Surveillance and Art

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

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] …. sends me 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.

"...Milligan, for one, was undeterred - in 1975 he browned-up again for The Melting Pot (BBC), in which he and John Bird played a Pakistani father and son illegally arrived in Britain via Amsterdam and landed in a very racially-mixed London lodging-house, replete with a black Yorkshireman and a Chinese Cockney, among others. The BBC, fearing a public relations disaster, pulled the series after a single episode..."

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…

(since posting this, YouTube has now removed this video.)


[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…

Recap: MA Submission 2018

I graduated my MFA Computation Art at Goldsmiths University of London 2019. The graduation ceremony took place January 2020, before the Covid 19 lockdown.

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

Forgiveness Machine