Algorithm, Analog Computing, Art, Automata, Bacteria, Biological Computation, Biology, Cybernetics, Deep Learning

Beyond design: cybernetics, biological computers and hylozoism (Pickering 2008)

community video, video

Community Video : Community Action


1974 also saw portable video technology used twice to dramatic effect in the service of the same squatting community. Ben’s Arrest lasts only two minutes; the video comprises a single take, which follows the forceful eviction and arrest of an Afro-Caribbean teenager from a squat in Kentish Town, North London, by bailiffs and police. It was the first time video material was used as evidence in a court of law in the UK and aided the arrested youth’s acquittal28. In the words of Hopkins it ‘showed in grim close-up the arrest of a black guy who just happened to be picked on by the police as we were on the street with a camera.’29 Sue Hall, was organising the painting of houses on Prince of Wales Crescent on the day the video was shot. She later recalled arriving on the corner of the street and seeing a police van parked outside the row of squatted houses; ‘I went home to get the Portapak, thread the tape and put the battery in… I went back as fast as possible just in time to see the police coming out with what they claimed were stolen goods and violently arresting a young black man before apparently beating him up in the back of the Transit van whilst I was still shooting video.’30

An article published in The Guardian in 1974 covered the outcome of the making of the second video:

Film Tape Allowed in Court: A Video Tape recording of squatters being evicted from a London home will be admissible as defense evidence in a case of alleged assault – provided that Scotland Yard forensic scientists are satisfied that the tape is authentic… Mr Peter Darcy and Dr John Pollard, who are accused of assaulting a police constable during their eviction from a house in Prince of Wales Crescent, Chalk Farm, North London, by bailiffs and police earlier this year, believe the film is crucial defense evidence… the application has been adjourned while Scotland Yard makes a duplicate and tests it thoroughly for defects and tampering… Birnberg [the counsel for the defense] argued that there was no difference in principle between the recording of a human voice and a video tape. 31

The language used in this article points to video’s relationship to liveness and authenticity, whilst the police still viewed the new medium with trepidation. The defence was successful as Hopkins later recounts in an interview:

All the people who had been arrested or charged were able to brief themselves from the videotape, which was played again and again and again until everyone knew exactly what happened in what order. And when the police came to give their evidence it was so transparently, obviously faked, that everybody got off. So as a piece of social action, getting 15 or 20 people off of police charges…was a beneficial act, which couldnt have been done without video.32