The security camera commands an aerial view of the long alley. It must be positioned quite high up on the corner of a building, but not so high as to render indistinct the area it is aimed at. The area it is aimed at is an indistinct section of narrow alleyway—it is difficult to tell from the footage alone if the camera is aimed toward the beginning, end, or some intermediate part of this incapacious urban corridor. The camera is not facing straight down the line of the alley; it is positioned obliquely, slanted such that on the monitor screen a large portion is taken up by the unchanging brickwork of the high wall that seems to run the length of the entire alleyway. The brickwork is almost mirrored by the flagstones of the pavement; it looks as though they segue neatly into one another, wall becoming pavement, pavement becoming wall—except it can be seen, upon closer inspection, that the flagstones are far less even, far less smooth, far less regular than the brickwork. The alley's end or beginning is a very distant shadowy opening located at the top-right-hand corner of the screen. In recording the scene—in which things appear paused, nothing occurring for hours—the camera converts the low light-levels, the darkness, the artificial glow of a single far-off streetlamp, into grainy footage that is faintly tinged with blueish lilac static. Where the light is brightest—a solitary dot in the distance—it has the spectral luminescence of a glow-in-the-dark children's toy. But where the night is darkest, the furthest-reaches of the alley for instance, where the camera is unable to penetrate, the screen is as black as the glass of a switched-off television. It is thus as if small sections of the screen are faulty, as if puzzle-pieces have been removed from the image, introducing blank intervals and gaps. In the bottom-left corner of the screen, the numbers representing hours, minutes and seconds constantly change, at differing speeds. It is 03hrs: 26mins: 31secs when the man first appears on the screen emerging from the top-righthand corner where the image is darkest. He appears to be in a rush, approaching the vicinity of the camera at a quick pace, eyes and head lowered. Dressed in a body-length trench-coat of black material, a suitcase fixed to his side by rigid arms, he has the bodily dimensions of a column. The unevenness of the flagstones, their crooked protrusions and cavities, seem to pose no obstruction to his consistently quick manner of walking. With each step he takes toward the security camera his appearance increases in detail. His face is unremarkable, anonymous, plain, but his coat is notable for the number of buttons it has going down the middle—more buttons than is either practical or fashionable. This man passes beneath the camera, going beyond the fixed area of its purview. It is 03hrs: 28 mins: 55secs when he disappears off-screen. Once again, the alley appears frozen, paused, until an hour passes, when at 04hrs: 20mins: 13secs a fox enters the frame of the security camera; briskly it moves in the opposite direction to the man in the trench-coat, going toward where he came from. The fox, watched from behind, becomes smaller and smaller the further away it gets from the camera-lens; it is drawn to the furthest end of the alley, toward the area of blackness located at the top-right corner of the screen, into which, once reached, it disappears.
The security camera presides over a car park empty but for a single vehicle. Whether this vehicle is in use, abandoned or clamped is not readily apparent. But a disordered proliferation of litter calls into question whether this is a functioning car park. Here and there upturned shopping trolleys obstruct the parking bays, but the majority of the litter seems to be discarded electronics: old boxy computer monitors, obsolete walkmans and portable CD players, tangled miscellaneous multi-coloured wires and VCRs in various states of disrepair. The dilapidation of these broken objects is only accentuated by the efficient rigour of the slightly faded road markings: the orderly sequences of straight white lines that delineate the bays, the pictogram of a stick figure sat on a wheel-chair in profile, the diamond patterns of criss-crossing yellow lines, the yellow letters: keep clear. The car park is attached to an unidentifiable commercial building, only the door of which is in shot, alongside a wide window or loading dock that is covered up by metal shutters. A small boy in sportswear is stood with his back to the security camera, kicking a ball against these metal shutters repeatedly. But on the silent screen the clattering sound this must make doesn't register. In the bottom-left corner the time reads 04hrs: 02mins: 33secs. The rigid man in the many-buttoned trench-coat appears on-screen, seen from behind by the camera. His quick stride comes to an abrupt stop around the middle of the car park, where he comes to a halt and begins