A Techno Album Accompanied By Real-Time Feeds from New York Surveillance Cameras

Electronic music producer Jim-E Stack made a collage out of New York City surveillance.

Jul 25 2014, 10:15am

In a move that won't endear him to anti-surveillance activists, but will probably make hackers smile, electronic music producer Jim-E Stack and digital creative Jonathon Vingiano made a collage of some real-time feeds of New York City surveillance cameras for the former's debut album.

They paired the footage with a stream of Jim-E's record Tell Me I Belong, and the audio-visual mash-up is currently online over at TellMeIBelong.com.

The online surveillance installation essentially shows traffic footage of a multitude of cameras placed around the city. The music, which varies from house to techno and two-step-influenced electronic jams, doesn't sync to the low-res visuals. Instead, it serves to break up the quotidian imagery captured minute-by-minute through thousands of metropolitan surveillance cameras. 

For his part, Brooklyn-based Jim-E hopes to evoke a sense of modern, techno-induced alienation. 

"The experience of being an anonymous observer is intended to evoke a sense of alienation, a theme central to the album," he said through his record label Innovative Leisure. "Visiting the site on a phone or other mobile device allows for the album to play in a perpetual stream, even as the device sleeps."

While at first the surveillance footage bores the viewer, if you lose yourself to the experience, there are a number of interesting visual nuggets. Occasionally, cameras go offline, with one feed notifying the viewer that a camera is being serviced. Another feed went black as I watched, featuring text that simply read "No Camera."

You can also take a peep at New York City rivers and bridges, feel the anxiety of traffic jams, see dirt and smudges on cameras, look at a line of school buses waiting for children to leave school, and appreciate the geometry of a metropolis, where roads split and freeways snake across the landscape. In one instance, the visuals took on a glitchy quality. 

It's a pity that the resolution is crap, but you've got to respect Jim-E and Vingiano's effort. It takes cojones to use surveillance to sell an album, what with the NSA shenagigans still so fresh and everything. 

Jim-E Stack is also currently streaming a new track and cinemagraph from the record every weekday leading up the Tell Me I Belong release on July 29 over at Innovative Leisure’s YouTube channel.