Denis Beaubois is a multidisciplinary artist based in Sydney. He has been interested in our relationship with surveillance for some time. He is best known for his performances and videos in which he interacts with surveillance mechanisms, questioning our relationship with surveillance, often in a playful way.
In one of his best-known works, In The Event Of Amnesia The City Will Recall (1996-7), Beaubois stands in front of a series of selected surveillance cameras around Sydney. He goes back to the same sites for three days, and attempts to engage the cameras in dialogue by holding up placards with text on them. He has said that in this work, the eye of the surveillance camera becomes the audience.
Denis Beaubois has also made photographic portrait works using surveillance cameras. In 1996 he made the work ATM Family Portrait, in which members of his family posed in front of an ATM camera, and he later retrieved the still shot. In his work Red Light Camera Portrait, he stood at an intersection posing before a red light camera and asked friends to drive through the red lights, activating the camera. When the fines arrived in the mail, he requested the infringement photographs. In them he can be seen posing on the side of the road.
In his artwork Everybody Happy (2000), a surveillance camera is attached to a small monitor that shows what is being recorded. But both the camera lens and the monitor screen face mirrors – two small dressing mirrors decorated on the back with pictures of birds in trees and the word ‘Happiness’. In a way, Beaubois is again humanising the surveillance mechanism. It is as if the camera and monitor are looking at themselves in the mirrors. But perhaps there is also a more sinister comment here about the perpetual capturing and viewing of footage. Perhaps as well as being watched, we are all also complicit in watching.
Watch Denis Beaubois’ work In the Event of Amnesia the City will Recall 1996-7