10th anniversary performance

At 2 pm on Sunday, 10 December 2006, in front of a police surveillance camera installed in Washington Square Park (NYC), the Surveillance Camera Players (SCP) celebrated its tenth anniversary by offering the debut performance of a brand-new play. Entitled Voices of Silence, and written by SCPer Bill, this play could very well serve as the SCP's epitaph, if an epitaph were ever needed. A simple, four-placard statement, the play states: "Silence is diappearing" (meaningless words surround a stick-figured person); "Privacy is disappearing" (surveillance cameras surround him/her); "Just because you can't hear us, doesn't mean we are not screaming" (he/she shakes his/her fist, and "says" a four-letter-word that has been replaced with meaningless symbols, as if the word has been censored); and "Surveillance Camera Players 1996-2006 Voices of Silence."

The phrase "voices of silence" comes from Paul Virilio's Art and Fear, a short polemic that, among other things, laments the disappearance of silence and the "sonorization" of everyday life (the constant presence of music, music-like cues from computers, "talking" computers, people yakking on their constantly ringing cellphones, noise of all kinds, etc etc). For Virilio, even the "voices of silence" -- artists who used silence to communicate -- are being sonorized out of existence. For example: once truly silent films that have had soundtracks permanently attached to them.

Thus a conclusion can be drawn, one similiar to the conclusion that the SCP once drew from examining the theatrical works and theories of Antonin Artaud: the group's primary strength lies in its silence, in the way it "speaks" (communicates through writing, simple images, bodily gestures, facial expressions, etc) and yet remains silent at the same time. The SCP "speaks" with silence and speaks "for" those who are silent, that is, for those whose silence is misinterpreted as acquiescence. (Virilio explains that, for NATO or any other multi-national military campaign, the speed of weapons delivery systems is such that consensus-based decision-making only works if each individual participant keeps quiet when he or she approves and only speaks up if he or she objects. And so, silence is speedy approval and "chatter" is disagreement.)

Following Virilio, Voices of Silence presupposes an analogy between military decision-making and the making of public opinion (especially concerning opposition to the use of surveillance cameras in public places): the only ones who speak up are the ones who object; the ones who object have something they want to hide or are ashamed of; the vast majority (the "silent majority") have nothing to hide and so don't object and remain silent.

But silence doesn't always mean or imply "yes": it doesn't mean that we respect, approve of or even acknowledge the existence of the things about which we say nothing. Indeed, it sometimes means the opposite: silence is for the things beneath contempt, unworthy of mention, even if that mention is a condemnation. (Note that "silence" also envelops those who can't get through, with either a "Yes" or a "No"; those who vote but whose votes are not counted.)

For the occasion (which also happened to be one of the SCP's weekly walking tours), Voices of Silence was performed as a solo by Bill, who also handed out copies of the SCP's equally brand-new 10-Year Report. While two other friends watched, Michael Rosenthal took photos, which can be viewed here: Silence is disappearing; Privacy is disappearing; a close-up of the second placard; Just because you can't hear us, doesn't mean we are not screaming; and we are the Voices of silence. There were no media in attendance and no problems with either security guards or police officers.

Contact the New York Surveillance Camera Players

By e-mail SCP@notbored.org

By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998