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Security Cameras ‘Sing’ as Artist Turns Video Feeds into Text


  • Doug Ramsey

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  • Doug Ramsey

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Song Cycle for Security Camera

The final performance of the 2016-2017 IDEAS season is May 25 with the premiere of “Song Cycle for Security Camera.”

On May 25, the Qualcomm Institute will stage a new work, Song Cycle for Security Camera, by sound artist and Ph.D. candidate Joe Cantrell. The piece will transform live feeds from unsecured cameras into moving blocks of text displayed on the high-resolution Vroom video wall in the Calit2 Theater on the first floor of UC San Diego’s Atkinson Hall. The stream of characters will be mined for words that form the lyrics to several ‘songs’ to be performed by the system that reflect issues surrounding technological optimism, obsolescence and privacy.

In addition to the immersive text, the ‘songs’ will receive accompaniment from samples of sounds generated by the Vroom system’s operation. The sounds will be layered and controlled by variations of the live video feed. The song lyrics will be ‘sung’ by a computer-generated voice intended to create the impression of being serenaded by the technological system itself.

Song Cycle for Security Camera is presented by the artist as a meditation on what is gained and lost as technological changes affect a highly connected society. “Wireless communication and the emerging Internet of Things have the potential to be convenient and useful,” said artist Cantrell. “However, they come at the price of increased waste produced by obsolescence as well as decreased privacy as more aspects of our lives become grist for the mill of big data.”

Cantrell is one of the artists selected following an open call and peer-review competition to win Qualcomm Institute support. That support takes the form of a residency to develop and rehearse a performative work, and to stage a final performance in one of the institute’s performance spaces in Atkinson Hall. Cantrell’s Song Cycle for Security Camera is the last of six works selected for the current season.

Date: Thursday, May 25, 2017
Time: 5:00pm-7:00pm
Location: Calit2 Theater, Atkinson Hall
RSVP: Johnny Nguyen,

Joe Cantrell is an artist specializing in sound art, installations and performances that reflect the incessant acceleration of technological production, its ownership, and the waste it produces.

Now ending its fourth year, the Initiative for Digital Exploration of Arts and Sciences (IDEAS) program is organized by the technology-driven Qualcomm Institute to stage performances that push the envelope of advanced technologies in music, theater, dance, visual arts, and multimedia. Artists are encouraged to collaborate with engineering and science faculty.

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