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Video Surveillance as Art

Published by Dan on April 12, 2007 3:29 PM

Any security officer who's ever been saddled with the task of scouring through hours and hours of archived surveillance footage would scoff at the idea that such material could be considered art. But in the case of artist Lutz Bacher's video installation "Closed Circuit," surveillance indeed works as an artistic medium.

"Closed Circuit" is the product of 10 months worth of video surveillance footage distilled into a 40-minute edited loop, complete with time-code running across the top. The footage comes from a security camera that was mounted above the desk of the late art dealer Pat Hearn, documenting the period of time that follows Hearn's liver cancer diagnosis. Individual frames of Hearn at work in her office turn the piece into something of a composite portrait, but one that tells a story and reveals the passage of time. The surveillance cameras capture not only the actions and physical changes of Hearn and those around her, but also unveil changes to the office itself, and the inanimate objects within it. For instance, desktop items come and go; paper stacks rise and fall; furniture and wall hangings move about, etc. Hearn's story slowly unfolds, and as her physical condition worsens, the frequency of her screen-time lessens.

It's an interesting notion that video surveillance could be considered an art form. The thought that art exists in every moment of every day is not a revelation, so it makes sense that the images captured by a camera which continuously documents the happenings and non-happenings within a single space could easily be deemed art.

Bacher's "Closed Circuit" is currently on display, along with other video and new-media works at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

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