Watched and Measured

Watched and Measured

David Rokeby

Read about the artwork

Image Andreas Schmidt

Image Andreas Schmidt

Image Andreas Schmidt

David Rokeby - Watched and Measured

  • 2000
  • Interactive installation (computer software, computer system, capture cameras and bespoke devices)
  • Location: Digitopolis, second floor Wellcome Wing (no longer on display)

Watched and Measured was a system that observed, tracked and catalogued people moving through the Science Museum. Rokeby wanted to explore some of the ethical questions surrounding surveillance systems: 'Do they invade our privacy, act as guardian angels, or, perhaps make us sanctioned voyeurs?' Watched and Measured played with how far we can trust received truths of these systems.

The system was designed by the artist to be particularly interested in human heads, things that were moving and things that were static but not part of the building. The system then projected its findings on three large screens in Digitopolis. Sometimes everything that was static disappeared, leaving only moving people visible in a blue-tinted void. At other times, people who were moving dissolved and blurred into invisibility, so only the building and those visitors standing still could be seen. Occasionally the system selected a human head to investigate, adding a text-based value judgment such as 'tired' or 'excited' that was completely arbitrary. The work presented a series of people looking and being looked at, watching and being measured. The audience's feelings may have alternated between sympathy and suspicion as they realised that they were not only witnesses to, but also subjects of, the system's activities.

About the artist

Canadian artist David Rokeby (born 1960) has been creating digital technology artworks, video and sound since 1981. His interactive artworks directly engage the human body or involve artificial perception systems. Watched and Measured at the Science Museum received a BAFTA award for Interactive Art in 2000.

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