panoptICONS (2010)

The presence of surveillance cameras in the city center has become normal and accepted. It almost seems like a logical, natural part of the city. panoptICONS addresses the fact that we are constantly being watched by surveillance cameras in city centres. To represent this, flocks of panoptICONS – city birds with cameras instead of heads – were placed throughout several city centres, including Utrecht, The Hague, Amsterdam, Brussels and Berlin, where they feed on the presence of people.

In our modern urban centers surveillance cameras look down upon the people moving through the city, watching and feeding on our privacy. Usually they remain unseen because they are placed above people’s normal line of sight. Scavenging city birds occupy these same spaces in the urban environment, watching the people go by in crowded places so they can react quickly when someone drops a piece of food. The panoptICON camerabirds are the logical evolution of these two species of scavengers that share the same urban ecological niche.

Apart from these street art objects we also made a version of the camerabird in captivity, as an interactive installation. This mother bird is in a cage and follows visitors with her camera head, feeding her young with images of visitors. We made this version to more clearly show our idea that surveillance cameras feed on our privacy in the way city birds feed on our scraps.

A short clip made with material filmed by the caged panoptICON during TodaysArt festival 2010 in The Hague, the Netherlands.