Erasing David


British citizens are among the most monitored in the world. But if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to worry about. Have you?

David Bond is in his 30s and has no criminal record. He decided to go on the run to see if he could be found. David hired a top private investigation firm, armed with nothing but his name, to try and find him- they had 30 days.

Can David stay one step ahead of information and surveillance?

Visit the Erasing David website.

ID Cards


From BBC News, 25 January 2010

Young people in London will be able to apply for a National Identity Card from 8 February.

The cards, costing £30, could be used in place of a passport by 16 to 24-year-olds while travelling in Europe, but not outside.

They could also be used as proof of age in UK retail outlets, supporters say.

Home Office Minister Meg Hillier said the cost of the card was a “pretty good deal”, but Conservative Damian Green described the scheme as “pointless”.

A study by the Identity and Passport Service showed that more than half of lost and stolen passports were reported by people under the age of 30.

Would you get an ID card? Is it any different to having a passport or birth certificate? What happens if it is the law that you have to always carry an ID Card with you?

Have a look at this article listing all the information that will be written on the ID Card and stored on the chip within it:

Name, address, date of birth, photo, fingerprints and signature will be included, amongst other things, not unlike maybe a library card or school or college ID card. So do we need another card to carry with all the same information?

Nineteen Eighty-Four: The Film


You can watch the trailer for the film version of Nineteen Eighty-Four here.

What places, people or time periods does it remind you of?

Is anywhere in the world like this today?

Panel Discussion


Wednesday 28 April 2010 7pm to 9pm

On the evening of 28 April, 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning are holding a panel discussion for Panopticon: Surveillance Explored.

Come along for a chance to view the exhibition plus listen to and participate in an engaging discussion surrounding all aspects of surveillance within society today. Hear debates for and against CCTV cameras, DNA databases, and ANPR systems. Discuss the implications of reality television on our perceptions of privacy. Explore if and how social networking on the Internet have exacerbated voyeurism and narcissism. Question if Orwell’s ‘Big Brother’ has infiltrated our lives: does a big brother society exist?

The gallery and discussion is completely free to attend. Discussion starts at 7:00PM.

198 Contemporary Arts and Learning

198 Railton Road

Herne Hill

London SE24 0JT



Confessional, by Jayne O’Hanlon, is a video instillation piece created around the theme of the religious rite of confessing one’s sins. Confessional also deals with the post modern condition of narcissism; of indulging ourselves with our own image and our own voice. When confronted with a private place to watch and listen to ourselves, how will we react? Perhaps it is too private. Do we want or require an audience in order to be ‘ourselves’?



Kate Williamson, Jenny Barrett and Aditya Palsule have created a photographic documentary of encounters with CCTV cameras on journeys throughout London. Through highlighting the omnipresence of surveillance, the photographs also ask questions. What events have these camera’s witnessed throughout their functioning lives? Do the cameras even work? Who are the human eyes behind them? Was the camera watching whilst it was itself being watched?

iSee v.2


i See v.2 by Alexandra Valy (2010)

“The piece ‘i See’ is a comment on the inherent uncertainty of life. We go through our daily lives being recorded; data about us is being compiled and analysed, used and fed back to us in a different form. Information is no oracle and the knowledge of what we will become is always out of grasp.  As we manoeuvre through the sea of information that is thrust upon us we find ourselves still grappling with (or avoiding) fundamental human questions.” Alexandra Valy 2010

i See by Alexandra Valy

i See v.2 consists of 41 domed CCTV cameras on the ceiling plus 41 crystal balls arranged on the floor, reflecting and distorting the image of the cameras above them. It can be seen at Panopticon: Surveillance Explored from 22 April until 21 May at 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning.

Nineteen Eighty-Four, and the meaning of ‘Orwellian’


George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four has been so absorbed into our culture that many people use words invented by Orwell without even realising where they come from. ‘Big Brother’, ‘Newspeak’, ‘Doublethink’ and ‘Room 101’ were all first typed by Orwell in his final book, published in 1949.

You’ve probably noticed how the phrase ‘Orwellian’ crops up all the time in everyday conversation, and even more so in the news media. It can refer to all kinds of things, but most often it refers to the feeling that the government is intruding on our affairs.

Here’s an example: a headline from the Daily Telegraph last year:

EU funding ‘Orwellian’ artificial intelligence plan to monitor public for “abnormal behaviour”

The headline writer has used the word ‘Orwellian’ to show they believe that this kind of moitoring of the public is a bad idea. Whenever we see ‘Orwellian’ written down it’s supposed to act like a dog whistle to bring out our worst fears about what the government, or even worse, the European Union, is up to.

It’s particularly hard to find an article about CCTV cameras that doesn’t use this word, or imply that we are heading into the kind of ‘surveillance state’ that Orwell predicted might one day cover the whole of Europe and North America.

Take a look at this article from the BBC, published four years ago, when fears about the number of CCTV cameras in Britain were particularly high.

The BBC is funded by money from tax so it’s usually supposed to avoid this kind of scaremongering, which most of us associate with right wing newspapers like the Daily Mail and the Daily Express. But they’re only human, and they want people to visit their website. Articles that paint an ‘Orwellian’ picture of the future are popular with the public.

Last year the BBC did some more research and found out that there are actually about one million fewer CCTV cameras in Britain than was previously thought. But, they said, there’s still many more of them than in other countries.

The borough of Wandsworth, which includes Stockwell and Battersea, has more CCTV cameras than any other London borough. “Sounds Orwellian”, we may start to think. But the actual statistics? There are fewer than four cameras per 1,000 people in Wandsworth. In Nineteen-Eighty-Four, there are at least 1,000 cameras per 1,000 people, which is one each. That’s because every person has their own personal ‘telescreen’ in their living room, which broadcasts propaganda to them, and simultaneously shows the government exactly what they’re doing.

So statistically we’re not yet in a state which resembles Nineteen Eighty-Four that much. That’s not to say the amount of surveillance of the public that goes on is in our interests. Is it even proven that CCTV cameras help to stop crime? The police often obtain footage of crimes, even from several different angles, and still can’t identify the muggers. This isn’t always the case but it should make us question the government narrative that CCTV is worth the amount of public money spent on it.

A further question is whether our narrow use of the term ‘Orwellian’ does justice to George Orwell’s work. Orwell wrote hundreds of essay on politics and society; he wrote books on various topics including his experiences as a colonial policeman in Burma, as a soldier in the Spanish Civil War, and of course his famous allegorical novel Animal Farm.

Are these not also examples of ‘Orwellian’ literature? Should we only use the name of one of the 20th Century’s most important writers when we’re talking about government surveillance, spies and cameras in lifts?

As this year’s election campaign gathers pace, expect to hear the Conservatives talking about how Labour have turned Britain into an ‘Orwellian state’ with their ‘excessive centralization of power’, which is code for ‘bringing in laws we don’t like’, such as banning fox hunting and trying to stop discrimination against ethnic minorities and Gay people.

What would George Orwell make of this kidnapping of his ideas?