In many cities around the world, surveillance cameras are looked at as invasions of privacy, lenses through which governments can spy and manipulate the people in their municipalities. But, what if the cameras weren’t used to look at the inhabitants of a city but instead monitor the spaces and structures within them? That’s exactly what experimental philosopher and artist Jonathon Keats plans to do for the next 100 years through the lens of 100 cameras placed throughout Berlin and a number of undisclosed cities globally.
Keats has chosen Berlin as the pilot city for a global initiative to monitor urban development and decay for the next century. The surveillance program, in collaboration with Team Titanic Gallery, will continuously document progress and deterioration for the next century so that future generations may use the information as a guide in decision-making in the development of future cities.
"The first people to see these photos will be children who haven't yet been conceived," says Keats. "They're impacted by every decision we make, but they're powerless. If anyone has the right to spy on us, it's our descendants."
Keats has employed a retro photographic system particularly for this project, which will implement an extra-long exposure camera and is based on the traditional pinhole camera. The model is kept simple so that it can easily be launched in other cities around the world without too much fear of malfunctioning.
To capture imagery, the camera’s pinhole focuses light on black sheets of paper rather than film, slowly creating a positive image of the scene in front of the camera lens based on the amount of light that filters through. Thus, the camera is able to register transformation in the landscape over time. "The photograph not only shows a location, but also shows how the place changes over time," Keats explains. "For instance, an old apartment building torn down after a quarter century will show up only faintly, as if it were a ghost haunting the skyscraper that replaces it."
In total, 100 cameras will be built and discharged to the German public in Berlin on May 16, 2014. In order to participate in the dispersal of cameras, anyone who visits Friedelstrasse 29 in Neukölln on the night of the launch will be able to pay a 10-euro deposit to Team Titanic for a camera that they are then able to hide anywhere around the city they consider worthy of capturing for the next century. Each person who collects a camera must tell a child where he or she has placed the camera so that by the time of retrieval, someone knows where the camera is. On May 16, 2114, the cameras will be returned to Team Titanic and the photo will be removed from the canister for display in an exhibition.
Century cameras will be released on 16 May 2014 from 7:00 PM until midnight at an opening reception organized by Team Titanic at Friedelstrasse 29 in the Neukölln district of Berlin. Jonathon Keats will be on hand to demonstrate the new technology.