Abstract

Harun Farocki's 2004 installation Counter-Music explores the issue of surveillance. It probes different kinds of surveillance and, in so doing, delineates historical trajectories, juxtaposing, for instance, state surveillance under Louis XIV in late-seventeenth-century France (through public streetlights) with more recent modes of observation via surveillance cameras (through closed-circuit-television systems). The tacit epicenter of Farocki's installation is the novel form of surveillance in which cameras are linked with automatic-recognition systems that no longer rely on human beings as observers: Human beings have been replaced by software designed to surveil. This new kind of surveillance, in which images are recorded and then “viewed” by automatic “eyes”—that is, analyzed by algorithmic software—generates what Farocki calls “operational images” to be used within systemic surveillance operations.

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