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Become a Surveillance Tourist with a Live Police Radio Installation

Belgian data artist Dries Depoorter exposes the tourist-voyeur in all of us.
Screencaps by author

In the 1985 introduction to the French edition of the novel Crash, J. G. Ballard wrote about the “spectres of sinister technologies” moving across the communications landscape. Ballard also called sex and paranoia the great twin leitmotifs of the 20th century. If there are twin leitmotifs exist in 2016, they are social media voyeurism and electronic surveillance—their dialectic being the overlapping paranoia they produce. Hell, maybe they’re just the same thing in the final analysis.


Belgian data artist Dries Depoorter, who previously created Tinder Business Cards, seems to be getting at some of these issues in Seattle Crime Cams, a video installation that blends real-time surveillance with live police radio. Depoorter calls his creation the ultimate form of long-distance tourism.

Seattle Crime Cams first checks the location of the latest emergency caller in Seattle (this real-time data is [made] available by the Seattle police),” Depoorter explains. “After it knows the location of this potential crime scene it searches for the closest real-time surveillance and shows them. Through the speakers you hear live police radio.”

Seattle Crime Cams turns us into ultimate long-distance disaster tourists,” he adds. “In this city, which is filled to the brim with traffic cameras, the police make the calls they receive available online. Using the location of the latest call, the closest live online traffic cameras are [shown].”

Seattle Crime Cams from Dries Depoorter on Vimeo.

A co-production with de Brakke Grond Amsterdam, Seattle Crime Cams premiered at IDFA Doclab in Amsterdam in 2015. It will next be shown at Depoorter’s DATA BROOKER exhibition, which runs March 27 to May 29 at Z33 in Hasselt, Belgium.

Click here to see more of Dries Depoorter’s work.


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