A historical overview of landmark events and developments in systematised watching, throughout art and architecture, society and technology.
~60 AD (Roman Period). Early manifestations of panoptic labor camps in the Negev desert. An even older but similar site nearby dates from Early Bronze Age II–III periods (3000–2400 BC).
1546 The Fields Have Eyes, The Woods Have Ears
1608 The earliest known working telescopes appear, credited to Hans Lippershey and Zacharias Janssen, spectacle-makers in Middelburg, and Jacob Metius.
1609 Galileo uses a refracting telescope as an instrument to observe stars, planets or moons. The name telescope is coined for Galileo’s instrument by a mathematician, Giovanni Demisiani, in 1611. The name derives from the Greek tele = ‘far’ and skopein = ‘to look or see’.
mid-16oos Systematic surveillance is being implemented for the first time when three conditions come together: a) enough people know how to read and write and there is actually something to systematically surveil: a great international culture of letter writing that had sprung up in recent decades. b) It is possible to open and re-seal letters without being noticed c) A motive: the beheading of King Charles I of England in 1649 is a huge shock to those in power. Suddenly all the other big European nations see the need to better control their populace. The first to implement this is France which decrees that from now on all letters had to go through Paris, so they could be intercepted, opened and copied.
1673 In his book ‘Phonurgia Nova’, Athanasius Kircher proposes a system of amplifying horns and camera obscura projections by which a monarch can surveil the noblemen at his court and thereby strengthen his rule.
1785 Plan for Hotel-Dieu, drawing by Bernard Poyet
1791 General Idea of a Penitentiary Panopticon, drawing by Willey Reveley after Jeremy Bentham
A model of the Panopticon, Museum für Kommunikation, Frankfurt, 2013
1837 Charles Babbage designs a fully programmable mechanical computer called The Analytical Engine
1837 1st telegraph by Samuel F. B. Morse
1840 Projet de pénitencier, Drawing by Harou Romain
1862 Balloons are used for aerial reconnaissance in the US civil war
1889 Herman Hollerith develops and patents a punched card data processing technology for 1890 US Census and establishes the Tabulating Machine Company, one of the three companies that later merged to form the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation, subsequently renamed IBM.
1900 Reginald Fessenden successfully transmits his speech over a distance of about one mile. This appears to have been the 1st audio radio transmission.
1911 George E. Kelly recognizes military potential of aerial photography.
1914-1918 Before the invention of radar, aircraft were detected by listening. Directional Sound Finders used in World War I
1927 Russian inventor Léon Theremin develops a mirror drum-based television system which uses interlacing to achieve an image resolution of 100 lines.
1927 Herbert E. Ives of Bell Labs transmits moving images from a 50-aperture disk producing 16 frames per minute over a cable from Washington, DC to New York City. Ives uses viewing screens as large as 24 by 30 inches.
1927 Fritz Lang directs Metropolis (screenplay written 1924)
1929 Dziga Vertov: Man with a Movie Camera
1932 Aldous Huxley publishes Brave New World
1930s onwards: Science Fiction authors imagine future surveillance technologies. Many of them a reality now.
1935-1944 On air period of the German TV Station Paul Nipkow. Its headquarters were in Berlin. It was named after the inventor of the Nipkow disk.
1936 Walter Benjamin publishes The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
1939 John Cage composes Imaginary Landscape No. 1
1941 Konrad Zuse developes Z3, the first working machine featuring binary arithmetic, including floating point arithmetic and a measure of programmability. In 1998 the Z3 was proved to be Turing complete, therefore being the world’s first operational computer.
1942 Siemens installs first CCTV for the monitoring the launch of V2 rockets
1945 Vannevar Bush publishes the article As We May Think in The Atlantic Monthly Journal. He is proposing a system called Memex (for Memory Extender) as an electronic exstention of human memory and knowledge. A prototype both of PC and hypertext.
1946 Life Magazine photographer Yalo Joel uses a one-way mirror to trick people into posing for him
1946 Peter Goldmark (CBS) demonstrates his color television system. His system produces color pictures by having a red-blue-green wheel spin in front of a cathode ray tube.
1948 George Orwell: 1984
1949 This mechanical means of producing a color picture (by Peter Goldmark) is used to broadcast medical procedures from Pennsylvania and Atlantic City hospitals. In Atlantic City, viewers can come to the convention center to see broadcasts of operations. Reports from the time note that the realism of seeing surgery in color caused more than a few viewers to faint.
