Dreaming FIDS is a public artwork which is installed in the departure lounge at Mineta San Jose International Airport in California.

The title of the artwork is a combination of a familiar emotive word—“Dreaming”—and a technical aviation-related acronym—“FIDS”—which stands for Flight Information Display System. This combination of the technological, functional and the poetic is reflected in the characteristics of the artwork. It’s form suggests a fusion of an aquarium, flight information screens and a CCTV security system. The artwork is a self contained, self perpetuating dynamic system of surveillance and display, record and playback. As the fish swim around their tank, they are monitored by underwater cameras. Recorded sequences from these cameras are relayed onto the banks of screens which are suspended in the tank. This surveillance system will playfully identify a fish as behaving suspiciously, then focus, isolate and project the culprit on one of the screens.

The artwork is situated just beyond the passenger screening area in one of the gate seating areas. It is oriented so that the cameras do not just capture images of the fish, but also passengers and airplanes. It is compelling to watch the video analysis system tirelessly try to make sense of such a complex layered view of fish, people, reflections, aircraft

The artwork cycles through 3 modes of operation. The mode changes every few minutes. Mode 1, scanning: As fish swim in front of the cameras, the software zooms-in and tracks their movement. Their image is magnified to fill a whole screen. Mode 2, dreaming: In this mode the screens show abstract lists of flight arrivals and departures. No text is shown but the shapes and animation strongly evoke the familiar form of a bank of flight information screens. The items in the list flash and update and are dynamically mixed with live images of fish captured by the cameras. Mode 3, judging: Certain fish are identified as behaving ‘suspiciously’. Images of these fish are captured and added to a continuously growing library of fish ‘mugshots’.

Dreaming FIDS can be interpreted as a microcosm of the airport--the fish are passengers, the tank is the sterile departure lounge, etc.--yet the artwork is as much a celebration of the beauty of complex technological and organic dynamic systems, as it is a statement about the prevalence of surveillance in our lives.

By Shona Kitchen and Ben Hooker. Commissioned by City of San Jose (Public Art Program). Aquatics: Aquarium showroom, Tenji Inc.; Engineering: Chris Chan; Fabrication: Chris Hadin, Jesus Najera; Programming: Jesse Kriss; Special assistance: Daniel Brown; Underwater Housing: Jack Sullins; Project management: Mary Rubin