Thursday, 13 November 2008

Cat and Mouse

Although my trespassing activities are intentionally clandestine in the real world, I have always presented the documentation in public online space with total transparency. To begin with I hid my face from the camera, but as the images became regularly published on a website bearing my name, I soon stopped even this pretense of anonymity. More important than my identity though are the landmarks that crop up in the pictures, many of which would give telltale details as to movements about the site, especially my entrances and exits: the achilles heels of Olympic security. Much as the intention of the project is to subvert the control of both access to and imagery from Europe's largest building site, I was pleased to give the powers that be a fighting chance in preventing my intrusions, should they care enough to notice. I have taken a self-defeating pride from the outset in clearly demonstrating the weaknesses of the (de)fences.

I made the project's iconic title image early on, lying in the road at the bottom of the new gate which blocked Carpenter's Road, demonstrating the ease with which I slipped beneath it. A sign above me clearly reading "OLYMPIC PARK. ROAD CLOSED HERE FROM MON 2 JULY". The fence, which had already been extended to 'fit' the space was, when I returned two weeks later, further extended: steel bars welded to within an inch of the road on every other fence post. A month later still, unwanted eyes were also excluded - the whole fence clad in the now ubiquitous blue plywood. Whether this gradual improvement was a response to the online visibility of my images seems unlikely, but I had taken one measure to deliberately draw attention to my website.

Newham council's website contains an anomalous page amidst the mass of local government public access buraucracy. It contains a live link to a webcam mounted on top of Stratford station. The camera pans and zooms automatically back and forth, in and out across the Olympic site, whether it was installed for the purposes of sating public curiosity I have no idea. I decided to try my hand at some primitive hacking and was shocked to find that simply copying the html code and pasting into my own website code made the camera broadcast live on any page I desired. I left it for the time being on my links page, watching it occasionally and plotting to make a performance specifically for this camera as soon as I could work out how to get within range of its lens and make myself visible, if only fleetingly, to its erratic movement. Before I had come up with anything, it disappeared. I went to the source - now a blank white space, it had been taken offline. I duly removed the code from my site and within a couple of days Newham had reinstated it, so I pinched it again, and again soon enough it was gone. I intentionally went through this process several times, largely in order to prove to myself that it vanished as a consequence of my code-piracy, but also in the hope that there would be further repercussions - perhaps a polite email asking me to stop, which would give me the opportunity to question their ideals of transparency if I were not allowed to post links to the camera (I had credited the footage properly). My final reason for continuing this virtual baiting game was simply to draw the authority's attention to the images. You can watch the webcam here

I was surprised therefore that it took a lot longer for any changes to be made at my most regular point of entry, a short row of trees that flank the fence on the towpath. I believe more than nine months passed with me regularly shinning up these trees before they were boxed into the fence for good.

No comments: