Pan, Tilt and Zoom

Aram Bartholl

Surveillance cameras encounter us naturally, almost blended into invisibility: next to street lights, the sewer system and data cables; everyday objects in the flow of urban modernity. But in contrast to the providing of electricity, water or light – all of them undoubtedly valuable achievements of civilization – video surveillance infrastructure is highly problematic in humane, moral and legal aspects. Legitimized by the desire for security. Ultimately, it leads to an encompassing surveillance and therefore leads to the expansion of an omnipresent general suspicion.

The dispute security vs. freedom cannot merely be solved with statistics and numbers, since this is foremost an emotional subject – and to a certain extent a question of belief.

Aram Bartholl takes his dome camera out of the context of infrastructure. He puts them on the floor as pure objects. Suddenly these cameras seem left behind or dropped, laying there almost helplessly. The associations to living creatures is reinforced by their movements. The fully automatic cameras, programmed for face recognition, are constantly and restlessly searching for the observer. Bartholl´s dialectic refers to the impossibility of eye contact between individual and machine.

In the installation Pan, Tilt and Zoom the dome cameras, equipped with pattern recognition and artificial intelligence, are presented as technoid robot-like artifacts of a surveillance ideology that at a first glance, seems to be destroyed and defeated. Like freshly captured trophies of an imaginary data privacy hunt, cut off the data network and supplied with electricity for one last time, just to ridicule them.

In his 2003 book “Surveillance as social sorting”, David Lyon already described that surveillance systems do not solve societal problems like the discrimination of minorities but on the contrary enhance them. The repercussions of technological developments are the basis of Aram Bartholl´s works, who with his thoughts and actions in the realm of net activism has, for instance at events like the re:publica and the congresses of the Chaos Computer Club, in many instances campaigned against mass surveillance.

In addition, his artistic oeuvre deals very practically with the protection of privacy, like in KILLYOURPHONE.COM for instance, where he demanded to sew communication proof mobile phone covers. In this context the elegant readymade Pan, Tilt and Zoom is a distinguishably pointed statement that allows sensitization for this subject from a very humane perspective. Learning to be human.