Camp Collective

As If – II Flight of the Black Boxes
CAMP Collective


Controversy about surveillance has never been more at the forefront than it is now. Whether it is meant to protect citizens of a place, or observe citizens as a potential threat, surveillance as an act of capturing information for “truth finding” on subjects has become highly problematic. CAMP collective’s retrospective in New Delhi titled As If – II Flight of the Black Boxes inverts the notion of capturing truth through the methodologies and philosophical underpinnings of their practice.

CAMP’s provocative title As If, both dares and introduces the notion of doubt about the sanctity of a definitive point-of-view. The object of presenting one view is replaced by the polyphony of multiple voices. If the camera, black box, and television are traditionally used as repositories of storing and disseminating information, CAMP utilizes these devices to eradicate the separation of subject and object by intertwining both roles and changing the pursuit of truth finding to an open-ended activity.

In Khirkeeyaan, a project made in 2006 by Shaina Anand of CAMP, an open circuit TV system was employed to interconnect four different locations that enabled participants to view and communicate with each other in real time through their TV circuits. Captured in Khirkee–a fast transforming working class neighbourhood in New Delhi comprised of immigrants from Africa and different states in IndiaCAMP’s interceptive devices reveal truths that are as multifarious as the participants themselves.

Through 5 different episodes, CAMP explores a redistribution of the gaze, which makes the people pictured both the object and subject. These transmitters of information, people who appear to be both forthcoming and awkward, exchange views on life in Khirkee, including: problems with alcoholic husbands, life as laborers in a garment factory, and real estate difficulties from the privacy of their settings. Spontaneous first-hand material provides viewers with an idea of the participants’ homes, living conditions, and pulse of the community. This method of presenting polymorphous opinions from the ground up democratizes the process of truth telling and reveals the basis of CAMP’s practice.
Similarly, in Jaar Qabla Al Daar (The Neighbour Before The House), 2011, a film made from footage gathered in 2009, eight Palestinian families are provided with cameras to record their plight in a zone of occupied territory, anxiety, and conflict. By documenting their experiences through the lens of a dilapidated neighborhood, the participants bring a sense of urgency and immediacy to their experience. CAMP’s process permeates through–Capital Circus, a film shot with 208 CCTV cameras in the largest mall in Europe–and CCTV SOCIAL: COLD CLINIC, 2008, in which 40 people spend an hour each in a CCTV control room in Manchester.

CAMP’s installation Windscreen, 2008, in which paper and straw move precariously with the wind, best summarizes their practice. Their work assiduously negates the triumph of globalism and the reduction of lived experience into quantifiable and transmittable “information.” By removing the authoritarian onlooker and turning the act of surveillance on its head, CAMP triumphs again and again in exonerating the role of the participant through its temporal interventions.

by Bansie Vasvani
images courtesy of CAMP collective






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