Crankshafted project logo

by Carson Reynolds, Alvaro Cassinelli, & Masatoshi Ishikawa

Ishikawa Komuro Laboratory
Meta Perception Group
University of Tokyo

Summary Statement:

Crankshafted forces reconsideration of the mythical initial bargaining position by allowing you to make a trade off between privacy and participation; with each turn of the crank, copyrighted still frames are progressively shown more clearly but (in exchange) your portrait is taken and ruthlessly exploited.


shaft installation pixelated title progressively rendered still security camera and light


Crankshafted asks viewers to commodify and exchange their identity for gradually improving glimpses of copyrighted imagery. Digital rights are managed by taking portraits of those turning a crank for ruthless commercial and/or aesthetic exploitation. Viewers are forced into an initial bargaining position with a machine which embeds lopsided values. Those who seek to contract themselves by cranking the machine will immediately gratify their curiosity by clarifying progressively-rendered still frames. However, as the frames improve, viewers may be surprised to find themselves jarringly photographed in mugshot fashion. Their image will be inserted into the Crankshafted system as part of a new movie which will be marketed, auctioned, and pirated. From the local reference (of a single viewer) a confusing image is rendered whole. From the global reference (of a stream of viewers) in synchrony with the shaft a new film is produced from stills of stunned consumers.


Walking up to a screen showing a blurry image with a prominent crank, the viewer is both smug and slightly puzzled. The viewer hesitates for a moment before placing a hand on the crank. The turn is pleasing to the touch allowing the viewer to feel the workings of a substantial machine. As the viewer cranks a screen begins to unblur and edge toward discernible forms. The curious viewer cranks more if only for the satisfaction of apprehending what the image is depicting without distortion. The very moment that the image resolves, viewers are startled by bright blinking lights which draw their attention to a security camera which photographs their faces. A statement accompanying the installation inform them that the viewers have exchanged their photographic identity which will be ruthlessly exploited. A web address on the statement points them to a website where viewers will be able to see a movie composed of startled faces for sale. Feeling a bit cheated, the viewers contemplate for a moment how many turns it would take for the movie to be shown in its entirety.

Above are images showing a prototype physical installation and progressively rendered frames. The gradual revelation of movie frames is designed to be reminiscent of image rendering of HTML browsers such as NCSA Mosaic and early revisions of Netscape Navigator.

Crankshafted is closely related to other performance work that satirizes the surveillance society. In particular, the Surveillance Camera Players performance of Beckett's Waiting for Godot and Orwell's 1984 in subway stations provided us inspiration for how surveillance can be made an element of art work. We are similarly inspired by anti-surveillance devices such as I-R.A.S.C. which blinds security cameras with infra-red light.


This work is a parody of the cultures of piracy and digital rights management. The copyrighted materials will be presented in a manner in conformance with fair use. The amount of the copyrighted work accessible to the individual viewer will be insignificant in relation to the whole work. Viewers who do not want their imagery to be used in the movie produced by the installation will be able to opt-out.

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