Recently a new astronomical vision has emerged, the sight of a blazing fireball streaking across the sky recorded on a dashcam through a car windscreen. Either a meteor or space debris entering the earth’s atmosphere, these apocalyptic chance encounters are relayed endlessly via the internet. Some events – such as the meteors that struck the Chelyabinsk region in 2013 – were recorded from multiple perspectives, offering scientists the opportunity of repeated observations. Looped to infinity, viewing the meteor’s fiery trail is no longer a lucky or singular occurrence.
First developed by US police departments in the late 1980s utilising VHS technology, the growth of the dashcam is not just a result of cheaper flash memory but a reaction to very earthly social degradation and lawlessness. Most prevalent in Russia, the dashcam is a response to the casual violence meted out on the road and the incompetence and corruption of the legal system and insurance industries. Heavenly wonders are archived virtually alongside car wrecks and mangled bodies. The dashcam becomes an essential survival tool in a culture of mobile privatisation taken to extremes.
With the dashcam seeing machine the apocalyptic is brought down to earth and the earthly becomes apocalyptic. Both seem to collide on Russia’s roads, a symptom of the vast scope of everyday surveillance.