City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Screening Crimewatch on the city

Written in


It’s a fairly extraordinary and bold decision by the Strathclyde police to “beam a 60ft image of a murdered prostitute on to a tower block (in the hope that it) will provide fresh leads towards catching her killer” (The Guardian, 25 May 2005). It’s the first time such a tactic has been used in a criminal investigation in Britain, and to me it feels like an astonishingly media-literate and almost poetic response from a police force. For even a few years ago, this image would surely have seemed more likely to appear on the pages of a dystopian near-future police thriller than actually on the side of a tower block in the Gorbals.

It may be a bloody good idea, and naturally I hope it proves useful in solving this sad case, which is all the more heartbreaking for its apparently quotidian nature in this area of Glasgow. Still, in the hyperreal context of ‘real-life’ crime shows using the visual and aural language of the Hollywood blockbuster – with the attendant ‘climate of fear’ that would seem to induce in return – I have vaguely non-specific nagging doubts over whether deploying this tactic from a media-saturated image-fixated culture is appropriate in this context. A petrified – in both senses – city surely follows if your everyday experience is continually punctuated with such images projected on to every large building … But if it works, well, what’s left to say?

It may be utterly tasteless to suggest it at this point – and I apologise in advance – but surely, somewhere, right now, there’s a feckless Barley-esque ContemporaryBritArtist scrubbing back and forth in Premiere to juxtapose this image of Emma Caldwell on a Glasgow tower block with that image of Gail Porter’s arse on the Houses of Parliament in order to make some ham-fisted, crassly banal ‘point’ about objectification, exploitation, the mediasphere etc etc. Ugh. Sorry for the bile.


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