The Invisible Route

A route through the cities of Antwerp and Hasselt, out of sight of surveillance cameras

In June 2017 Maarten Inghels set out to find a route through the city of Antwerp along which one could travel out of sight of any permanently installed surveillance cameras. Starting from the police departments' documentation of camera placements, he mapped potential routes and then spent many days exploring on foot how to evade relevant home security systems, storefront CCTV rigs, or other private cameras. Finally, he was able to document a single path, which he christened the Invisible Route. The work was published in the art magazine Oogst as a printed map containing the route and the locations of all the cameras he encountered.

When Maarten Inghels, a Belgian writer, poet, and visual artist, was appointed to be the city poet of Antwerp from 2016-2018, he reflected upon how his fascination for invisibility and disappearance could be relevant to a wider community and started researching public surveillance. In 2019 he also documented an invisible route through the city of Hasselt.

The artist himself describes the project as a "naive exercise"; a static artifact on paper that described a world that doesn't exist anymore. While the effectiveness of blanket video surveillance as a measure to prevent crime continues to be disputed, comprehensive CCTV camera systems are a reality in most urban contexts. They are employed in combination with powerful image recognition tools that can not only identify individuals or vehicles but are also trained to classify movement patterns to flag "suspicious" behavior. The summer after the route through Antwerp was published, the city announced the placement of new cameras, so the map was out of date almost immediately. As foreseen by Inghels it remains as "an ode, in honor of the art of disappearing".

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