Urban Generation; trying to imagine the world from everyone else's perspective, all at once (2003)

Artwork about surveillance space. Multiple cameras accessed randomly in real time to make an urban tapestry. An evolving, generative artwork. These images are from taken London, and they happen as you see them, in real time.

Full Description

Urban Generation explores the emotional state of the metropolis and considers a world of universal surveillance. The artwork collects live CCTV feeds from cities around the world in real-time and reworks these video streams into multi-layered visual structures. The channels are always on, and therefore, the work is always changing - it depicts a constant and evolving view of the urban landscape and its inhabitants.

The text below was commissioned for the Net Reality show and is written by Jo-Anne Green from Turbulence.org

Net:Reality: http://www.net-reality.org/ Urban Generation by Stanza: http://www.net-reality.org/a_stanza.htm

The “net” version of Stanza’s Urban Generation is visually rich and noticeably silent. As twelve live data streams alternately stutter in and out of existence and flow into abstract patterns and textures, the “live” scenes captured in real-time on CCTVs scattered throughout London quickly morph into kaleidoscopic Rorschachs that alter our initial perceptions and demand analysis. A generative work, it calls into question the “urban generation,” a period during which the threat of terrorism has made our environment ripe for surveillance and privacy abuse. Private space has become public space, public space has evolved into covertly “governed” or overtly corporate space.

While Stanza is well known for his interactive/participatory art, the “viewer” is forced to passively observe this piece, which simultaneously serves as a call to action.

According to the Associated Press [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8501576/; July 7, 2005] “[a]n estimated 4.2 million cameras — largely concentrated in London and other major cities —observe Britons as they go about their daily business, [and] it is widely estimated that the average Briton is caught on various cameras up to 300 times on a normal day.”

In the “reality” version of Urban Generation, the innards of a Dell computer, including an inoperable mouse and keyboard (rendering us powerless), are scattered across the surface of a large pedestal above which the gallery visitor must peer down, equating the “seer” with the elevated location of the majority of CCTV cameras. There are eight 15” LCDs, all of which display the “net” section of Urban Generation. Real and virtual, tangible and immaterial, fixed and constantly changing, the mass of wires, switches, circuit boards and LCD screens invokes the notion of the network exposed, turned inside out, laid bare for all to examine.

Urban Generation combines interior and exterior, and makes visible that which invisibly and silently tracks our movements, habits, and preferences. It forces us to ask ourselves whether pervasive surveillance is inevitable, and whether it is sufficient to allow these billions of hours of stored data to serve as evidence after the fact rather than prevention.


Complete list of venues where Urban Generation has been exhibited as an installation.

Netherlands Media Art Institute - Montevideo/Time Based Arts Keizersgracht 264 1016 EV Amsterdam. Curated by Susanne Jaschko 2009

Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova Itäinen Rantakatu 4-6 20700, Curated by Andy Best.Turku Finland April 2007

Space 4, Peterborough. 19 th Jan - 3rd. March 2006.

The Brindley Arts Centre, Runcorn. 15th April - 13th May 2006.

Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery . 9Th June - 9th July 2006.

Q Arts, Derby. 12th Nov - 18 Dec 2005.

20-21 Visual Arts Centre, Scunthorpe 2005.

Also shown in numerous venues worldwide as a projection installation including. SXSW Austin Texas 2009.

Work metadata

Want to see more?
Take full advantage of the ArtBase by Becoming a Member
Artist Statement

Multiple CCTV cameras are accessed randomly in real time to make this urban tapestry. What you see is an evolving, generative artwork. These images are from taken London, and they happen as you see them, in real time. The installation versions of this work can be presented in art galleries using projectors or plasma displays. This online artwork represents many realities that exist in city space. The observed real time surveillance society is re worked into a series of grids. This presents London to a global online audience. The data that you see is protected by the data protection act. Here it is re mixed into what you see, which is this online artwork that look like a filmic experience, but sits not a film. Its a real time experience of the city from multiple perspectives. First made in 2002 some additions for 2005.

The online version now runs as a series of twelve real time perspectives of the emergent city experience . This 'film' is constantly evolving and will never be the same again, the images are not recorded. Each screen is a live real time image from a camera in the city of London. The artwork seeks to explores the rhizomatic multi nodal networked experience. Urban Generation draws on images across the networked city, the artwork creates a unique interpretation of a multi point perspective that exists in time always in the present.

A special installation version was made for the Net Reality touring show. This gallery artwork used eight monitors (see images below). The work toured various UK galleries.


The city also has millions of CCTV. In essence the city is the biggest TV station in existence. Millions of hours worth of data are recorded every day by these cameras on city TV. One can take the sounds and images off live web streams and re-represent them thus creating new interpretations of the city in the process.

The city already has a recorded source of data, cctv is everywhere. Using data from cctv, you can bring the outside inside. Selected feeds are collected from around the world in real time. These real time images are fed into a software system where a series of specialised channels rework these images. The channels are always on, and always changing, a constant view of the world changing and evolving around the clock. This uses specially created software and technology to randomly find images in real time from anywhere in the network, in this case anywhere in the world.

The increase of technology infrastructure in the daily existence of a city means that technology will, more than ever be everywhere in our environment. Mobile data mining will be part of the fabric of the landscape. We will be carrying this data in pods, phones and IDS cards. Everything is or will be tracked. CCTV, car sensors, tracking inside our phones and id card movement tracking in the guise of anti- terror activity.

The patterns we make, the forces we weave, are all being networked into retrievable data structures that can be re-imagined and sourced for information. These patterns all disclose new ways of seeing the world. The value of information will be a new currency as power change. The central issue that will develop will be the privilege and access to these data sources.

Uses of this information and data should allow rich new interpretations on the way our world is built, used, and designed.

So we need to imagine the city at a different scale. The possibility is to extend our imagination and enable that perception of the city as a dynamic network. We can now put systems in place that can re–employ our perception and thus create new understanding of how this behaviour unfolds. There are patterns, they are connected and the systems that evolve, can be simulated and acted upon.

We can influence the process and the system and we can also create variables into this system that allows understanding of the bi-products of the system, the data and the resulting information....

Stanza. 2003.

Related works

Featured in 2 Exhibitions


This artwork has no comments. You should add one!
Leave a Comment