During my first visit in Washington DC, some time in Fall 2011, I was struck by a resemblance. DC seemed to me like a variation of Rome. It was a short-term effect, only caused by the overview of the city that the congress allows for and from where several buildings with copulas are visible. Soon afterwards, on my way down the Mall, I realized that it was not actually Rome that was on my mind but Gene Roddenberry’s variation of it, called Romulus. The images in my head deriving from Star Trek movies and comics by far outnumbered the accessable visual material on the ancient rome. (Close second place after Star Trek was – Ben Hur, Spartacus and a movie with Sir Peter Ustinov about some Roman Emperor – however, an indistinguishable melange of shapes and relations that I am willing to call ‘Hollywod-Rome’).
Later, on my way back to Union Station, I would pass by the FBI Headquarters. While getting closer to what I did not yet consider to be a point of interest, I recognized something strange. The, if you will, anciently styled street lights had their light bulbs removed. They were replaced by shiny saucers and bowls, made of tinted glass, covering the hardly visible optics and mechanics that make a camera. Finally, I was made aware of the Hoover-Building by the fact that the cameras had multiplied. I was unable to count them. Whenever I tilted my head or would make a couple of steps towards whatever side, new ones would come into sight, other ones, I had been aware of seconds ago had disappeared again.
The way they were mounted gave away their individual view. I was wondering if there still is a blind spot and if somebody in the building gets angry about this imperfection in the grid every time he takes over his surveillance shift, or if it is an algorithm doing his job.
My imaginary carful human observer doesn’t exist. Nobody is sitting down to watch any of this 78fold street-view, unless the algorithm decides to give notice of irregular behavior. With that in mind, I found my curiosity restricted. Some thing might take interest in my interest in the cameras. I continued the walk to Union Station – after all, still two miles to go. I was busy now, busy appearing as non-suspicious as possible, pretending to take pictures of motives that an algorithm would deem worthy of taking. Trump Hotel, the weirdly shaped two dimensional house in the sculpture garden that tricks your vision, a reflection in a window of x… . Finally, on the train to Baltimore, I was all sweat as I usually am whenever I forget to eat and try to make up for it with coffee.
Last week, I moved to the heart of Paris, next to the Hotel de Ville. I had no real business the first time I was walking down the street, other then, let’s say, buying cat food at the Lidl. But I saw them, the very moment they saw me.
Paris, rue Geoffroy L’asnier 9/17
I have to add that, during daytime, there is a very well dressed agent guarding the Shoah-Memorial. Making assumptions about his algorithm and in fear of the other programs it might cause to run, I took this picture at midnight, in the rain. The circumstances should render my doing as harmless. A harmless professional, taking artistic images, or a tourist, producing yet another cheesy image of a pleasantly lit facade, in Paris, in the rain, at midnight, waiting for a cab to pick me up, or whatever else just came to your mind.