With all the talk of the more invisible, insidious forms of surveillance occurring online, it can be easy to forget the physical surveillance that has become ubiquitous through city-wide CCTV cameras. Spanish street artist SpY aims to remind us of the reality that we have come to find so easy to accept, and like many of his other public intervention artworks (he has been referred to as the “Spanish Banksy“) it makes use of repetition to exaggerate the ubiquity of an ordinary urban device. 150 nonfunctional surveillance cameras were spontaneously installed across a temporary construction site and three-story adjoining building, with the intention of “looking at nothing.”
“My idea is to generate a debate about excessive surveillance to which we are subjected,” he told ANIMAL New York in an email. “Now in Spain with the new conservative government, there are new laws against the rights of expression.” Though the current Spanish administration is better known for its similarity to the American religious right, it has also shared details of millions of phone calls with the American NSA. His personal manifesto says that his works ”want to be a parenthesis in the automated inertia of the urban dweller. They are pinches of intention, hidden in a corner for whoever wants to let himself be surprised.” His use of the word “intention” makes us wonder about the possibilities of this project had SpY decided to bring the cameras to life – a parallax 3D image of the the surveillance state, perhaps? As long as they’re fake cameras, we’ll never know.