Watching Me, Watching You: Reflections Upon Surveillance, Gare Loch Duality and the #UndesiredLine

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B.D. Owens


From my local observations, the everyday military surveillance, an ever-present panopticon, perpetuates both conscious and unconscious stress in the lives of those who endure it. In this paper I will reflect upon my experiences of a 224 mile pilgrimage that I undertook in 2018, over a period of 50 days. It was a daily walk from the front door of my house to the front door of the Faslane Nuclear Submarine Base, on the Gare Loch in Scotland. A walking performance, through which I drew an Undesired Line on the grass verge in parallel to an existing "undesired line" - the perimeter fence of the Base.

Throughout the time the performance was in progress, I made an online text artwork using the Twitter hashtag #UndesiredLine. One year later, I reactivated the #UndesiredLine text-work in order to analyse subsequent observations and to establish a platform (and outlet) to examine the complex reality of Gare Loch ‘duality’. I will look at the potential legacy for The Undesired Line, and how I can use the documentation: video, photos, daily journal writings, field recordings, tweets and maps.

In addition to appraising my own work, I will discuss surveillance focused artworks by David Rokeby, Janet Cardiff and The Surveillance Camera Players. I will also consider some of the ethical challenges of interactive art, as well as the implications and limitations of "piggy-backing" an online artwork onto existing online platforms such as Twitter and Google Maps.

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