Nine Angles on Surveillance
Holding its hard, unremitting stare, hour after hour, the
camera watches its patch of walkway, stairwell,
underpass...whatever, the object is of no consequence, it is
only the watching that is this relentless sentry's obsession.
The picture's accentuated grain, the ground mineral quality
of what is seen, is the camera's attrition of these places'
breezeblock, snowcem, concrete; their breaking up beneath the
camera's rock hard constant stare.
The walkway, stairwell, underpass, cannot, hour after hour,
withstand such scrutiny, cannot be just a bit of modestly
ugly public architecture now the object - whatever - is
watched, hour after hour it is stared out of its function,
its masquerade as a public amenity exposed, now its made into
an issue of power, a scene from Power's show.
Seeing the grit of the camera's attrition one sees that time
otherwise might have froze beneath this stare that's so hard
so cold, that time otherwise might not have said - watch it!
- this is a cue for violence, a theatre of incidents, an
imminent crime scene, might not have confessed what the
auteur camera already knows.
One could be everyone as you enter the frame, fall under
suspicion, and watch your precious self, holding onto its
personal space, that difference from anyone else, clasped
onto tight as a purse in a crowd of pickpockets - doesn't
everyone? - polarised in the black and white of the camera's
vision, you have nothing to fear - don't you see? - a
lifelong potential victim, you are nothing in the camera's
eyes until that potential is realised.
This is control, the warder of the restricted zone, this
camera is the reopening of pitiless Ozymandeus's eye, the
restoration of his vision. His is our kingdom. The deterrent
argument, that point of view, is true, but that truth of
power, that grain is lost in the endless desert sands that
Control must see is its barren kingdom. Behold!
The camera is never free, is incarcerated in its frame, is in
solitary, watching is its revenge on the world that it cannot
see, cannot dream - the sun, the moon, the stars: such things
make you go blind - that cannot be anything other than what
it sees. It is condemned to its patch of stairwell, walkway,
underpass, 'crabbed, cribbed and confined' to its object like
it was a punishment, a guilty conscience, a crime.
Nostalgia for what was never seen, the endless memories of
the over-looked, crowds travelling like nomads from frame to
frame, the replay of absence, emptiness's loop, freeze-frame
the time that gathers like snow in the corner's of the
unseen, forward to its melt beneath the eye of the camera
that moment by moment watches the heat of its suspicion turn
indifferent and cold.
The camera is not alone, is a grain in the desert sands, is a
piece of compound eye, the insect eye that watches over us,
that nests in the sockets of a dead God. Society is a abuzz
with crime, a plague of eyes carrying their death vision
everywhere, infecting everything. The desert has wings.
David R. Jones
If you've any comments on this piece, David R. Jones would be pleased to hear from you.