with detritus from the last 10 years in my workshop. I find bottles of tomato chutney from 2011 and noxious homebrew essences from previous production runs, dating back from five years ago. I collect together the various coloured alcoholic liquids of various colours to re-distil them and  bleach the distillation apparatus, running clean water through it.

Artefact with Face Recognition with Raspberry Pi Camera

The days click by at an alarmingly fast rate, up at 8 o’clock bed at midnight.

My aim is to use the modified intercoms I have already prepared, incorporating facial recognition to produce a new exhibit, using the familiar Raspberry Pi concealed inside the phone in conjunction with asmall concealed camera using Python Face recognition.

#Camera Day 2019

“Join the conversation #CameraDay2019!”

– I attend the keynote speech on 20th June by Tony Porter at IFSEC at the Excel in London.

My interest and surveillance drove me to register early on for this three-day event “bringing together more than 27,000 security professionals” the exhibition addressing threats like terrorism and cybercrime and exhibitors showing the latest surveillance products under one roof.

On with my tweed jacket and tie, jump on my motorcycle and ride down there.

Sombre reflections during the last few weeks on my degree

It is now halfway through the summer and I nearly about to complete my MFA in computational art in September. I have certainly learned a lot more then I had ever imagined, and I have not only surprised myself at what I can achieve but also how deficient I am in so many areas as well.