JAMES COUPE
art projects
Panoptic Panorama #1: I am standing in an empty room
Categories: Art

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Commission: Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore USA
Exhibition: Undercover January 27 – March 11, 2012
Materials: Video cameras, monitors, computers
Description: It is that way with me: before me always an empty space; what drives me forward is a consequence that lies behind me.
- Kierkegaard

Five cameras are located in the center of the gallery, panoptically configured to continuously monitor a 360-degree field of view. Computers process the video captured by the cameras and filter out any footage that contains movement. Five screens on the wall of the gallery construct a panoramic representation of the gallery via the camera feeds. Regardless of the number of people in the gallery, the space appears empty in the video footage. Although the panorama seems unified, each screen is temporally inconsistent and discontinuous with the others: i.e., it is constructed of moments ‘between’ movement – a sequence of absences. Moreover, visitors who stand motionless for long enough can create glitches in the system, whereby they suddenly become visible in the panorama; however, once they begin to move/resume movement, they disappear from the screen just as suddenly. Thus, rather than capturing people’s activities, this configuration erases them altogether, inverting our expectations of surveillance technology and exposing the visitor’s desire both to be ‘seen’ and to see oneself.

Credits: With thanks to DXARTS, James Hughes, Jimmy Johnson and Johanna Gosse
Technical: This installation uses a custom-built algorithm that uses background subtraction and machine learning so that each camera can determine what elements in its video image are fixed. Parts of the image can be masked out to allow movement to occur – e.g. video projections, screens, windows, etc. Each monitor displays the most recent 45-seconds of video that it considers ‘empty’.
Reviews/News: Virtual Panopticons: the ethics of observation in the digital age (full paper)
Baltimore City Paper
What Weekly
IMAGES: pp6 pp7 pp8 pp9
IMAGES: pp1 pp2 pp3 pp4
VIDEOS: image

Categories: Art -