If you ever feel like you're being watched, it's because you are—which is a painfully obvious post-9/11 truth. But later this week, when San Francisco artists Linda M. Ford and Pam Martin bring their mobile Surveillance Utility Vehicle to town to prepare for the exhibition Haunted (which opens at Disjecta on September 30), your odds of being spied upon rise greatly. But the hook here is that you get to spy right back. The artists explain.
So what's all this about?
FORD: A lot of our projects are about power relations, so we use surveillance in a lot of the things we do. This piece, titled "Alpha BRAVO! Charlie," is going to be a mobile unit in which we conduct sessions monitoring the street at night.
Who are you going to be spying on?
MARTIN: Mostly ourselves. The cameras will be on ourselves as well as anyone who comes in range of the vehicle.
FORD: The monitors that appear on the outside of the vehicle—located in the rearview mirrors—are showing what we're doing inside the vehicle. So we're exposing ourselves.
Tell me about the Surveillance Utility Vehicle itself.
FORD: It's a Toyota Sienna. We outfitted the sideview mirrors with LCD monitors, which are the only different external features. The whole thing is going to be enclosed so that you can't see inside, and the only contact with the interior will be the view through the sideview mirrors. There will be multiple cameras inside, trained on what we're doing, as well as trained on the outside. So when people look at the sideview mirrors, they'll see not only what we're doing, but themselves, also.
MARTIN: It's like an echo chamber of monitors.
Usually, having strangers approach your vehicle is an unwelcoming advance. Is that a conscious theme in this piece?
FORD: Not directly, but certainly in that surveillance is across the board laterally, and that people are buying nanny-cams and things like that. Surveillance isn't just the old model of power looking down. That's what interests us most.
MARTIN: We're very interested in where the act of trespass occurs and where risk lives.