Artist Jonathon Keats’ surveillance cameras will hold our generation accountable for cities’ future development.
Imagine if secret cameras had been set up around Manhattan in 1914, taking one long exposure of the city that was only revealed to the public this year. It would be quite a way to document the impact that a century can have on a city. In 2114, citizens of Berlin will be given the chance to do just that, viewing images of a hundred-year-long exposure at an already planned exhibition.
Artist Jonathon Keats has designed a surveillance unit that has a century-long exposure time, so it can capture the gradual change of a city over the years. Working with the Team Titanic gallery, the unauthorized urban project will see 100 of these Century Cameras hidden all across Berlin next week. The cameras serve not only as a way to uniquely document the passing of time, but also as a way to hold present-day Berliners accountable for their city’s future.
The first people to see these photos will be children who haven’t yet been conceived. 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.
Although the idea of a surveillance program sounds high tech, Keats’ cameras are actually relatively simple – to avoid any breakage or complications, according to the artist. Based on the traditional pinhole model, the Century Cameras have a discreet design to avoid them attracting any unwanted attention. The places where the light focuses on the brightest will cause the paper to fade, slowly creating a positive image of the scene. Keats explains:
The photograph not only shows a location, but also shows how the place changes over time. 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.
Next week, the public is invited to participate in the distribution of these cameras. Any one who arrives on the evening of May 16 at Team Titanic will be able to pay ten euros for a Century Camera and then are free to place it anywhere in Berlin, as long as it is hidden and will likely go unnoticed.
The gallery hopes to gather all the cameras back in one hundred years time, offering that ten euros back to any of the finders. The exhibition has already been scheduled for May 16, 2114.
An interesting inevitability of this project is that everyone working on it now will be dead when it is completed. Luckily for Keats, that does not matter:
For me, it’s much more interesting to be here today, seeing the behavior of people who know they’re being watched by the unborn, and also to be watched myself, living vicariously as a future memory of the 22nd century.