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

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