Spy Box, watching the postal network from the inside

Spy Box

UK is a country where mail has always been duly delivered. UK is also a nation where the meaning of video surveillance is being redefined. Put these two national peculiarities in the hands of a British artist like Tim Knowles and the result is Spy Box. This artwork in fact consists of a digital camera in a parcel looking out through a small hole to document the 19 hours journey the box took from the artist’s studio to a nearby gallery. The camera was programmed to take a picture every 10 seconds recording a total of 6994 pictures then edited together to create an animated slideshow. Is this a new piece of Mail Art? Assuming this is art using the postal system as a medium, Spy Box could be easily classified in this category. The fact it was sent by the artist to the gallery where the artwork was supposed to be displayed also reflects the related networking attitude. And as a piece of conceptual art it also includes social critique towards surveillance as if we were facing the risk of being spied even by the most common objects. However the core to Knowles’ artistic practise is the exploration of Chance and Process. As he says “the results of my projects [although operating within carefully developed controls and parameters] are unpredictable and outside my control”. The artist, as well as the spectator, is surprised by the invisible turning into visible when they both end up peeping the reality.

Valentina Culatti