Lanternhouse and Folly are pleased to present a series of video works-in-progress by artist in residence James Coupe. The videos are early experiments for a project titled Surveillance Suite, which is being developed over the next two years. The work is exhibited at Lanternhouse, Ulverston from September 9 – 19, 2009.
Whereas normally films are made by writing a script, and then shooting footage to match the script, in Surveillance Suite this process is reversed. Stories are automatically constructed from whatever video footage the installation has available. New footage is shot each day, and as a result the stories mutate, with new characters, locations and plot lines revealing themselves. The Surveillance Suite films are automatically generated each day, via an array of custom-built computer software. All available video footage is analyzed using computer vision software that can detect people and profile them according to age, gender, race, facial expression and location. This operates as an autonomous “casting” system that seeks out narrative possibilities from random video footage. Working with scriptwriters Kate Pullinger, Robin Vaughan-Williams and Lilian Ryan, loose storylines have been fed into the software so that it can be organized according to some simple artificial intelligence rules. The result is a series of films that reorganize Ulverston and its inhabitants, reimagining peoples’ everyday lives as interlocking narratives.
Since July, James has been in residence at Lanternhouse, building the software required for this project, and generating test films from footage shot around the town. He has also worked with a number of local writers, discussing the kind of non-linear narrative structures that would best fit Surveillance Suite. The work presented at Lanternhouse is the outcome of these residency activities.
Once completed, Surveillance Suite will be exhibited at a number of museums, galleries and public spaces throughout America and the UK. The intention is to eventually use robotic cameras and automate the entire story-making process. As people enter the museum, gallery or public site where the work is exhibited, the cameras will profile them, cast them into narratives, and then display the resulting films on a series of monitors or displays. The entire project will work in real-time, permitting the installation to appropriate exhibition visitors as characters in plots that may have nothing to do with who they really are.