to look around, rotating very slowly on the spot. There is nothing nearby to account for this puzzling occurrence, neither the reason for his stopping so suddenly, given the hurried pace and determination of his progression, nor the even more peculiar fact of his rotating, as if to get a three hundred and sixty degree perspective of the surroundings. There is something in the action that is perfunctory, routine, mechanical and yet, at the same time, ritualistic in its solemn gravity, its rehearsed character, its apparent necessity, and the fact it results in nothing evident despite the practice of its observance. The boy kicking the football has taken no notice of the man in the dark trench-coat at the centre of the car-park or scrap-yard. After completing a few rotations, the man heads off again at the same fast pace toward the door of the commercial building. As soon as he begins to walk, the door of the sole vehicle in the carpark opens up and out steps a seemingly identical man in a many-buttoned trench-coat of black material. This man, however, does not carry a suitcase. He quickly moves across the car park, closing down the distance between him and the other man, who is now stood at the door of the commercial building. But just before he is able to open the door—on the screen he can be seen to have his spare-hand around the door-handle—a ball rolls toward his feet. The small boy in sportwear is now facing the man with the suitcase, as the one without gains ground, getting closer and closer to them both. A gust of interruptive static briefly cuts out the entire image. When it returns, the boy is once again kicking the ball against the shutters, but there are no trench-coated men onscreen and the parked car is gone.
The security camera, from a corner of the ceiling, records the motionless interior of a small office. The tiled floor is bright and reflective; it is a grid of large squares that, on-screen, look more like diamond-shapes given the angle of the camera. A large desk—of a curved, crescent moon-shape—faces away from the lens. There are two wingback armchairs facing the desk. Between them is a small stand on which sits a little pile of magazines. On one side of this arrangement, in a corner, is a water-cooler. On the other side, a glass-panelled door that permits admission to the office. What can be seen of the hallway through this glass is indistinct, uncaptured by the camera. At 04hrs: 10mins: 59 secs a dark shape clouds the glass. The door handle appears to turn several times without opening. Some minutes pass. At 04hrs: 13mins: 02secs the door opens into the office and there appears a man in a black ankle-length trench-coat that is buttoned up to the neck. He is empty-handed. Amidst the greenish white hues of the footage he is a dark presence on the monitor; the angle of the camera, the small size of the office, or his height, if not all three, make him appear over-sized, cramped and confined within the room. While his face is unremarkable, anonymous, plain, it shows signs of weariness and fatigue. Looking about rapidly, he positions himself somewhere close to the centre of the office and begins to rotate round and around very slowly. When he moves, it is with clear strain, as if he is injured or pained. He walks over to the water-cooler, dispensing the liquid into a small plastic cup that can be seen in his hand when he turns back around. But rather than drinking from it, he stands still. Then he turns around, sits in the armchair that is nearest the door and drinks. Wavering lines of static pass down the screen and obscure the footage. Two men in trench-coats are sat in the two armchairs when the image returns. The one nearest the door has on his lap an unopened suitcase. The one nearest the water-cooler has in his hand a little plastic cup. Both are staring straight ahead at the curved crescent-shaped desk. Their mouths never move. But when the time in the bottom-left-hand corner of the screen reads 04hrs: 18mins: 45secs, something without definite shape begins to stir underneath the desk. This would be unseen by the two men, but the camera records it from behind. Very quickly an animal—what looks like a fox—scurries out from the under the desk, across the tiled floor, past the legs of the seated men, it leaves the office through the open glass-panelled door, disappearing into the blackness of the hallway that is beyond the reach of the security camera. One of the men stands up, he places the suitcase on the desk. The other stands up empty-handed. Leaving the office, one follows the other, either visibly fatigued, or pained. Once in the darkness of the hallway, the glass-panelled door to the office closes shut. What can be seen of the hallway through this glass is indistinct, uncaptured by the camera.
by Austin Veldman
... Speak soil, / tell us what the blood of man tastes like ...
by Dana Guth
... There is a peepshow / at the center / of every grapefruit ...