10. Surveillance

(four paragraphs) CL: You said earlier that finding new collaborative models was one thing that you found pressing as an artist. What was the other?
SLAYTON: The other thing is surveillance. I have this idea that surveillance technology is going to become a personal medium and that somehow you'll be able to log on to surveillance probes that are out there everywhere. I'm producing an installation on this idea for the Krannet Art Museum's "Art as Signal" show this year. The idea is that the probe should be about the size of a dragonfly and there would be lots of them, everywhere. You could log onto one of them via the Internet -- you don't own it, it's not yours, you're just borrowing it for a few minutes -- and you're wherever it is. A kind of telepresence.

CL: Are you saying that surveillance shouldn't only be in the hands of certain people who want to exploit it for their own purposes, and that it could be available to everybody?
SLAYTON: Surveillance today is exploitation, and it doesn't have to be characterized that way. It could be a way for you or I or anyone to be someplace that we're not, and be able to experience and see events that would otherwise be inaccessible. Allowing the technologies of surveillance to be disseminated and re-purposed is an important thing. It's shouldn't remain a means of watching other people to exploit their inadequacies -- to catch other people doing something. If I had a surveillance system that allowed me to watch the people who make decisions about what I do then it evens the playing field. If it becomes ubiquitous and it's no longer intrusive, then I think it generates a more productive environment.

CL: Don't you also think it makes surveillance a more complicated world, along the lines of Big Brother? How do you speak honestly if you know that you're being watched by somebody else?
SLAYTON: Well, it's a very interesting issue and I don't know the answer. But the way it is now it's Big Brother because it's centralized and authoritarian... who's behind it? If it becomes more common and the motive changes to being connected, and being on-line all the time to everyone else, then it allows for new ways of working and new ways of sharing information, new ways of experiencing things, new ways of influencing, communicating.

CL: It would allow you to see for yourself. What about the cameras that are on the floor of Congress in Washington, D.C., is that an example?
SLAYTON: It has to be a lot more ubiquitous than that. If there were cameras in every nook and cranny of the U.S. legislature and you could drop in on
conversations that were happening as they walked down the hall or entered into someone's office, and they could enter into your home because it has to be equal, not just one way, then I think it evens the playing field so that the people who are being watched quit performing. Then you're not performing for an audience because everyone's the audience, all at the same time, and everyone's a performer at the same time.