Red-Light Cameras and Public Art

May 24, 2008 at 2:02 pm

A small group of St. Louis artists gathered at the intersection of Skiner and Clayton at dusk Friday night to get their work seen by the unblinking eyes of St. Louis' controversial traffic light cameras.

The group of about eight people would stand on two of the intersection's corners and, as a car zipped through a red light – which happens quite a bit at that intersection – the artists would try to get seen by the camera. It sounds dangerous, what with costumed people out in the street during the later part of rush hour, but worth the risk.

''It's art to, you know, to take advantage of the surveillance cameras and to get our art in the permanent collection of the city's municipal archives,'' said artist Cindy, who first gave her last name but later changed her mind.

Cindy, in explaining why she was holding blue balloons in front of the red light cameras, said it was to honor the traditional blues worn by officers of the law. She also attached Krispy Kreme donuts to the balloons. During our interview she held two sticky looking donuts in her hand, proudly showing off her art.

''I was trying to get a close-up pictures of the Krispy Kreme donuts with the royal blue ballons, which is in keeping with the police department's décor.''

Though whether or not the red light cameras (motion activated to catch red-light-runners in the act) are intended to make streets safer or are just another revenue booster has remained a topic of debate – even among the artists.

One artist said Friday night's public art show was more about ''the art'' than any form of protest. While another artist, wearing a latex George W. Bush mask, said they were an invasion of privacy.

One wonders if the police who view all those photos of motorists running red lights will get a laugh out of this public art.

- Nick Lucchesi