Confront the Witnesses Against You

parallaxBackground

Video installation, custom software

The US Constitution guarantees that during a criminal trial, citizens have the right to “confront the witnesses against them.” In the case of prosecution by algorithm, is this true? We add technology for surveillance all the time, are we allowed to understand and confront it head on? This piece plays with the experience of this contradiction. The layout consists of a room with a projection screen at one end and a camera at the other. Prior to entering the space the viewer can see a CCTV image on a plinth. It is extremely obvious that the space is “under surveillance.”

Entering the space, the viewer sees the projection on one wall and the camera on the other. The image on the screen is blurry – as the viewer approaches the camera, the image becomes sharper. If the visitor looks directly into the camera, the camera runs a facial recognition algorithm and the image is fully sharp. The viewer, of course, cannot see this happening. They are allowed to confront their witness, but not what the witness does with this information.

US Constitution Bill of Rights, Amendment Six:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”