In this month's Playlist we present a selection of videos that explore Surveillance. Featuring: Nye Thompson, David Theobald, Chris Oakley and Gregory Hayman.

Nye Thompson, The Seeker (prototype), 2017 - 2018.


The Seeker is a machine entity which will travel the world virtually, and describe for us what it sees. Named for Ptah-Seker, the artist/technologist god of the Ancient Egyptians, who created the world by speaking the words to describe it, this project looks at how the act of describing the world might establish a whole new worldview for machines and humans alike.

Thompson's interest in the machine gaze began with her 2016-17 project on global surveillance: Here she was collecting screenshots taken through unprotected online security cameras, and examining the privacy and social impact of the growing ‘Internet of Things’. She explains “I became increasingly interested in the machinic genesis of the images I was collecting. They are generated in the instant that a search-bot discovers an unprotected security camera. There is no human agency involved, only an emergent system acting on algorithmic ‘instinct’. Our machines are looking back at us, and I started wondering what they could see and how they were learning to interpret that vision.”

With accelerating advances in image recognition and object identification software, an entirely new way of seeing the world is evolving. One where the relationship between viewer and viewed will be transformed, and everything seen is objectified (the sadistic machine gaze?). This evolving machinic visual landscape will become codified within the DNA of future intelligent systems and AIs. But what is the topography of this new visual landscape? We have already seen the development of ‘machine bias’ in language analysis algorithms - the results of human bias inherent in their training. What are the machines learning to find worthy (or unworthy) of their visual attention?


Check out Nye's profile here


David Theobald, Invisible Man, 2015.


Description: 'You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps!' - Who is the Invisible Man? A 4 minute loop of absence.

Installation: Silent continuous loop intended for display in a gallery on a free standing flat screen monitor.
Computer animation rendered using Cycles Blender. Original Format 32MB mp4 file (1080p, 25fps, no sound).
Production Date 2015


Check out David's profile here


Chris Oakley, The Catalogue, 2004.


Single-channel video

Year of Production: 2004
Duration: 5’ 30 ”

In The Catalogue Chris Oakley presents the scenario of a perfect world of consumption, where a video surveillance system films the interior of a department store in which the individuals, together with their data, become entities-identities traceable and transparent thanks to their personal data. The individuals are followed through the crowd by motion tracking and are given graphical labels that list their purchase habits and general information regarding themselves.
The Catalogue is a symbolic rendering of the logic of a computerized market research system, which classifies individuals using a wide variety of data in order to assess their buying power and their future needs. The identity of each individual is reduced to the analysis and prediction of his or her consumption habits. The title of the work highlights the fact that each individual who meets the automatic eye of the video camera is entered in a database, a catalogue in which each person must be assigned to predetermined categories, thus assuming his or her place in the system



Check out Chris' profile here


Gregory Hayman, Watching, 2013 - 2014.


Watching (2014) is a meditation on a number of things. The subject is a Radar station in North Norfolk on the outskirts of the village where my maternal great grandmother was born. There she had a daughter out of wedlock who her parents brought up while my great grandmother was packed off to work in service. Her daughter (Hilda) died aged nine while she was away.

Radar was secretly developed by several nations before and during World War II. The United States Navy coined the term RADAR in 1940 as an acronym for RAdio Detection And Ranging. The term radar has since entered English and other languages as a common noun, losing all capitalization.

The film tries to show the watcher being watched and does this from various positions around the facility using these points of view to add context and other material to problematize the subject. The film is not about Radar, but things coming back and the implications of surveillance more generally and the impact of surveillance on the thing doing the surveying or watching.

A multi-layered soundtrack accompanies the film. It comprises sounds of the radar machine humming and a song played by myself on the accordion. The song is a Sephardic lament, a tune written by displaced people with haunting echoes, highlights the intolerance to Jewish people in times gone by and now and the threat and vulnerability that refugees experience when they are ejected or flee from their homes and have to try and forge a new life somewhere else from scratch.


Check out Gregory's profile here