SLOW Dating

This summer, at the Hammock Residency, I became the Curator of Love.  I enticed sixteen would-be daters to participate in a project called SLOW Dating or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love CCTV.  The first step of the project required each participant to trace his or her most regular route through the city on a map of Vancouver’s downtown core.  After analyzing this data, I created a series of possible matches, based on the intersection of paths under closed circuit television cameras (CCTV), and then created experiments designed to bring participants together under the city’s watchful eyes.  What interests me most about this project is the opportunity it affords to détourne the usual associations of power and discipline called up by the CCTV network.  While the experiments reveal the mediation of corporation and state in our most intimate of encounters, they also suggest other possibilities for the usurpation of surveillance  technologies.  The exercise of agency in matters of the heart makes love a revolutionary force indeed.

Natalie Doonan is a performance and multi-media artist temporarily living in Vancouver, BC. Her research interests include regeneration from inside out, the creative possibilities inherent in repetition, and particular environments and moments in time.

Slow Dancing

I am in the back yard of the lovely Heidi Nagtegaal, operator of the Hammock Residency, and host of Natalie Doonan’s fist experiment in her Slow Dating project. There are many people in attendance, the backyard is full and a number of events are scheduled for the evening. Eventually, it is time to slow dance. We are encouraged to occupy the central area of the back yard. As to be expected, there are more people watching than those participating. I think there are a number of reasons for this, but right now my favourite one is that people believe that they can know a piece by watching, indicating the ever lingering vision primacy problem. I am now on the backyard dance floor, completely sober, with my iPhone tuned into my favourite love song, which today, is OMD’s Romance of the Telescope, and I am paired with a stranger, based on the way we are moving, and asked to slow dance. He is listening to his love song, and we are moving out of each other’s time, our bodies bumping together and moving apart at unknown intervals. The awkwardness of usual social couplings is heightened to an almost unbearable degree since I am aware there are so many people watching the awkwardness too. I focus too much on what I am doing, completely indifferent to my partner.

Rina Liddle is a visual artist also working with participatory models and surveillance. More important, I am a 40 year old woman who has been purposefully chronically single since 1997, and a woman who opened her first online dating account in 2000. I have gone on hundreds of dates with strangers and I consider myself an expert on this topic.

Dear Natalie Doonan,
Maker of SLOW Dating or How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love CCTV,

Summertime is about magic, growing up, growing old, harvesting things, reusing things and seeing potential in small things like seed.

It is also a time for romance:  everyone is doused in sun, looking beautiful, and I swear there is something about the sunlight: you notice things you didn't before. It is hot and your defenses break down. You do things you normally wouldn't.

Romance is scary. It is one of the scariest things in the universe (to me), and I get all embarrassed, generally falling into "stalker" territory - I'd rather just enjoy seeing your bicycle locked to a parking meter than say hello, or give any indication that I exist in a territory beyond friendship.

On July 10, 2010, in the Backyard Music Festival, you convinced me to SLOW Dance. As the organizer of the event, I was just humming with activity and my brain didn't have a chance to say no. I danced.

It wasn't romantic per say, but it did teach me something about romance.  The music we were listening to on our headphones was our own personal favorite slow dance song: they weren't synced up, the beats didn't fall in the same places, but we all danced together.

I changed partners a few times: some people matched, some people didn't, and they were not the people I'd anticipated dancing with, or, not dancing with. Some beats fell perfectly, and we had moments of unison, sometimes there were just two of us dancing, sometimes three or four, lead by the music on our own personal mp3 players.

Everyone was awkward; there was no smooth entrance or departure point for the dance, as everyone's songs ended at different times, and I think I listened to mine twice. But it was nice. And romance, as awkward and scary as it can be, is also wonderful. It expands you, teaches you, and causes you to invest in something. That something can be one dance, or many, but you'll never know until you try.

Thank you, Natalie, for reminding me again.


Heidi Nagtegaal
July 31, 2010

Heidi Nagtegaal is an artist living and working in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She is the facilitator behind the Hammock Residency, and Headbands and Bracelets, an occasional writer, a member of Dance Troupe Practice, and Absurdus, and a voracious reader.


--- On Sun, 7/25/10, nat doonan <> wrote:

From: nat doonan <>
Subject: Further Instructions: Loving CCTV
To: “”
Received: Sunday, July 25, 2010, 11:25 PM
Hi L,

A message was recorded for you, by a potential partner, via CCTV at the following two times and locations:  

> Granville and Georgia

2010/07/24 06:56 - Vancouver City Centre SkyTrain Station

> Richards and Georgia

2010/07/24 07:05 - 475 W. Georgia (Vancouver Stock Exchange)

This message includes the name and phone number of your potential match.  It is now up to you to contact the owners of these two security cameras, inform them of the exact date and time of the message, and request access to the footage.  Take fate into your own hands - your SLOW Date awaits!


L’s Report

I had two locations to visit in order to access the footage from my potential partner.