1951 The first video tape recorder (VTR) captures live images from television cameras by converting the information into electrical impulses and saving the information onto magnetic tape
1952 US President Truman formally establishes the NSA, which plays an instrumental part in the rise of the computer age. (Here’s a 1986 article by Friedrich Kittler about this, in German)
1956 Ampex sold the first VTR for $50,000
1957 Sputnik launch, 1st artificial satellite
1958 First use of stationary cameras to monitor traffic flow in Munich
1958-1980 Development and activity of SAGE, Semi-Automatic Ground Environment. This image was taken by a U.S. Air Force Airman or employee, made during the course of the person’s official duties
1961 first meteorological satellites launched by the USA
1963 Philips presents first audio cassette recorder
1963 Nam June Paik exhibits 13 TV monitors at Exposition of Music – Electronic Television, Galerie Parnass, Wuppertal.
1963-65 Ted Nelson (Projekt Xanadu) coins the term hypertext
1964 Marshall McLuhan publishes Understanding Media
1965 Andy Warhol gets to use one of the very first Norelco video tape recorders
1966 Psychedelics are huge. CCTV installations are part of the art at the Acid Test/ Trips Festival organized by the Merry Pranksters and USCO, including Stewart Brand: trippy dancers painted in day-glo colors watch themselves dance.
1967 Guy Debord publishes The Society of the Spectacle. “All that was once directly lived has become mere representation.”
1969 Vito Acconci makes Following Piece in New York
1969 John Lennon/Yoko Ono make Film No 6. Rape. The relentless, continuous and brutal harassment of a girl by a male camera crew
1969 Bruce Nauman: First CCTV installation Video Corridor for San Francisco“ (Come Piece)
1969 Andy Warhol plans to broadcast a 6 hour stretch of continuous surveillance footage on the New York TV network; ‘Nothing Special’ was proposed to consist of footage of people walking by on the street at night. It never got made.
1969 US Defence and its Advanced Research Project Agency develop the ARPANET
1969 Sony introduces a prototype for the first widespread video cassette, the 3/4″ composite U-matic system. Sony later refine it to Broadcast Video U-matic or BVU.
1969-70 Bruce Nauman: Live-Taped Video Corridor
1969-70 Bruce Nauman: Video Surveillance Piece / Public Room, Private Room
1970 William S. Burroughs publishes The Electronic Revolution (In both The Electronic Revolution and The Job (1970), Burroughs maps strategies for the use of tape recorders as instruments of psychic terrorism); (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Electronic_Revolution)
1970 Dan Graham stages TV Camera / Monitor Performance at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax.
1972 Jürgen Klauke starts work on Antlitze (Faces)
1973 Peter Weibel installs Observation of the Observation: Uncertainty
1973 Global Positioning System (GPS) developed
1974 The British Armyin Northern Ireland introduces first automatised vehicle number plates recognition system.
1974 Installation of 145 CCTV cameras to control traffic on major arterial roads in London. Their usage is soon expanded to include crime prevention and social control. The ongoing conflict with the IRA in Northern Ireland turns mainland UK into the most densely controlled state on earth. Today there are an estimated 4,5 million surveillance cameras in the UK, both publicly and privately run.
1974 Francis Ford Coppola: The Conversation
1974 Dan Graham: Time Delay Room
1975 Michel Foucault publishes Surveiller et punir
1976 Hannover follows the London model and installs 25 remotely controlled, movable and zoomable traffic cameras. A few years later there is blanket CCTV coverage of ‘problematic’ city areas nationwide across Germany.
1976 Dara Birnbaum edits Technology / Transformation: Wonder Woman
1976 VHS video format introduced by JVC
1977 Dan Graham stages Performer/Audience/Mirror
1978 1st GPS satellite launched
1978 Antonio Muntadas produces the video On Subjectivity (About TV)
1978 Running Dog, a novel by Don DeLillo
“When technology reaches. a certain level, people begin to feel like criminals,” he said. “Someone is after you, the computers maybe, the machine-police. You can’t escape investigation. The facts about you and your whole existence have been collected or are being collected. Banks, insurance companies, credit organizations, tax examiners, passport offices, reporting services, police agencies, intelligence gatherers. It’s a little like what I was saying before. Devices make us pliant. If they issue a print-out saying we’re guilty, then we’re guilty. But it goes even deeper, doesn’t it? It’s the presence alone, the very fact, the superabundance of technology, that makes us feel we’re committing crimes. Just the fact that these things exist at this widespread level. The processing machines, the scanners, the sorters. That’s enough to make us feel like criminals. What enormous weight. What complex programs. And there’s no one to explain it to us.”
1979 Sony and Philips jointly develop the Compact Disk (CD)
1979 first edition of ars electronica Festival, Linz, Austria
1980 Steve Mann begins work on wearables
1981 Sophie Calle produces The Shadow : «In April 1981, at my request, my mother went to a detetctive agency. She hired them to follow me, to report my daily activities, and to proviede photographic evidence of my existence.» In The Shadow she sets the detective’s photographic account against her own observations: the observer becomes the observed. The viewer is the third witness. This search for her own identity fails to reveal a clear picture here, too. Sophie Calle’s face does not appear in any of the pictures: her figure emerges like a shadow throughout the detective’s photographs
1982 Ridley Scott directs Blade Runner
1982 David Rokeby starts to develop Very Nervous System, his first major interactive work using video cameras, image processors, computers, synthesizers and a sound system to create a space in which the movements of one’s body create sound and/or music.
