Tuesday, June 24, 2008
|The bold black lettering on a bright white background instantly reminded me of the subliminal advertising billboards in John Carpenter’s classic dystopic movie, They Live.|
Upon entering the London underground following a rare trip abroad last week I was hit with a sudden reminder that I was entering back into big brother control central when I encountered rows and rows of advertising boards plastered with the same stark posters reading "I THINK I’M BEING WATCHED".
Amidst the CBS all seeing eyes, the hordes of surveillance cameras and the constant announcements to report anything suspicious, another poster read "Oh boy, what a Wonderful City!".
The bold black lettering on a bright white background instantly reminded me of the subliminal advertising billboards in John Carpenter’s classic dystopic movie, They Live.
Perhaps a more accurate phrase for the signs would read "I KNOW I’m being watched".
It seems my concerns have not gone unnoticed by other commuters on the underground who have posted pictures and blogs on the new "artwork" describing it as "creepy" "weird" and "a little disturbing".
The artwork was commissioned by the office of the Mayor of London and Transport For London.
"Designed" by Anna Barriball, the typographic artwork entitled ‘About 60 miles of beautiful views.’ consists of a collection of evocative phrases which are apparently "taken from the back of found photographs in a photo album".
TFL’s website describes the images:
"These cryptic texts are loaded with personal memory, yet connect with individual reasons for travel and the millions of private thoughts customers carry with them on their journeys. The phrases are distinctly personal and strangely visual, creating small windows into imagined vistas or glimpses into unidentified personal worlds, open to interpretation in their new context."
|Around five years ago the transport authority plastered posters all over bus terminals that read ‘secure under the watchful eyes’ as an Orwellian promo for its surveillance cameras.|
Tamsin Dillon, Head of Art on the Underground, says: "Anna’s project is exciting because it offers customers the chance to encounter artworks across the entire Tube network. We hope that these encounters result in pleasantly unexpected asides to daily journeys".
Ah yes, TFL says we should relish the chance to be constantly reminded that we are under total surveillance at all times. It is clear, however, that many commuters have found the new signs to be neither "pleasant" nor "unexpected".
Britain is acknowledged as the world leader of Orwellian surveillance. An estimated 4.2 million closed-circuit TV cameras observe people going about their everyday business, from getting on a bus to lining up at the bank to driving around London. It’s widely estimated that the average Briton is scrutinized by 300 cameras a day and that there is one camera for every 14 people in the country.
There can be little doubt that TFL and the Mayor’s office have seen the advantage of packaging what is essentially a security announcement within commissioned artwork. This is not the first time London authorities have used big brother style artwork to remind commuters they are under surveillance.
Around five years ago the transport authority plastered posters all over bus terminals that read ‘secure under the watchful eyes’ as an Orwellian promo for its surveillance cameras.
Two years ago, the London Neighborhood Watch Association followed suit with a poster headlined "Watching over you 24/7" featuring giant eyes set into the landscape of the Houses of Parliament in London, and promising unique benefits with membership.
Since when was the entirety of London a "neighborhood"? This is a city with a population of nine million people – do we all need to spy on each other and be constantly watched by cctv cameras in order to be safe and secure?
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