At exactly 1:30 pm Eastern Standard Time (7:30 pm in Europe) on Saturday, 2 December 2006, the Surveillance Camera Players (SCP) once again performed in front of the group's "favorite" (least favorite) webcam that Earthcam.com has installed in Times Square, New York City: the one that, unlike the others (15 in total), is pointed straight into the faces of people who have no idea their image is being captured and displayed by a camera-system that "refreshes" once every 3 seconds, 24-hours-a-day, all year 'round. It looks like its the surveillance camera for 47th Street Digital Photo, but its (worse) a live webcam. There's no sign that informs people a camera of any kind is in operation.
The occasion for this performance was a two-day-long series of events called "THE SPACE HIJACKERS: making trouble in Zeipzig," which featured the London-based artist/activist group the Space Hijackers, was organized by the German anti-surveillance camera group Leipizger Kamera, and was held at the Galerie fur Zeitgenossische Kunst (Gallery for Contemporary Art) in Leipzig, Germany. On Friday night, 1 December, acting under the theme "Public Space and Surveillance," Space Hijackers Sam and Robin helped coordinate a both a street protest and a street party. The next day, in the early afternoon, the Space Hijackers put on another public performance ("Let the Eye in the Sky Decide this Age-Old Battle . . .") and then, in the evening, a presentation ("CCTV The Future's Bright: The Development, Present, and Future of CCTV") at the Galerie. The SCP's performance -- which lasted 15 minutes and went off without a hitch -- was watched live, in the Galerie, on large TV monitors.
On the first day, the SCP produced and circulated the following statement, which was posted on the Leipziger Kamera website in both English and German, and then distributed as a printed flyer during the actual performance.
Who are we? Why we here?
We are the Surveillance Camera Players, and we are here today, performing in front of this publicly installed webcam, to say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. We have had enough of surveillance cameras! 1) They do not keep us safe from either crime or terrorism; 2) they create and reinforce a climate of distrust, fear and paranoia; and 3) they are all-too-frequently used for reprehensible activities, such as racial profiling, sexual voyeurism, the repression of political dissidents, and the marginalization of dispossessed social groups.
We are not alone in our opposition. At this very moment, anti-surveillance activists from England ("The Space Hijackers") and Germany ("Leipziger Kamera") are meeting at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Leipzig to discuss the problem and ways of solving it.
Why Leipzig? Because this city -- well-known for its resistance to all forms of oppression -- was one of the very first in Germany to have video surveillance imposed upon it. Ten years after the installation of their first cameras, the residents of Leipzig have had enough. What are their demands? The rights of everyone to enjoy the city; social solutions to urban problems; the encouragement of different ways of life; and an end to the police surveillance of public places.
And what about England? It is the most heavily surveilled country in the world, with approximately one camera for every 15 people. And yet England has a well-documented and persistent street-crime problem. But the answer is not more surveillance cameras and everyone over there knows it.
But what about here in the USA? All we hear from our political leaders, the highest ranking police officers and the CEOs of the biggest military-industrial corporations is a steady call for more and "better" cameras. But these people do not have our best interests in mind. All they want to do is line their pockets and keep us afraid.Join us! Fight back! Your actions will speak louder than words!
Times Square, NYC 2 December 2006
The Space Hijackers www.spacehijackers.co.uk
Leipziger Kamera www.leipzigerkamera.twoday.net
The Surveillance Camera Players www.notbored.org/the-scp.html
The relationship between the SCP and anti-surveillance activists in Leipzig dates back to August 2003, when Bill Brown went there to speak about the group as part of the Get Rid of Yourself exhibition at the ACC Galerie. While in Leipzig, Bill not only performed, but also made and distributed a local map of surveillance camera locations, which (almost inevitably) inspired local activists to renew their struggles against the video surveillance of public places. (One of the things that drew Bill to Leipzig were that city's anti-surveillance actions in 2000 and 2001.) In a performance on 21 September 2006, the Leipzigers returned the gesture by creating their own German-language rendering (Was Gluckst Du?) of the SCP classic It's OK, Officer, which Bill had translated and performed all over Germany as Alles Klar, Herr Kommissar.
Because of the occasion (an international audience of viewers) and the proximity of the date to the SCP's tenth anniversary (10 December 1996 was the very first performance), the group once again sought out and received the advice of that famous French guy, Monsieur le Art Toad, so that the SCP could do something different and (hopefully!) better than what it has done in the past. His suggestion: instead of standing there, motionless, and letting the throngs of moving people provide the "dramatic" contrast, why not try moving along with the throngs and see what happens? Brilliant! And It's OK, Officer would be the perfect play: instead of moving from camera to camera (as the play had always been performed), why not move within a single camera's field of vision?
And so that's exactly what the SCP did: three complete cycles of It's OK, Officer, moving along with (and then circling back in the other direction against) the crowds. These pictures are available: It's OK, Officer; Just Getting Something to Eat; Just Going Shopping, yes shopping; now I'm all tired out and am Going Home, yes home. Total time: 10 minutes.
Then the group set up, in the "traditional" stand-in-one-place fashion, and showed two selections of placards, drawn from several different SCP plays: the first said, YOU'VE BEEN WATCHING ME, EVERYWHERE WHERE I GO, and WHO WATCHES THE WATCHERS? The second group said, NO MORE INVASIONS OF PRIVACY and NO MORE RACIAL PROFILING. Total time: 5 minutes.
After that, a free-standing, six-foot-tall, cardboard cut-out figure of the guy from the New York State "Lotto" ads -- with his little placard (yes! he has his own little placard!) filled in to say SURVEILLANCE CAMERA PLAYERS -- was taped down to the sidewalk, facing the "Earthcam" webcam, inspected and admired, and abandoned to his fate. He lasted for a few seconds, blocking the sidewalk, drawing some very funny looks, before he was knocked down, and then taken away by some grey-haired guy.
For this performance, the group consisted of SCP co-founders Bill and Susan, and new-comer Jeff Debord. Kim and Laura clicked jpgs in Ohio. There were no media in attendance and no problems at all with police officers or security guards.
By e-mail SCP@notbored.org
By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998