In what will generally be condemned by everyone as a creepy dystopian move, the Chinese government has massively expanded its video surveillance network into supermarkets, schoolrooms, university classrooms, malls – and, in a special post-modern twist, into theaters and cinemas. Over 5 million cameras have been installed throughout the country, and the Chinese government’s video surveillance team has grown to over 4,000 watchers.
Which is exciting news for surveillance camera theater groups, especially those planning tours of the Chinese mainland. Closed-circuit television performance artist and filmmaker Paola Baretto Leblanc hasn’t commented at all, but some have speculated that Leblanc may be considering an anniversary performance installation of Composition for Video Surveillance Circuit, to commemorate such a monumentally creepy achievement.
And rumours are aswirl about a reunion tour by the much loved Surveillance Camera Players of New York to some of the more densely surveilled regions of China. For example, in the Furong district, in the city of Changsha, there is reportedly one video camera for every 10 inhabitants, taking us closer and closer to that ever elusive but enviable goal of one camera for one citizen.
Other anti-surveillance groups, like Souriez vous etes filmes in France, also have not commented, but may be planning special events.
Not everyone is happy about the new cameras. One involved person who wanted his name withheld so that his comments couldn’t later be used to shame him, worried about the temptation for surveillance camera activists to sell out. With so many cameras, he said, what were once small state-security CCTV networks were being transformed into mass media. After all, what television network can boast 5 million live-action cameras?
Naturally, Western governments are watching closely through their own surveillance camera networks and no doubt feeling the sting and social stigma of having smaller CCTV networks than their global cousins.
For less sarcastic coverage of China’s fascination with CCTV, check out the recent article by Tania Branigan in the Gaurdian.