Simon Farid: Week 2 - Mobile Surveillance Officer Training

Posted on Jan 26, 2015 by Simon Farid  | Tags: Simon Farid  | Comments (0)

As promised, my first week in the studio was dominated by an informal collaborative day with Mani Kambo

We began by discussing the MI5 job advert for 'Mobile Surveillance Officers' that I highlighted in my last post. We were particularly interested in its focus on map reading and the need to identify where you and your 'target' are with reference to compass points. 

So this seemed like a productive starting point for our experiments. In London, guided by knowledge of the spatial relationships of different  tube stops and landmarks, I am very good at identifying compass directions, but still feeling relatively new to Newcastle terrain, I struggled to work out even which way the studio is facing. I will mark this on the walls. 

Playing with this process, we devised a short game, which I am calling here 'Mobile Surveillance Officer Training'. This process involved us each independently going out into Newcastle City Centre and identifying a target to follow, in this instance a nondescript member of the public. We each followed out target for 20 minutes, then wrote a report for each other of the target's movements. But these movements were only noted this only as compass directions and distances. 

My notation for Mani:

Mani's notation for me: 

Using these maps(/scripts?), we then each tried to follow the route dictated by the directions, re-enacting the other person's target's route through the city. 

Once we returned to the studio, we noted on Google Maps our actual route and the other persons' attempted route guided by the directions. 

Mani's original route: 

My route in response to her directions:

My original route:

Mani's route in response to my directions:

As you can see, we both diverged quite dramatically, exposing our differences in understanding of both compass directions and estimated distances. But there still seems to be some relationship in the shape of the routes. 

While this was a quite enjoyable and productive experiment/exercise in itself, I think it raised enough points of interest to be the starting point for a more in depth work about MI5's map reading exercise; I would like to use it as the basis for a public workshop called 'MI5 Mobile Surveillance Officer Training Workshop

The workshop will involve:

Discussion about methods of identifying unfledged surveillance workers, building on my 'How To Impersonate a Plain Clothes Police Officer' workshop.

Identifying useful landmarks in a city or area for working out compass points. 

A game of following and reporting, not too dissimilar to what Mani and I did. 

A provisional workshop plan can be seen here

This workshop will be useful for counter-surveillance practice and investigations into the effects of contemporary GPS mapping systems of spatial awareness, but it will also investigate deeper feelings of embodiment and presence that were raised to Mani and I. Triggered by the initial MI5 provocation, we realised how little awareness we had of our bodies positions in relation to the space around us.

This plan for a workshop is the first concrete outcome of this residency, and is one I am very excited about. My next visitor will be performance artist Lily Mellors, and we will look to work on some more ideas around unseen and unfledged performance. 

PS. Here are some informal maps Mani and I drew in the process of working out compass directions. An installation of all the self-generated maps and notes would be a very visually pleasing and accurate account of our collaboration. 


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