A Machine for Living

James Coupe 2017

Through a modular network of screens, the watchtower embeds the living rooms, bedrooms and workplaces of hundreds of crowd- workers into its structure. The installation’s surveilling (and surveilled) agents are members of mTurk (or Mechanical Turk). This on-demand scalable workforce, or crowdsourcing Internet ‘marketplace’, enables individuals and businesses to employ workers remotely to do tasks that computers are currently unable to. Coupe has commissioned crowd-workers to complete unusual tasks that require them to reflect, document, dream, plan, and consume all forms of observation – illustrating a very human approach to what we normally consider a machinic, computer-led, process.

Through the crowdsourcing of these tasks to an ‘unseen’ workforce, surveillance today is revealed as something bidirectional and dispersed. By bringing the normally outdoor watchtower structure into a gallery context, the work creates a strange kind of monument to observation and in an act of subversion, grants us a rare opportunity to consider who is watching whom.

Courtesy of the artist. Commissioned by FACT with support from DXARTS (University of Washing ton) and American Hardwood Export Council. This was the premiere of the work.


Mixed media installation. Dimensions variable


The New Observatory
June 2017 – October 2017 at FACT, Liverpool

Data Types

Anonymised, Commercial, Identifiable, Live, Personal, Shared, Streamed, Unknown

About the Artist

In his recent work, British-born, Seattle-based artist James Coupe examines the power and meaning of surveillance in our everyday life by working with advanced surveillance technologies, including high definition video cameras, facial recognition software, and computer…
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