Installation by Folke Koebberling and Martin Kaltwasser proves just how little of Nottingham escapes the camera's clutches
As CCD architect David Watts shrewdly observed in our News Review comment feature last week, 'monitoring is a fact of twenty-first century life' and barely a second goes by where we are free to go about our daily business out of the watchful gaze of Big Brother. This fact has not gone unnoticed by the design world, and whilst Watts' commentary focussed on the positives of this constant supervision and how control room design can aid this constant management of our lives, designers Folke Koebberling and Martin Kaltwasser have taken a rather different tack.
At last year's Radiator Festival in Nottingham, England, Koebberling and Kaltwasser presented a physical interpretation of the statistic that ‘Britain is home to more CCTVs than any other country in the world'. The artistic pair took a map of Nottingham and worked out exactly which minute spots were free from CCTV surveillance, then constructed small wooden forms available ‘24/7 to anyone as a room for "undetermined acts"'. As one would image, these spaces were tiny in size - barely wide enough to fit an adult of average proportions - however it drew attention to the extent to which the British public are watched by the authorities.
In a positive review in the Guardian referred the project as ‘an artwork-cum-scary-social-experiment', however not everyone has welcomed the ‘blind spot' design. In a letter from Nottingham City Council published on the designers' website, it was stated that those ‘responsible for the secure and safe image of the city [found it] a bit difficult to accept' because ‘the city has suffered a lot in the past because of security/safety issues and they do not want to risk to sending the wrong message allowing a project like this to be set up'.
Whether the fear of this project stems from the fact that such blind spots suggest that Nottingham's grip on surveillance is slipping or whether it is spurred by Koebberling and Kaltwasser's claims that the work ‘is an act of resistance to reclaim a space and change its meaning, encouraging people everywhere to resist the powers that create the surveillance state', the structures have clearly unsettled the powers that be; another clamp down on an already rigidly supervised city.