AZ: MOVE AND GET SHOT

November 2016

Joana Moll is an artist and researcher based in Barcelona.

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My slideshow for Unthinking Photography is a selection of images from the "AZ: MOVE AND GET SHOT" project: a net-based work created entirely by algorithms that have been automatically collecting images of six surveillance cameras placed on the US/Mexico Border from 2011 until 2014.

These cameras were part of an online platform created by a group of landowners with properties near the U.S. border, in the state of Arizona. The site shows the images of six surveillance cameras located in the border territory. The main purpose of this group was to provide the public with raw images of immigrants crossing the border illegally through their lands. Each camera incorporated a motion sensor, which triggered the capture of images when it detected the slightest vibration of the landscape. Then, these captured images were sent to a server and displayed directly on their web page.

The surveillance interface of the platform offered the users to access the images of six different cameras. After choosing one of the cameras, the site displayed 300 of the most recent pictures shot by the selected device. At that point, users were ‘invited’ to check the images and share them on Facebook.

While the main goal of the landowners was to capture and disseminate photographs of immigrants entering the United States illegally, the camera was programmed to detect and record any movement. By delegating the surveillance to a machine, the human intention was lost, and the original purpose was transformed, resulting in a collection of images, which revealed not only immigrants but also all kinds of human, animal and natural activity. Moreover, the pictures showed the faces of the camera owners, their families and border patrol officers. Therefore, this action of monitoring the border became something uncontrollable and potentially meaningless.

The original piece is composed of six independent films automatically built by the images captured by each camera. Every 24 hours, a Bot detected whether new pictures coming from the cameras had been uploaded. These new images were saved to a local server and added algorithmically right after the last frame of the corresponding video. The project contains a total of 14638 pictures collected by the Bot during its 899 days of activity, which could be found here.

The images presented here are thus an example of how day-by-day, the human, the animal, the natural and the technological coexisted on the Arizona borderland.

This work is part of a series: Machine Vision