Location 1 Granville and Georgia

2010/07/24 06:56 - Vancouver City Centre SkyTrain Station:
I called Translink and explained the situation. I was directed to Customer Relations, who told me to talk to the Translink Police.  I did that, and a very polite and helpful lady told me that in order to access the footage they would have to cover all the faces of the people that appeared in the video and that there is a fee that ranges between $5,000-$10,000 in order to execute this.  I asked if someone could watch the video for me and just give me the message but she told me that I would have to hire or pay someone from the company to do that.

Location 2 010/07/24 07:05 - 475 W. Georgia (Vancouver Stock Exchange)
The procedure here was really easy and friendly.  I entered the building and found the phone number of the manager. He was very nice and told me that I could probably look at the footage, but as they only keep it for three days, it was already erased. (He said "we don't have enough space in our hard drive" which I found quite funny)


-- On Sat, 7/17/10, nat doonan <> wrote:

From: nat doonan <>
Subject: How to proceed: Slow dating experiment
To: "S.C." <>
Received: Saturday, July 17, 2010, 8:11 PM
Hi S,

Thank you again for participating in SLOW Dating, opening yourself to the unexpected and exciting gifts that life can bring.  Based on the data that you have submitted, I have identified a meeting opportunity for you.
Over the next week, (by Saturday, July 24th), please proceed to the South East  corner of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Bring with you a sign, asking the security guard who is watching you to PLEASE leave a message at Security for Paul, asking him to call (your phone number).  You should write in thick, black lines (use paint or thick black marker, for example) in CAPS and LARGE, so that it will be legible through Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) camera on the building.  

Stand in front of one (or more) of these cameras for at least 5 minutes straight, holding the sign up to the camera.  

Note the EXACT time and date when you do this, and email me this information once it's done.  

Please let me know if you have any questions.
Have fun!!


--- On Mon, 7/26/10, Paul <> wrote:

From: Paul “"
Subject: Re: SLOW Dating
To: "nat doonan" <>
Received: Monday, July 26, 2010, 6:47 PM
On 2010-07-25 20:10, nat doonan wrote:
> There is a message waiting for you at the Security desk in the Vancouver
> Art Gallery (first floor, turn right immediately when entering via
> Hornby Street entrance). Please pick it up as soon as possible. When you
> arrive, tell the security guard your name, and that a message was left
> there for you, with a phone number. 

P: That didn't work. :)

I went down to the VAG this afternoon just before three o'clock. The
security office was completely mystified. I also checked at reception,
admissions and the coat check. Nobody had a message for me.

What's next? Is this the SLOW dating equivalent of "I'm busy washing my
dog Friday night"? :)

From: nat doonan <>
Subject: How to proceed: Slow dating experiment (Troubleshooting)
To: "Paul” “
Received: Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 8:06 PM

Hi Paul,

Thank you for completing your SLOW mission.  I’m sorry to hear that you had trouble getting your message.  The Security Guard occupies an ambivalent role, at once enforcing institutional discipline on the bodies of others, while the authority of the institution is enacted on her/his own body.  In this case, it seems, the Security Guard chose not to intervene (which would mean enacting her/his own agency), in order to bring two people together.  Nonetheless, I have made a match for you, and would like to arrange a meeting this week at the Vancouver Art Gallery.  Can you please send me a list of dates/times when you are available, sometime before August 7th?

all the best,

From: nat doonan <>
Subject: How to proceed: Slow dating experiment (Troubleshooting)
To: "Paul” “
Received: Tue, Aug 3, 2010 at 4:25 PM

Hi Paul,

Ok, so it looks like your meeting will occur at noon this Saturday (same day as SLOW celebration later in the evening).  Your final task will be to arrive at the Vancouver Art Gallery with a sign that includes your name, written large enough and dark enough to be visible via security camera.  Find any camera on the gallery building, and hold your sign up to it at the designated time.  It should take a few minutes for your SLOW date to find you from there.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
I look forward to meeting you Saturday!


From: nat doonan <>
Subject: SLOW Date!
To: "S.C." “
Tue, Aug 3, 2010 at 4:31 PM

Great!  Your SLOW Date has been given instructions that will bring you together this Saturday at noon, at the Vancouver Art Gallery.  Your final task will be to find the Security desk, which is located inside the gallery, if you turn to the right upon entering via the Hornby Street doors.  Once there, you will see the Security guards monitoring an array of television screens with footage coming from the security cameras installed on the exterior of the building.  There should be someone holding a sign that says "Paul".  You may need the help of the guards to help you locate his whereabouts.  Please be sure to arrive at noon, since Paul will be holding this sign up until you arrive.
Please let me know if you have any questions.  Otherwise, I look very much forward to meeting you on Saturday night!


Paul’s report:

I originally registered for this art experiment because of my interest
in stopping the expansion of CCTV in Vancouver, and of course, because
of my interest in finding a date. I was curious how a match could be
made on the basis of frequently visited locations. As I thought about
it, I figured it was as likely to be a good match as any other criteria
we typically use.

