LINDA DUVALL Visual and Media Artist








Related Activities



Friendly Surveillance
CAFKA, Kitchener City Hall, Kitchener, ON 2003

I have developed a visual coding system so that I can provide a written equivalent to the sounds, sights and smells that are happening directly in front of me. Any audio or visual event can be sequentially annotated in hieroglyphic form

This work allows for a means to visually represent audio. The activity of transcribing passing sounds and sights is done as a live performance, as a direct response to what is in front of me - people talking, cars honking, etc.
The written code shifts and evolves depending on what is around me at any one time. It reflects the changes on different days, and at varying times of day. It is a way that I as a visitor can experience and become aware of the unique flow of the city at different times of the day or night. The hieroglyphic text visually reveals the changing rhythms.
This proposal allows for a subjective translation of audio and visuals, depending on what I am paying attention to at any one time. Unlike camera-based surveillance, I can change my emphasis. If a flock of birds flies over, this event can become part of my text.

By performing this work live, I make evident my role in personalizing the act of monitoring, counting, and describing my immediate environment. I also incorporate the participation of the audience directly into the work. If a person stops and looks, I draw a box around the sign representing that person. If they stay and talk, I add the sign for talking, etc.

This is a form of surveillance, but is in opposition to institutional forms of surveillance. My system of surveillance is totally subjective. It reflects what I notice. One day it may focus on yelling, whistling and laughing. Another day may reflect other priorities.

Observations Based on ‘Friendly Surveillance’ at Kitchener City Hall

- In doing recordings based simply on visual observations, certain economic aspects become blurred. For example the people carrying multiply bags might be ‘street people’ carrying all their earthly possessions or shoppers at the nearby market.
- Certain fashion trends have merged diverse groups. The documentation of baseball caps fused the groups of teens with the elderly farmers.
- I had to quickly find new codes based on what was happening in front of me i.e. material being removed from the garbage cans as well as material being inserted into the garbage cans.
- I found the role of the existing public surveillance system clearly impacted my system of surveillance. Apparently, the cameras in the square ensure a two-minute response time by the police. So I found that I was frequently annotating the evidence of this response – four police cars arriving all at once on the first Saturday, etc.
- Because my system provides for attention to be focused on attire that is beyond the ordinary, at one point on this same first Saturday, I was combining policed uniforms, long white dresses, and punk attire into “people who are dressed up”. Subsequently, I adjusted my categories to differentiate ‘People in Long Dresses’ from ‘People in Uniforms’. Later I made subcategories of Uniforms With vs. Without lethal Weapons.
- The pages from the weekends are visually very different from those during the week, echoing the drastic shift in activity that occurs. Within this were some surprises, like the increased level of smoking during the weekdays, and the high number of cigarettes that combined with briefcases. Some changes were more obvious, like the increase in security tags.
- My surveillance was clearly impacted by other activities, some regular, others quite memorable and significant. The opening of the Children’s Museum on the second Saturday affected the numbers of ‘Dressed Up Children’ as well as the number of ‘Running Children’, ‘Noisy Children’, etc. The other main event was the presence of the other participants of CAFKA, who inadvertently were part of my Surveillance. The free soup kitchen also affected the nature of my counting.
- Without defining the weather, one would probably guess based on some of my annotations – existence of umbrellas, numbers of people within an hour, etc. At several points during the week, I focused on the leaves swirling around the plaza, that being virtually the only activity visible to me.
- Kitchener City Hall is clearly an area of very diverse activities, from weddings to the free soup, to a context for political dialogue, to the nearby farmer’s market. For me this demonstrates a city center that is occupying a vital role in the life of the citizens of Kitchener/Waterloo.