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The Builders Association and dbox, SUPER VISION: SURVEILLANCE

SUPER VISION tells three stories

1. As he crosses successive borders, a solitary traveler gradually is forced to reveal all of his personal information, until his identity becomes transparent, with no part of his life left outside the boundaries of datasurveillance.

2. A young woman (Jen), addicted to the white noise of constant connection, maintains a long-distance relationship with her Grandmother. As she makes efforts to digitally archive her Grandmother's past, the Grandmother slips into senility.

3. A father covertly exploits his young son's personal data to meet the demands of the family's lifestyle. This ploy escalates beyond the father's control, until he is compelled to disappear. His wife and son are left with a starkly diminished data portrait, and his escape is shadowed by the long reach of the datasphere.

Allen Hahn

Nick Kaye: Well it is very interesting to me because I have been to New York quite a lot, but never actually had my finger prints taken before, and being asked a few more questions –

Allen Hahn: And really all you are wanting to do is live your life. I don’t know if you read the New York Times review, but I thought it was incredibly - I mean his opinion was whatever it was but it wasn’t a review as such– it concerned more the demimonde of the piece and the topic of the piece than the piece itself. On that level, I am not sure it was much of a review – but, moreover, the guy made the contention that every day we become more and comfortable with giving up a little of our privacy for the convenience, which I think should give one pause in the same way that the steady erosion of our personal liberty at border crossings does, as you were just saying.

Nick Kaye: It is interesting one, because of course in the UK there has been a lot of heavy security for a very long time –

Allen Hahn: And a lot of video surveillance

Nick Kaye: I think people participate with that. I was amazed that somebody launched an action against gym rucksacks being searched in the subway, because to me that’s kind of standard…

Allen Hahn: Procedure – What is interesting is that there is a more personal interaction in being asked a question and responding than – I was going to say than going through your rucksack, but I also think the unfortunate truth was that this reviewer was probably not wrong, ultimately - that every day we make a bargain and we become a little more comfortable with exchanging convenience for privacy. But I think this country got a free pass for many years. I think this country doesn’t have the same idea about risk and security that the UK has because of course the IRA problem goes back so much further and so I think we are further back on that same road that the citizens of the UK have been down.

Nick Kaye: It is interesting because the debate is a bit different here - it’s partly the absorption - the question of where your identity lies, which was not the question of the 1970s with the IRA. That really wasn’t an issue because there was no data bank; it was just to do with ‘is there a bag there or not’.

Allen Hahn: Is there a nail bomb in the bag? Do you think that has changed since 9/11? Really the moral problem is the accumulation of data and the linking of data. In an historical context this speaks to larger problems for the governments (…) I had a brilliant insight to share with you, but it has faded (…)

Nick Kaye: The other difference is that the UK has a political culture of secrecy - it is not a culture of openness.

Allen Hahn: Which is probably something that is relevant to a monarchy or something. It has always seemed to me there is much that is anachronistic about the British culture.

Nick Kaye: Part of that is a different cultural debate. There’s very little public debate about the presence of surveillance cameras, because the assumption has been that the default position is that you can have them.

Allen Hahn: Here is my brilliant insight, it came back to me: In this country, once a year, you receive a statement from the social security administration saying that at this stage in your working life you are stand to be eligible for this much in benefits once you reach retirement age. It’s sort of interesting, but, you think, should I file this or should I throw it away? And you usually end up throwing it away. But then I had some tax trouble once: I had worked overseas and I had gotten paid overseas and there was a question about how to show it on the tax. I ended up going to an IRS office and was shown a piece of paper that said that certain years of employment for me in my past, I guess they hold open the legal right to reopen your filing status and your income taxes for a period of 5 years prior. I got a look at this piece of paper that said anything before 1996 was no longer of interest and I thought great, because I had held onto phone bills and all kinds of crap and I was very happy to be rid of all that. So I went home and dug through that drawer and threw out all that old paper and was glad to be rid of it. I wish that there were something similar with regard to data or video surveillance. As of today, no one knows anything - there is no official record of anything I did before 1995 - and I could think – I got away with that one. Not that my life is so full of secrets, but knowing that my memory of something and the memories I shared with people of things we experienced together are the only records.

I think it is just the idea that we have been masters of our own identity throughout history and now we are less so – and so it was very interesting for me in my 20s as I started working around the world to go to a different city and meet a different group of people and work with them and develop close relationships with them and realize I could present myself anyway I wanted to. I could in fact shape shift. I think that the ability to do that is compromised or you sense that it may be compromised by knowing you’re being tracked in a variety of ways by parties that are disinterested at least for the moment.

I think it is a problem, it’s very insidious. And the temptation is to say, well, if you are not doing anything wrong then who cares? But then the question is - ‘I don’t think it’s wrong – my life has led to this,’ but other people might think it is wrong. What is wrong? I should really be home getting prepared for class tomorrow and yet I am out at this bar. Is that wrong? I should really be visiting my family. I should really have gotten the earlier train to go see my family, but instead I have come to see this movie first - is that wrong? I suppose not everyone drives themselves as crazy as maybe I could.

Nick Kaye: And there is so much information you cannot track it live. You can capture it, but you can’t really look at all the stuff.

Allen Hahn: Right which is interesting – sure there are attempts to technologically overcome the need to review so much surveillance footage. As a matter of fact in ALLADEEN (2002-5) we used a technology that was being developed by IBM, where a live video image was processed through a computer and it only tracked the changes in the picture. Which in a surveillance context it would mean if you had a video image of a particular section of passage in a tube station, the image itself because it was static and the lighting conditions were static, would fade away and you would only see the people moving through that space, because they would change the value of the pixels in the space they were occupying. In a situation where there is a space that is meant to be unoccupied you could tell when there was an intruder because they would activate this thing. So you would have, presumably, a bank of blank security monitors and if there was any movement on any one of them you would know there was a person. It is a little chilling. Unfortunately it tends to fall into political terms - that either you are a liberal like me and you worry about privacy and are quick to dismiss, or tempted to dismiss the value in these things and their utility, or else you are a conservative who says ‘God damn it, forget about privacy – what do you need privacy for? What are you doing wrong?’ - Sort of willing to sell your soul. I think there is an argument to make in either case and certainly in this political culture no one is interested in having an intelligent discussion.

Nick Kaye: This is where SUPER VISION strikes an ambivalent position.

Allen Hahn: Well I think that is another interesting point as far as the work of the company is concerned. I think this company tackles material that is inherently political – it certainly did with this piece and with ALLADEEN - and it does so in an apolitical way. And I understand why - and I understand the value in doing that, but I can’t say I haven’t found it frustrating at times. I think the worst thing to do in the theatre is to give the audience the answer and the best thing to do is to - yes - present them with the questions and raise a doubt or idea, or an awareness in the mind of the audience. That is absolutely the right goal, but it can be a little maddening. I think that it is interesting that the company can be as apolitical - given the membership of the company and the culture, that being the culture of New York City and the intelligentsia and all that – I think it kind of amazing that we can be as apolitical as we are and many of us in our personal lives are less apolitical. So at times I have been stymied by the un-expressiveness in political terms of some of these issues being examined. You know it is an open question...

see also: beginning the process |


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Page last modified by nk Tue Dec 26/2006 05:18