Making the map of frequently visited locations in downtown was amusing.
I'm not sure I did it right. Since I don't live or work downtown, I
marked a few favourite watering holes, as well as a park I sometimes
visit with friends, and several SkyTrain stations. I reasoned that the
stations were my entrypoint to downtown, so they qualified as frequently
visited locations. Then I drew a 'circle' connect all the dots.

The next step, standing in front of a surveillance camera with my name
and phone number on a sign, was the most difficult. I didn't fancy
standing on a street corner looking like a total nutjob. However, my
opinion on video surveillance is that the routinely exposing oneself to
it is no less invasive (or crazy) than standing on a street corner with
my name & phone number on a sign. I think my view is probably in the
minority. Nevertheless, I actually wasn't going to complete this task.
Except that I received a message from Nat the day before the deadline
asking me to complete the task because someone else was depending on me.
So I went downtown on what I think was the second SkyTrain of the day,
on a Saturday, and completed the task at two locations. I did it at 7am,
to avoid being seen by too many people.

There were some hitches meeting my match, but eventually I did (after
holding a sign in with my name on it in front of a camera, yet again).
She had a good idea for a place to go eat in one of our other common
frequently visited locations in downtown. It turns out the match wasn't
bad, because neither of us lived or worked downtown, so our common
locations were of the same type.

Unfortunately I'm not going to be returning to any of my frequently
visited locations for the next eight months. I'm leaving on an extended
trip to visit whole new locations, some of which may become "frequently
visited" since I'll be staying in some places for a few months.



Butterflies in my stomach announce my nervousness. I realize at the last moment that I have misunderstood the place, and I will be late...again. I find the spot, park my car and take my large sketchpad and marker to the spot. I can’t tell where the camera is, so I have brought a friend who is set up around the corner at an internet cafe to direct me by cell phone. He watches the live feed, and so does my blind date. It is not an easy task to make yourself known via a camera. For one thing, I am standing 15 feet from a full patio of restaurant-goers and didn’t account for that kind of looking too. I am told that my signage is too small and in an attempt to make this less boring, a.k.a., more appealing, I start to bring my body into it. In a Vanna White fashion, I make the making of new signage into a performance of making myself more desirable. But it takes an hour to get it right, and my arms hurt, it is hot out, I can feel myself perspiring. In the end, I am not sure if my contact information is conveyed to my potential date, but I don’t really care, I am done. It is hard to look like a delicate flower and make so much of an effort.



Natalie Doonan invites you to a SLOW Celebration this Saturday, August 7th, from 9-10pm at Floata Seafood Restaurant, 180 Keefer Street #400, Vancouver.  This will be a chance for all participants of SLOW Dating to meet, and for other forms of mingling to suit your proclivities.  This one-hour event is in keeping with the timeframe of The All-New Newlywed Game Show.  You are invited to witness the unfolding of a game that will test the compatibility of two of Vancouver’s favourite newlyweds, over food and drinks.

At 8pm sharp, the couple (AM & KP) each received a text message (they were both in Kits at the time) with a series of 4-5 tasks to be completed by 9pm, when they were asked to meet the rest of us at Floata Restaurant, in Chinatown.  The tasks were meant to test their compatibility and each required that they collect a token of some kind to be presented at the SLOW Celebration.



1)  Find a computer with internet access, and print a page from A’s favourite geography blog

2)  Collect a token from A’s favourite Vancouver street

3)  Have a drink in A’s favourite spot and bring proof that you did

4)  Create a map of the trajectory you took in completing these tasks

5)  Get to Floata at 180 Keefer Street #400 by 9pm!


1)  Go to the silent or quiet space where you have spent your most memorable time with K and collect a token from it.

2)  Take the bus along K’s most common route, and bring proof that you did

3)  Go to Fillip headquarters and bring a token from there

4)  Eat K’s favourite snack along the way, and bring back a sample of it.

5)  Get to Floata at 180 Keefer Street #400 by 9pm!

Floata Seafood Restaurant is an expansive Chinese dining hall, known for its delicious dim sum.  On the evening of August 7th, the floor was divided in half, with a wedding celebration taking place on one side of the restaurant.  Upon entering, we were confronted with a table and chairs covered in lavender satin and lace – a backdrop set up for the wedding photos. The CCTV camera that is pointed at this table broadcast its footage on a large projection screen located inside the dining hall, for all diners to see (this camera/projection is a permanent fixture in the restaurant). We used this satiny “stage” located in the entrance of the restaurant as the equivalent of the sound proof room used on game shows like The All New Newlywed Show. AM and KP took turns sitting here, while SLOW Celebrators phoned them from inside the restaurant, asking a series of questions prompting them to reveal the tokens they collected during their one-hour challenge, as they held the items up to the camera for all to see.  This game served the dual function of testing the compatibility of KP and AM, and as icebreaker for a group of giddy SLOW Daters coming together at last!