System Azure | Rhinestoning Headquarters

Rhinestone encrusted surveillance cameras, posters, public and gallery installations, 2003-ongoing

After inventing her company System Azure Security Ornamentation, Jill Magid hand-glued rhinestones to security cameras at the Amsterdam Headquarters of Police using permanent adhesive. Although the ornamenting policy was reversed, the cameras remain in place.
This page is documentation. Link to System Azure Website for full project.

While an old Chinese saying claims "When the wise man points to the moon the idiot looks at
the finger", System Azure upholds the reverse: The wise consider the finger.
Why? Looking at the finger is more interesting. The finger is reality. In considering the finger
you consider how moon is being represented. Who is pointing this finger? Toward what is my attention being directed and why should I look there? What does this finger want me to see?
With these questions in mind one can choose to see as the finger sees, to look at the moon
in another way, or to look at something else entirely.
While your security system is your eye from the inside, it is you finger from the outside. What ring are you wearing?
System Azure Manifesto

Glam Cams | Bring Back the Glam, Silkscreen, installed around Amsterdam when police stop the project.
System Azure posters

Article printed in Metropolis, October Issue 2003. Text by Stephen Zacks.
The Glam Cam | Rhinestone-encrusted cameras hit Amsterdam.

Jill Magid hand-glued rhinestones to security cameras at the Amsterdam Headquarters of Police using permanent adhesive. Although the ornamenting policy was reversed, the cameras remain in place.

Ever since George Orwell's 1984 made 'Big Brother' and 'thought police' shorthand for the totalitarian threat to liberal society, surveillance cameras have been regarded as precursors to an emerging dystopia. But when Jill Magid convinced officials at the Amsterdam police headquarters to pay her to decorate their surveillance cameras with rhinestones-parodying them as cheap, showy emblems of power- she realized the extent to which they were more props in the theater of public space.

Last year Magid- an American artist based in Amsterdam- approached the police with her proposal, which was part of an ongoing exploration of intimacy and surveillance. 'When I presented myself as an artist, no one would speak to me,' she says. 'So I invented a company, System Azure Security Ornamentation. I called them up and said, 'I'm a security ornamentation professional.' The title made all the difference, and soon she was meeting with police administrators to discuss the public's relationship with surveillance.
'The negotiations were really interesting,' Magid says. 'When I first met with them, they were questioning whether they wanted surveillance to be visible at all'. She pointed out that if the cameras were intended to serve as a deterrent, it would make sense to emphasize their presence. 'After a few meetings-when they decided that they did want the cameras to be seen- we got into aesthetics, and they forgot all about surveillance and security,' she says. Magid presented them with the Police Signature Series, a striped scheme that dressed the cameras in the tribal colors of the department- green for 'justice', red for 'full of love', blue for 'strictness', and white for 'integrity'.

Last summer, after six months of negotiations, Magid climbed the ladder to hand decorate the headquarter's cameras, and administrators began floating the idea of rolling out the ornamentation citywide. But earlier this year the police board had a change of heart and brought the rhinestoning to an end, saying that they wanted to keep a low profile on the cameras. Magid planned to respond with a Bring Back the Glam campaign- featuring rhinestone covered placards-when she was tipped off that Amsterdam's red light district would be installing 26 new cameras. The local Beursstraat police station- which has its own policies separate from headquarters'- immediately bought her pitch that covering the cameras with red rhinestones would transform the meaning of red in red light from prostitution to 'full of love'. The new bejeweling is set to begin this fall, pending approval from the city. Through her role as Head Security Ornamentation Professional for System Azure, Magid found that - in contrast to traditional liberal views- the current reality of surveillance is more farce than science fiction. The rationale for installing the cameras is filled with contradictions, and often no one actually watches the monitors after the cameras are put up. 'I like to compare them to gargoyles,' Magid says. 'They are visual Band-Aids that emptily represent safety.'