Twitter: @cincoinister

finding the operator

There is always a power asymmetry between a camera’s operator and the subject it photographs. In the case of surveillance cameras this asymmetry is emphasised by the fact that the subject observed has no information on the people operating the camera or whether they even exist. Finding the Operator presents a series of attempts to reveal who the operator(s) is of a specific -government owned- CCTV camera located in Mexico City. The project aims to expose and reverse the above mentioned asymmetry.

A first attempt to unmask the operator(s) was to submit a Freedom of Information request through the government’s transparency website asking for the identity of all the staff that have access to the video feed. The information obtained proved fruitless and ended in jargon rich official documents that contradict each other.

Given the failure of legal requests a more direct strategy was developed. This attempt consisted on the construction of a hand-held infrared LED display that broadcast messages to the camera’s operator. The information on this screen cannot be seen by the naked eye and must be captured by a CCTV camera, thus establishing an exclusive communication channel with the operator(s) gazing at the video feed. The action of broadcasting these messages is presented in two-channel video.

Alongside a simulation of the camera’s field of view was made. This simulation was constructed by surveying the camera´s surroundings and from inferences made by analysing CCTV “success stories” published by Mexico City’s government on their YouTube channel. The simulation is presented as a 3D animation.

Electronics, computer animation, two-channel video

Thanks to:
Alejandra Alvarez
Carlos Ranc
Betsabe Romero
Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (FONCA)

Gracias al FONCA

Video Credits:
Alex Arguelles Echeverria
Antonio Ruiz


(Please watch in full screen in HD 1080p)

Field of View (Still) Field of View (print) The infrared screen The infrared screen Still from video