Honeytrap
26 July 2010

(2010, Residency project)

Myself and Steven Ounanian were offered one of the 7 week-long residencies at the Stanley Picker Gallery, as part of the Louder than Bombs programme.  Over the course of the week we tried to get a bicycle stolen that we’d bought especially for this purpose.  We equipped the bicycle with a hacked mobile phone, hidden in the saddle, which would take pictures and send us its GPS coordinates when  it was moved.  Our aim was to use this slightly uncomfortable situation as a way to interrogate the complexities of theft, and to hint at a future where tracking technologies have become ubiquitous.

We turned the gallery into an office, complete with photocopier and coffee machine, where we monitored the situation, and held some talks where we presented our findings. Participating audiences viewed surveillance footage and photographs taken from the bicycle’s on-board camera, video of interviews we conducted with economists, priests and security guards, and debated issues of theft, art and social ethics raised by the planting of our Honeytrap.

The bicycle, purchased from the Liverpool St branch of Evans cycles.  The shop assistant Ahmed who said he used to hang out with some bicycle thieves, insisted that this bike was the one to go for as it was a TREK, and had suspension.  Bicycle thieves also like disc brakes apparently, but our budget wouldn’t stretch that far.

I wrote an App for the G1 Android phone which caused it to take photos and text us its coordinates when it was moved.  Steven added extra batteries which would keep it running for about three weeks we think, and hid the assembly in the saddle. Java code for the App here.

The (quite subtle) hole drilled in the saddle for the camera lens.

During our residency, a girls’ rather fashionable Dutch-style bike was stolen from outside the gallery. It was locked just next to our honeytrap. This suggests either we got the thieves taste in bikes drastically wrong, or they had read about our project on the gallery poster

Some photos from the bicycle camera, with their GPS coordinates. We moved the bicycle to the ‘notorious’ estate in Kingston. It wasn’t stolen there either.

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