To celebrate author George Orwell’s 110th birthday earlier this year, Dutch artists worked together to decorate surveillance cameras with party hats. The famed author’s classic dystopian novel 1984 warned about a future world where the government was obsessed with surveillance of its people.
The Dutch art duo Front 404 – Thomas voor ‘t Hekke and Bas van Oerle – thought that the hats would be a perfect birthday tribute to Orwell.
Surveillance cameras in the center of the city of Utrecht were decorated with colorful party hats and then photographed so the pair could post the pictures to their website and share them with the world. This creative form of activism quickly spread, and soon more party balloons and hats were attached to cameras along sidewalks and on street corners by others.
According to the artists, “By putting these happy party hats on the surveillance cameras we don’t just celebrate Orwell’s birthday. By making these inconspicuous cameras that we ignore in our daily lives catch the eye again we also create awareness of how many cameras really watch us nowadays, and that the surveillance state described by Orwell is getting closer and closer to reality.”
Though this happened on June 25th, so far there have been few repercussions – no sign that the Ministry of Truth has tried to erase their pictures, no visit to Room 101 to re-educate the artists, and no denouncement from Big Brother. Yet.