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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 April 2006, 09:03 GMT 10:03 UK
Safe, secure and kitsch
Sweet Dreams Security camera (Pic: Sweet Dreams Security)
Big brother really is watching
A German artist is trying to change the way people think about security, by replacing barbed wire with heart-shaped metal, and pointed railings with animal shapes.

Matthias Megyeri, founder of Sweet Dreams Security, considers symbols of threat and fear, such as alarms and CCTV cameras.

He then turns them into things that make people feel happy, using bright colours and references to kitsch objects such as teddy bears and bunny rabbits.

He told BBC World Service's Culture Shock programme that he hopes to set a new trend of looking at things that are designed to keep us safe in a different way.

"When I discovered art, I decided to look into two contemporary psychological illnesses, paranoia, and this over-exaggerated desire for kitsch that we have today," he said, adding that he is also using kitsch to emphasise how security devices can be oppressive.

"The good thing is, that people buy and use products because they are functional.

"If my critical approach to this is a bit subtle, in a way, it's not too bad if people don't get my critical message."

'Very vicious'

Examples of Mr Megyeri's art include padlocks designed to look like teddy bears, heart-shaped chains, and glass fir trees embedded in concrete, designed to replace broken bottle shards, which are now illegal.

While they look delicate, the top of the fir tress is very sharp, to deter people from climbing the wall.

Glass fir tree wall top (Pic: Sweet Dreams Security)
It's a very typical, iconic, cheap, effective security product and very vicious
Matthias Megyeri
"Weirdly enough, I've developed a certain fetishism towards security products. I quite like the broken glass," Mr Megyeri said.

"But its a global product. You can find it in Israel, Tokyo, New York, London.

"It's a very typical, iconic, cheap, effective security product and very vicious."

The work of Mr Megyeri, who is German by birth but based in England, has been included in exhibition called Great Brits, as well as installations in Tokyo, Israel and the Museum Of Modern Art in New York.

Decorate or defend?

Mr Megyeri said he took his inspiration from a "typical English combination of security, cuteness, and kitsch things.

"For example, the typical black painted railings are black because Prince Albert died and the Queen ordered everybody to paint them black. This is a really typically English thing.

"So I took these typically English products as a starting point."

Teddy bear padlock (Pic: Sweet Dreams Security)
Mr Megyeri found the bear-shaped padlocks, and applied the face
Amongst the most typical items are security cameras made to look like cats, and white plastic daisy petals around a yellow alarm.

Journalist James Collard, a commentator on global culture for British newspaper The Times, said he felt there is currently an "obsession" in the UK with security, but that "we're not the first people to feel these fears."

"If you think about the last couple of thousand years, there's almost no point where people have been feeling entirely relaxed about the world around them.

"You've had battlements round manor houses. Something as English as a park was defended with a huge stone wall. Mantraps in the forest to keep the poachers out.

"In a way, I think this to and fro between the desire to decorate and the desire to defend has always been with us."

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