Inspiration can be found in the strangest of places. By now we’ve all heard the phrase “steal like an artist,” but what about making art based on a theft? How about taking it a step further and enticing a thief to steal your phone so you can track it, document it, and create a short film exposing the goings on in the world of a phone thief?
Film student Anthony van der Meer felt the violation of having a phone stolen and had a difficulty coming to terms with a stranger having access to his personal files, like all his photos. We would all have methods to process such such a scenario, and van der Meer’s may have been a little different than yours or mine. For van der Meer, this experience was the birth of an idea; a voyeuristic turning of the tables on the invasion of privacy inflicted on him. An app called Cerberus was installed on an Android phone that not only tracks location, but can take and transmit audio, video, and photos, as well as be controlled remotely. The phone was then left sitting in a public place under surveillance in hopes of capturing a theft on camera.
It took a surprising amount of time as well as attempts in two major Dutch cities, but finally–as soon as the crew were about to give up and stopped rolling cameras–an Amsterdam thief came to the, er, rescue and took off with the bait phone. From there, van der Meer accessed the phone remotely and we get to hear tell-tale signs of the thief’s location – train stops being called out as the phone rode away from its former owner. Watching the filmmaker-turned-stalker spy on his unwitting star is a bit eerie, and makes you stop and think about they type of surveillance possible if a smartphone, yours perhaps, is tapped into.
What would someone hear or see if your phone were broadcasting to them right now?