T.S.A. Communication is an interesting counter-surveillance project that Evan Roth, a recent Parsons MFA graduate, is developing. His project questions the widespread use of x-ray scanners to examine the contents of personal bags in airports and other high security locations. Roth’s work reminds me of the Surveillance Camera Players, a group formed in New York City in 1996 to protest the expanding use of surveillance cameras in public spaces. The following information on T.S.A. Communication comes from Rhizome:
T.S.A. Communication is a project that alters the airport security experience and allows the government to learn more about you then just what’s in your backpack. Thin 8.5 x 11 inch laser-cut sheets of stainless steel comfortably fit in your carry on bag, simultaneously obscuring the contents you don’t want the TSA to see while highlighting ideas you do want them to see. Change your role as air traveler from passive to active.
Initial research into airport security X-Ray machines shows that metallic and organic substances are represented as different colors. Further testing is required to determine how the thickness and makeup of various materials alter the resulting visual image from the X-Ray process.
The examples below are only preliminary designs. More time and research will be devoted to creating prototypes optimized for communicating with the T.S.A. work force.
Ideally the backpack inserts would be possible to produce in the home with readily available tools. If this is not possible, however, manufacturers will need to be identified and priced. Initial quotes for laser cutting one sheet of 8.5 x 11 inch steel come in at roughly $300. The majority of the Rhizome grant would be used to manufacture as many different designs as possible.
Documentation is going to be tricky. A system will need to be devised for capturing photos and video from the T.S.A. scanning process. I would like to be able to capture video reactions from the scanning agents, as well as photos of the X-Ray screens.
How To / Workshop:
At the end of the project I will open up the process to anyone interested in communicating with the T.S.A. At a minimum this would take the form of an online tutorial explaining how to create your own back pack inserts. Depending on the method of manufacturing, workshops could be run where participants create their own backpack inserts.