Surveillance Chess

Hijacking CCTV Cameras in London

Single channel video installation
Full HD, 16:9, sound, 7:00 min, loop
Suitcase containing video transmitter, antenna, battery, chess computer

Surveillance Chess (2012) - by Mediengruppe Bitnik

London. 2012. On the brink of the Olympic Games. A tube station in one of the most surveilled public spaces in the world. !Mediengruppe Bitnik intercepts the signal of a surveillance camera: Business people making their way to the Underground, a man in a suit looking for the right exit. From the left, a woman with a yellow suitcase walks into the frame of the surveillance camera. She opens her suitcase and activates a switch.

This is the moment when Bitnik takes over. The surveillance image drops out, a chess board appears on the surveillance monitor and a voice from the loudspeakers says: «I control your surveillance camera now. I am the one with the yellow suitcase.» The image jumps back to the woman with the yellow suitcase. Then the image switches to the chess board.«How about a game of chess?», the voice asks. «You are white. I am black. Call me or text me to make your move. This is my number: 07582460851.»

!Mediengruppe Bitnik re-evaluates the space and system in Surveillance Chess (2012), a hacker intervention and art performance by the artist duo in the London public surveillance system, just before the Olympic Games in 2012. By manipulating unencrypted connections between monitoring cameras and control centers, !Mediengruppe Bitnik replaces the real-time image on the monitor with a personal invitation to play chess. They open up a play situation between them and those who have monitored the events in the control center, and have so far been safe and powerful. Both players now have the same rules and opportunities. The one-dimensional monitoring system is transformed, it becomes a medium of communication. At this moment, the public space, privatized and controlled by opaque surveillance systems, is being redesigned. The cards are reshuffled, the game can begin, it is open ended.