Yours Isn’t The Only Camera Recording Your Selfie

Perhaps it is just the availability of social media feeds and news aggregators to bring information to my attention, but it seems that art projects have been effective in bringing about social change. Certainly that the work is often magnifying an large shift in sentiment can certainly be a contributing factor.

For example, in my city an art project around a Confederate statue has resulted in it being moved. But just a year before the same group of county commissioners unanimously voted to reject a proposal to move it. A couple months ago, I wrote about a project by a Pittsburgh area artist which has lead to an investigation of discrimination in housing appraisals.

Now I have read an article about an artist’s projects about the prevalence of surveillance. While the work hasn’t resulted in any policy changes yet, the disquieting nature of this or similar work may lead to action in the near future.

As covered by Bloomberg, Belgian artist Dries Depoorter used publicly accessible livestream footage of cities around the world to place Instagram selfies into context. He used facial recognition software to find when the photos were being taken during the footage he recorded and then placed the image in a split screen with video of the people employing all sorts of techniques and artifice to get their shot.

For many viewers, the video — which comes from just 10 days of footage — says something more about the decay of online privacy than it does about social media superficiality.

“​​If this person can do this as an art piece, imagine what someone being paid by a big company can do with the same data, at scale, for purposes of making money, that won’t make a public tweet about it,” wrote software developer Juan Alvarado on Twitter.

Depoorter has done similar projects before, tapping into red light cameras to show people jaywalking. In another he grabbed and displayed the publicly available Facebook photos of everyone visiting museum exhibitions.

“I show the dangers of technology with my work,” he said over WhatsApp.

The artist declined to elaborate on those dangers, however, saying his main goal is to create art that speaks clearly for itself.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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