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Notes on video surveillance and the photographesomenon: an image-form in the future anterior

Winfried Pauleit


Video surveillance is an image-making machine. Its main function consists in a displacement of familiar panoptical surveillance strategies. In video surveillance, the panopticon, an architectural model for prison surveillance, establishes itself on the level of the technical image. The paradoxical thing about this image-making machine is that an imageless condition is considered as the guarantee of the idea of an "objective" security – in a society in which nothing can be said to exist without imagic representation. Anyone wanting to install video surveillance for security purposes will subsequently scarcely be able to be satisfied without images; and in the end it will be a matter of who can best appropriate these images.

The classic desire structure of video surveillance produces in police practice images of others: criminals, ethnic minorities, etc. Potential criminals are reified, corroborating the division of self and other. The crux is the splitting-off of parts of the personality, which, with the aid of the video apparatus and the authorities in charge of it, are transferred to other people and thus kept at a distance. In his film "Lost Highway" (USA 1996), David Lynch has portrayed a comparable splitting of the ego accompanied by a video recording, albeit under different circumstances. The main characters, Fred Madison and his wife Renee, are sent videotapes showing pictures from inside their own apartment. There is only one conclusion to be drawn: someone else must have been in there. The last videotape is received by Fred alone; it shows him murdering his own wife. Lynch inverts this process of "splitting": the split-off fear is returned to the individual (Fred) in a closed circuit, allowing the story to culminate in a vision of horror that shows the husband and the murderer shown on the videotape to be one and the same person.

Visual artists have been discovering this potential since the end of the sixties. The audio piece will discuss the following aspects of videosurveillance:
Safety versus security; The photographesomenon: video surveillance as image-form Video surveillance and the visual arts; The works of Jamie Wagg; Differences in the cultural integration of video surveillance Video surveillance; and film studies Post-modern subjects.

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Winfried Pauleit

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Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom, NE1 7RU
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