Artist Projects

Surveillance Suite


James Coupe

Surveillance Suite is a series of artworks that make use of contemporary surveillance technologies and ideologies. The series culminates with Swarm, commissioned by the Toronto International Film Festival and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. Swarm is a 16-channel real-time video installation that uses profiling algorithms to auto-composit footage of individual museum visitors into demographically similar ‘clans’. Four rows of monitors show these different clans occupying the museum, proliferating in number, assembling and dispersing. One might be women in their fifties, one might be people of Asian descent, one might be men in their forties, one might be people all dressed in black. 


There is menace inherent in the occupation of a specific space by a single demographic, even more so when that space is a privileged site such as a museum. There is further tension to be found in the parallel occupation of that space by different groupings—some are large, some small, all suggesting an impending confrontation. As new people enter the gallery, visitors past and present size them up, waiting to see which group they will join, and adding to the blend of tension and exclusivity, threat and solidarity pervading the museum.