Exposed Surveillance Structures

In Berlin, opponents of surveillance are rallying themselves for today's "International Day of Action Against Video Surveillance."

A day on which the door to the Surveillance State is open: today and tomorrow, one can become informed of the legal, social and political status of the Control Society at the "Open Safer City Office" on Boxhagener Strasse in Friedrichshain. The organizers of the installation want to focus attention on the increasing use in city centers of video surveillance, to turn around the view, to open to inspection the surveillance structures themselves.

The Berlin installation is part of the "International Day of Action Against Video Surveillance," which is being celebrated today in Germany and the rest of the world. The demonstrations by the opponents of surveillance will run from social protest to information desks to artistic productions. In the words of the Surveillance Camera Players: find a local surveillance camera and perform in front of it.

For a long time, data protection advocates have been warning that largely unregulated surveillance will result in "subconscious pressure to adapt" [latenter Anpassungsdruck] in society and require everyone to give up "the fundamental right to conduct oneself in public without being watched by cameras."

But there also appears to be wide social acceptance of video surveillance. The voyeuristic TV show Big Brother has inspired many imitators, and webcams have been installed by private citizens in their homes and by politicians in their offices -- all to satisfy the curiosity of their fellow humans. But in order for the system to work, every single picture taken by these cameras must be made public, which would double the torrent of images and overwhelm the watchers.

In addition to the Safer City Office, Berlin events include a screening of "Hydrid Video Tracks" -- including films by the Surveillance Camera Players -- at the New Society for Visual Art, located on Oranien Strasse in Kreuzberg. In the North Train Station, dummy surveillance cameras will be installed.

[Written by Dietmar Kammerer and published on 7 September 2001 by Die Tageszeitung. Translated from the German by Bill Brown.]

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