The Birds: Public Art and a Narrative of Surveillance
Built on the last area of undeveloped waterfront—once a location of sawmills and shipbuilders—the Olympic Village in Vancouver (2010 winter games) is now residential housing, touted by the city and Millennium Development Group as “one of the greenest communities in the world.” At its centre lies the Olympic Village Square, a public space of steel and glass that seems to conform to Richard Sennett’s reading of the modern city space as “safe because it is empty.” Such precise design of neutral space makes surveillance easy, but one often forgets the web of private and public cameras that capture every movement because “empty” space encourages easeful movement (Sennett). With reference to Sennett, Foucault, and Deleuze, I argue that The Birds compounds the emptiness of city space and its isolation from the natural world, while removing its sense of safety. In The Birds, we see how the out-of-placeness of public art can alert the viewer to the reality of a carefully controlled and monitored city space.
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