Installation detail from Surveillance, 1981
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Charlesworth's first installation SURVEILLANCE was a fabricated environment representing the front room of a lakeside cabin. Its exaggerated scale and simplified content helps viewers zero in on the essential elements of the work's narrative. Much of that narrative is supplied by a continuous video take of two men watching someone through binoculars. In addition to the TV on a table, the other features of the space include a large green chalkboard, a window and a doorway that opens onto a porch. Beyond the porch, lights twinkle across an undulating lake. Crickets can be heard.
As the men on the video talk to each other, they describe what they are watching. They see someone in another house who is alternately staring at a television and looking out through a front screen door. Since most viewers are likely to be doing just that in the installation, they are therefore given a role in a scenario. This was the first instance in Charlesworth's work of identifying the audience by way of their actions in a space. This was an aspect of other installations that followed, most notably the interactive Love Disorder (2008). Behaviors of an audience in reaction to artwork became an abiding interest for the artist.
"Even though the look of Surveillance was very stylized, some people behaved as if they were in their own homes by trying to break open the locked door or changing channels on the TV. Starting with the next installation, Lost Dance Steps, I designed housings for my video monitors so that no one could play with the controls. At the same time, I've always liked the fact that people try things and engage with the work, even if it results in damage."
Surveillance is the first of four installations created between 1981 and 1984 that included versions of videos that, under the same titles, have had lives as separate works.
See the related video work