Security cameras perched on top of rocks in Denmark look a bit like seagulls. Jakub Geltner

A Prague-based artist composes sculpture that examines how urban technology spreads like its own life form.

Groups of satellite dishes and security cameras have invaded parts of Europe, clustering like seagulls around beach rocks and growing like barnacles on the sides of buildings.

These aren’t installations by any government, but rather works by Prague-based artist Jakub Geltner—part of a series called “Nest.” Geltner started the project in 2011, using strategic groupings of man-made technology to explore how humans and their machines have “infested” all kinds of spaces.

Right now, there are six installations on view, most of which can be found throughout the Czech Republic. Some are in popular spots, like Prague’s Vltava waterfront; others are tucked into more obscure places, along the walls of former schools and churches. Geltner’s latest piece, installed this year in Arhaus, Denmark, perches a collection of security cameras on top of rocks by the North Sea.

A cluster of satellites found at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Libechov, Czech Republic (Jakub Geltner)
Using ladders and cranes, Geltner installed these satellites on an unfinished government building in Ostrava, Czech Republic (Jakub Geltner)

“The urban landscape is our modern nature,” Geltner says, in that there’s always a rivalry between planned and random growth. Buildings, for example, are like trees that have been purposefully placed in a specific area. In nature, trees are spontaneously adorned with birds’ nests or lush moss. Random growth on buildings, however, comes from humans who crowd the exteriors with all sorts of appliances for surveillance, entertainment, and communication.

Geltner took inspiration from his trips around the world, where he saw satellites hovering like birds atop buildings in Morocco, and air conditioning units cover apartments in Hong Kong like lichens.

Geltner took inspiration from the AC units that dot Hong Kong apartments (Jakub Geltner)
Inspiration also came from satellites atop buildings in Morocco (Jakub Geltner)

Geltner’s use of cameras and satellites is in part a statement on the growing surveillance of our cities. It’s never been easier to monitor public spaces.

He says people often ask him whether the cameras are on—always wondering if they are being watched. That “banal uncertainty,” as he describes it, is the tension between privacy and surveillance in the modern city.

Visitors peer up at security cameras installed at the Vltava waterfront in Prague.
One of the many security cameras found on a wall of rocks in Arhaus, Denmark (Jakub Geltner)

Geltner’s work speaks to just how much technology has bled into the urban (and natural) landscape. His sculptures are beautiful, confusing, and discomfiting— exactly the kind of tension he wants his audience to consider.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of a Google employee on a bicycle.
    Equity

    How Far Will Google's Billion-Dollar Bay Area Housing Plan Go?

    The single largest commitment by a private employer to address the Bay Area’s acute affordable housing crisis is unique in its focus on land redevelopment.

  2. A map showing the affordability of housing in the U.S.
    Equity

    Minimum Wage Still Can’t Pay For A Two-Bedroom Apartment Anywhere

    The 30th anniversary edition of the National Low Income Housing Coalition report, “Out of Reach,” shows that housing affordability is getting worse, not better.

  3. A person tapes an eviction notice to the door of an apartment.
    Equity

    Why Landlords File for Eviction (Hint: It’s Usually Not to Evict)

    Most of the time, a new study finds, landlords file for eviction because it tilts the power dynamic in their favor—not because they want to eject their tenants.

  4. Environment

    Paris Wants to Grow ‘Urban Forests’ at Famous Landmarks

    The city plans to fill some small but treasured sites with trees—a climate strategy that may also change the way Paris frames its architectural heritage.

  5. photo of Arizona governor Doug Ducey
    Perspective

    Why FOMO Is the Enemy of Good Urban Mobility Policy

    Fear of Missing Out does not make good transportation policy. Sometimes a new bus shelter is a better investment than flashy new technology.

×