I did my final project on surveillance, specifically thinking about young women. From CCTV surveillance to strange stares from passers-by, it’s hard not to feel like I’m being watched and from interviews, I know many other women can relate. The thought of someone creating a narrative about us from the way we appear can feel burdensome, alongside others telling us to beware strangers. I hoped to create a garment to alleviate this stress in some way. My project began with Zoom Pavilion by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Krzysztof Wodiczko and in my initial research, I looked at CCTV, old-world vultures, gargoyles & grotesques, safety in masculine clothing and walking home at night. I also looked into street photography and the male gaze.
I found that some CCTV systems are able to pick up on “red flags” and alert of specific behaviours such as “standing in one position too long”, “moving too fast”, “looking over your shoulder”, “large groups”, “leaving things behind”. I thought it interesting that some of these suspicious behaviours are also things we do to feel safe – especially “standing in one position too long”(waiting for a friend), “moving too fast” (running away) and “looking over your shoulder” (checking to see no one is there). I chose to focus my work on looking over your shoulder and wanted to make a garment that concealed this behaviour, possibly by making it appear as though you are constantly in that uncomfortable twist hence it not being obvious when you really are. This could make you undetectable by CCTV as well as not let someone behind you know you’re feeling uneasy. Through drawing twisted garment ideas, and lots of draping and testing, I ended with a result I have was happy with. I used and distorted masculine clothing by putting collars, pockets and buttons in unexpected places as well as a false sleeve to further give clues to “looking over your shoulder” behaviour and created a garment that looked different from various angles.
From CCTV surveillance to strange stares from passers-by, it’s hard not to feel like we are being watched. Looking over your shoulder can make you feel safe but is a behaviour CCTV flags as suspicious which is what I focused on.