Desire of Codes, the tentacles of the surveillance beast

Desireof Codes

We’re accustomed to being under surveillance. We’ve taken for granted that cameras are everywhere “for our own safety”. And we don’t care anymore of being recorded in the street 30, 60 or 100 times (or even more) everyday. How has it happened? One of the reasons is that all these cameras around us are “passive”. They’re there, they record their memory, then they delete it, again and again. We can be there, but not forever (maybe). So this passiveness is making them disappear in our landscape. But what if they would start to act or react to our presence? And what if they would have a different shape than the usual neutral white ones? “Desire of Codes” by Seiko Mikami is a large scale installation commissioned by YCAM (Yamaguchi Center for Art and Media). It’s made of different elements: ninety mechanical moving “objects” that sense a visitor and start to flicker and to record him with small built-in cameras; six robotic “search arms” equipped with cameras and projectors, suspended from the ceiling, they are pointing and recording the visitor as well as projecting images of him/her on the floor; all the images plus more retrieved from surveillance camera from around the world are combined in a “compound eye” constantly updated. The soundtrack is made by mixing sounds recorded in this big room, including servo-motor noises and the whispering of visitors. The database is made of data, and so, Mikami says, of “desire”, accumulated in an automatic memory, potentially omni-comprehensive and combing parts of the bodies the machine is interested in. In front of belly of the surveillance beast, we are not indifferent anymore, but targeted, and so fulfilled by an attention that is dangerous, but satisfying.