1983 Michael Klier directs/edits the movie Der Riese, an unconventionally constructed essay video on video surveillance in public space
1984 1st Macintosh 128k presented
1985 Julia Scher‘s 1st reference to surveillance in Hardley Feel It Going In (painting with surveillance system)
1986 Julia Scher‘s 1st Bubble Memory device by Hitachi Softly Tapping The Wires (interactive installation)
1991 Julia Scher presents DDD (Danger Dirty Data)
early 1990s London installs its Ring of Steel in response to a spate of IRA attacks. The infrastructure is still in use today and has since been upgraded and expanded several times.
mid 1990s Privacy activists battle government officials for the right to use strong crypto in the Crypto Wars.
1998 Shizuka Yokomizo takes photos of people standing in their front rooms from the street for her ‘Dear Stranger’ project.
1998 The Surveillance Camera Players stage George Orwell’s 1984, in Art Toad’s adaptation of George Orwell’s famous anti-utopian play 1984. It takes place on the platform of a New York subway station in November 1998. http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/works/george-orwells-1984/
2001 CTRL [SPACE] opens at ZKM Karlsruhe. The first comprehensive overview of surveillance-related art works. The artist pages of the out-of-print and now precious catalogue can be browsed online. It’s the essays that are still worth reading, 14 years later. We have a copy in the office if you want to borrow it. the library has it, too.
2002 US Information Awareness Office established; allegedly abandoned in 2003 because of human rights and privacy concerns. 2013 Edward Snowden leaks reveal core projects were continued and up and running a few years later. One of the most ambitious / publicly known mass surveillance projects.
2003 Harun Farocki: Erkennen und verfolgen (War at a Distance). Just one of many of his works concerned with observational politics
2004 Miroslav Tichý‘s work is shown for the first time, encompassing photos from the 1960’s to the present.
2010 Exposed. Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera. A major exhibition at Tate Modern, London
2010 Adam Harvey designs CV Dazzle: Open-Source Camouflage From Computer Vision. (“…a program of design of hairstyles and makeup to trick face detection software, to change the human face in ways that is still aesthetically pleasing to human eyes but rules out the attention of computers. This is interesting, because most of our ways of tricking computers are violently unfriendly ways.” James Bridle) See also.
2010 Timo Toots: Memopol-1 An interactive installation that independently gathers and visualizes personal data. works.timo.ee/memopol/
2011 The Chaos Computer Club discovers and dissects the Staatstrojaner. Mass surveillance of Internet users makes it into the public consciousness.
2011 Wikileaks targets companies that export surveillance and control software from the West to countries that rape, torture and murder, and is used e.g. by Syria to suppress dissent.
2011 Drones find their way from the military to general police use, not just in the US but in Europe e.g. in Niedersachsen during Castor protests, to the protesters themselves, documenting their protest. The KHM’s lab3 got their first drone in 2012. The SAG gets theirs in 2016.
2012 Julian Oliver: Transparency Grenade. An open source device that automatically hacks into locally available wireless networks, sniffs traffic to extract confidential data and uploads all results to a publicly available web server.
2012 James Bridle draws Drone Shadows.
2013 Google Glass released to developers, available to the public from 2014
2013 The Internet of Things is looming on the horizon. In addition, our tools and gadgets are increasingly locked down, and we cannot verify what processes are running on them. In effect, we are on our way to perfect and inescapable monitoring. The movement for free and open source software and hardware is gaining ground.
2013-14 Edward Snowden leaks. It turns out mass surveillance is not a conspiracy theory, but reality. Ongoing revelations at the time of writing, including the drive for a ‘full take’ of the world’s network traffic (“Why can’t we collect all the signals all the time?”), systematic weakening of security protocols, state-sponsored hacking into friends’ and foe’s infrastructure, etc etc. Worldwide repercussions, though no large scale outcry. Security researcher Bruce Schneier argues that the Internet has been commandeered by the NSA. In an unprecedented move, a range of privacy-oriented shops shut down and destroy their hardware, rather than cooperating with what they see as intolerable conditions.
2015 Google glass project discontinued, too many people are strongly opposed to ‘Glassholes’. Apple watch goes on sale: self-surveillance doesn’t cause the same moral dilemma.
2016-17 The number of art and design projects dealing with surveillance balloons. Bernhard Serexhe and Lívia Nolasco-Rózsás curate a follow-up to CTRL [SPACE] at ZKM Karlsruhe: GLOBAL CONTROL AND CENSORSHIP (featuring teachers and students of the Surveillant Architectures seminar among many other participants). Catalogue
*timeline compiled by arte-e-parte, 2008 and CS 2011-2016