I Thought I Was Seeing Convicts, 2000

Harun Farocki

I Thought I Was Seeing Convicts is a video containing images from a maximum-security prison in Corcoran, California. The surveillance camera shows a yard where the prisoners are allowed to spend half an hour each day. Fights often break out between inmates, guards call out warnings and fire rubber bullets, if the convicts do not stop fighting, the guards will shoot live ammunition. This experimental documentary tackles the brutal realm of prison surveillance through the use of split-screen, voice-over commentary alternating with silence, and explanatory infographics. The video installation presents complex imagery from practices of watching and being watched, control and the gaze throughout private and public spaces.

I Thought I Was Seeing Convicts narrates evidence of surveillance and prison abuse. The use of found footage and archival images manifests the evidence through a video documentary. The work’s filmic language explores the nature of infrastructural and technical devices that produce intensive surveillance and social control, while the narration illustrates the significance of the images by commenting on the video sequences in the work.

Read I Thought I Was Seeing… by Jaroslav Andel.

Digital video projection, one channel, 23 min., Analog BetaSp.
Courtesy of Harun Farocki GbR.