Close Watch (2022) is a multi-channel video installation by artist Pilvi Takala that questions the operative functions of the private security industry and its systems of control. It is accompanied by a book and this website. In preparation for the work, Takala trained as a security guard with the company Securitas and then went on to work for them for six months as an employee in one of Finland’s largest shopping malls.
Security as a concept and industry defines much of our public space, with tasks in law enforcement increasingly outsourced to a global private security industry. Close Watch extends from Takala’s consistent interrogation of social structures. In this work, the artist sheds light on an underpaid, undervalued and underregulated workforce who must face ethical dilemmas to work responsibly in roles learned almost entirely on the job and passed down from senior colleagues.
Workplace culture prescribes the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. While collegial support is imperative, what if your colleague is the aggressor? When must you break ranks, and how? Close Watch looks at the way in which these quandaries play out and how what is tolerated is negotiated as the guards navigate their impact on society.
In the filmed workshops developed with and facilitated by a theatre pedagogue, Takala and five of her former colleagues, as well as three actors, re-enact scenes from their workplace. Using the participatory technique of Forum Theatre devised by Brazilian playwright Augusto Boal, which focuses on power dynamics and social injustice, participants test out alternative strategies to intervene in situations that involved excessive use of force, racist language or toxic behaviour. In this performative process, the guards reflect on their role and responsibility as security personnel who exercise power to maintain order. Revealing the internal mechanisms of the security industry to a wider public, Close Watch raises the question of how we wish to be monitored in the future.