A lighthouse shines its all-seeing eye into the vast ocean, beaming a ray of light into the dark unknown to avert risk and protect from danger. As contemporary forms of surveillance become more pervasive and integrated into our everyday environments, how are our behaviours and freedoms affected? Instead of what used to be targeted surveillance of individuals suspected of wrong-doing, how does the indiscriminate mass collection of data shape our liberties? What does freedom mean and feel like in today’s world?
Watchtower attempts to tackle some of these questions as light and darkness take on new meanings. The work – incorporating installation, video and sound – uses light to explore increasing surveillance powers and the quest for total visibility and control. The soundtrack emphasises the shift towards a culture of predictability beginning with distorted samples and randomly generated rhythms transforming into beat-based music with a 4/4 emphasis and sharper, cleaner sounds. Using an overheard telephone conversation (featuring NSA trigger words in its banality) embedded in the sound and shots taken from a drone flown high above the coastline and ocean, the piece reflects on the vastness of the data being collected and the ominous presence of a system that records everything we say and do.
Premiered at Coastival, 18-19 February 2017, in an empty shop unit in Scarborough.
Created at The Auxiliary in Stockton.