Constantina Antoniadou

"99 square miles the long empirical mile of surveillance"

Section MS4, Mirna Pedalo

Keywords: borders, photography

Not far from the bullet-riddled hard borders operating on the island of Cyprus lie a set of different kinds of borders which are silent by design: the British Sovereign Bases. Held as a trade-off agreement to colonial emancipation from British rule in 1960, these bases have allowed the British to keep their strategic privileges on the island under the pretence of sovereignty. Using a discourse of development, progress, and security and avoiding stark imperialistic demarcations of their presence, 99 square miles of the island are formally considered British territory and are being used as military and surveillance sites for the British Royal Forces and British intelligence agencies.

Avoiding any formal delineation markers such as checkpoints or borders and instead operating on a fully traversable landscape, any antagonism between locals and British agents is diffused and secret operations can be carried out in an undisturbed and overlooked manner. These infrastructures of control which are hidden in plain sight - their only ‘totems’ in the form of satellites, employ crucial surveillance tactics used by the British to gather intelligence on individuals and governments in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. My project aims to subvert this mystified information exchange and expose it as a tangible reality through the medium of photography.

By researching the methodologies, frequencies and media types used to transfer information by surveillance agencies, the intangible data structures which traverse physical borders is uncovered. Inspired by the work of Trevor Paglen on military surveillance, these unseen substructures will be transformed into visible delineations, exposing both this modern-day colonialism and its regime of surveillance and control.

The response to borders is twofold: firstly, by examining information exchange as something which traverses borders and secondly as a critique of the border- albeit atypical and non-threatening - such as the ones in the British bases in Cyprus. By researching the various main forms of surveillance through system interchange and its media, depicting the multiple pathways this data takes to be converted and further translating and simulating iterations of their physical manifestations as a series of photographs, the overarching theme of multiples, repetition and seriality is addressed.

Three devices were created out of reflective surfaces and mirrors, simulating the three surveillance types found in the British bases: the torus antenna – a rare parabolic antenna only found in three facilities in the world which can receive signals from up to 35 communications satellites at the same time, the conical satellite dish and underwater fibre optic cables. By shining light rays on these reflective surfaces, the electromagnetic wave pathways are replicated and the invisible is made visible. The final photographs are stand-alone subversions of the electromagnetic waves of control happening in these 99 square miles. The photograph is shot from the angle of the data receiver, making the audience of these photographs both a recipient and a target of these surveillance tactics.