#photography & visual arts
At their exhibition, the artists displayed screenshots from CCTV recordings, thus observing how people function in the presence of digital monitoring systems.
This project was an offshoot of the Fotoprezentacje masterclass exchange programme. Visual artist Kobas Laksa acted as a mentor to Monika Kmita and Krzysztof Kowalski, and their collaboration resulted in the titular exhibition.
The artists’ focus was city CCTV cameras, which were set up to instil a sense of security and, if required, provide evidence of crimes or misdemeanours. In 2010, 30% of the Warsaw city area was monitored by CCTV, scanning continuously for abnormal behaviour and unattended objects. Within such a system, everyone is a suspect. These pictures were not ‘taken’ – the artists examined city life as seen through existing footage, and had no influence over what the operators chose to train the cameras on.
In interviews, Laksa distanced himself from the critical and journalistic aspects of this work, speaking more about the aesthetic quest. Kmita was more specific, however:
What appealed to us most was the gaping void of the streets under observation […] and the people lost in the midst of it. The theme of our exhibition is the clash between fragile bodies and the behemoth of civilisation.
The artists’ work was a somewhat ironic appraisal of Orwellian surveillance systems, illustrating how advanced monitoring equipment often serves to record nothing but jaywalking pedestrians. By making use of information and images gathered by the authorities, the artists had an opportunity to trade places and watch the watchers.
Originally written in Polish, translated by MB, Dec 2018
This text is part of the project Metaphors of Independence: Poland In 100 Photos.
To coincide with the centenary of Poland regaining its independence, we have created a selection of photographs that allow us to understand both yesterday and today. A hundred photographs but so much more. Find out more.