In recent months we’ve become interested in how to be invisible in the city.
We’ve done walkshops around the subject in London – in Hackney at the start of the year, in the City for the AntiUniversity and in Shoreditch for Calvert 22 gallery – and we’re about to head off to Vilnius to explore it in another city. The idea grew out of our work on following people and thoughts around who is watched and who watches, as well as the sign on London’s transport network which seemed to invite the general public to put each other under surveillance. Then a workshop with our friend Simon Farid challenged us to find places to hide both from CCTV and from the eyes of others – something that seems impossible in the city.
Our attempts to be invisible or observe other people’s strange behaviour often make us feel as if we are the strangest, most suspicious people around – by taking pictures, filming CCTV cameras, making notes, indulging in “unusual activities” and “strange comings and goings” we are a perfect fit for the Metropolitan police’s description of potential terrorists. And our explorations have so far highlighted for us how far the city is a panopticon, with eyes everywhere (whether human or digital). Do we develop tactics to defend ourselves against this – or do we embrace suspicious behaviour?
For our rules of engagement with the surveillance city, we found some guidelines from the Metropolitan police, the LAPD, the CIA and other sources. This is what to do if you want to embrace suspicious behaviour:
• Come and go
• Take photographs
• Film or photograph CCTV cameras
• Make notes
• Draw an important building
• Measure an important building.
• Use a phone in a suspicious way.
• Use a van in a suspicious way.
• Leave a car, van or lorry in a no parking zone.
• Leave a bag or package.
• Ask questions about security or building security procedures.
• Be where you are not supposed to be.