Monday, May 11, 2009

"Target is on the move", or Adventures of an Espionagey Nature

You know that feeling you sometimes get, where you sense that you're being watched? And then you realise that you actually are being watched?

There we were at the Art Gallery of NSW, having paid our family entry fee for the Archibald exhibition. My daughter April had her camera around her neck, but had noticed that no one else seemed to have cameras out, so we assumed that we must have missed a sign somewhere near the entrance that stipulated no cameras. Therefore she made a decision that she wouldn't take any photos.

Then my wife saw a female security guard who seemed very familiar. Why so familiar? Because she looked exactly like the female security guard in the previous room. And the one before that. And the one before that. At risk of sounding paranoid, it seemed we were being followed. And watched. In a crush of people, we, the Roy family, were being tailed.

Or were we? We decided to conduct an experiment, and vary our journey through the exhibition. Take a slightly unexpected direction. And there she was again, watching us. Actually watching us. I'd look at her, and she'd look away, then glance back. Then follow us into the next room. God knows how many Archibald portraits were being touched by inquisitive fingers while we held the attention of the security guard.

We tried something different - we doubled back to one of the earlier rooms. She came with us.

Then we entered the turf of another security guard, and we saw them have a brief conference, in which we were pointed at. Actually pointed at, as in, "Watch them, they're trouble." Then this new guard followed us for the next twenty minutes. At one stage I pointed at a sculpture, with my finger a full thirty centimetres from the piece, and he craned his neck to make sure I wasn't defacing the priceless relic.*

So, my question is this: if you are a gallery security guard and you see someone with a camera around their neck, and there are signs saying that patrons shouldn't have cameras (signs which we didn't in fact see) why wouldn't you go up to that patron and simply say, "I'm just letting you know that you can't take photos of the exhibition." In which case we'd have said, "Oh, we're sorry. Thanks for letting us know." We might have even said, "One of us will take the camera out to the baggage check desk and come back in." Either of those options would have been preferable to putting two security guards on spy detail, tracking the shifty movements of a family of four having a nice Mothers' Day outing in the city.

Just saying.

(* An abstract thingamy made of pencils glued together with Araldite.)


shannonr said...

But if any of your "preferred" scenarios were followed, then there would be no opportunity for a nice juicy confrontation when you _did_ take the camera out.

It's like the man says when the shrink tells him that her patients cry "if they've had to use their weapons": "They signed up to use their weapons!"

Security guards signed up so they could follow people around menacingly and then pounce on them for infractions they could easily have prevented by warning in a friendly and helpful fashion.

Your entire anecdote is not a mistake or aberration, but in fact exactly what the system is designed to deliver.

Have a nice day, folks!

james roy said...

"Your entire anecdote is not a mistake or aberration, but in fact exactly what the system is designed to deliver."

By which I'm assuming you mean the system is designed to deliver a nice, relaxing day of art and culture somewhat besmirched by tiny-minded people with delusions of power?

SugarPuff said...

I like to think that the conversation between the two security guards went more like this: "see that family over there. I think they are planning something. They keep LOOKING at me!"

james roy said...

Yes, SugarPuff, that thought did cross my mind.

james roy said...
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