Strolling on Fifth Avenue

At 9 am on Tuesday 5 December 2000, the Surveillance Camera Players (SCP) performed It's OK, Officer as the group strolled up a mid-town stretch of Fifth Avenue, in New York City. A well-known boulevard in Manhattan, often associated with wealth and prosperity, Fifth Avenue is the location of a great many famous city landmarks, big-time tourist attractions and megastores, and so is packed with people and automobiles this time of year (i.e., the "holiday season"). As a result, the presence of a great many surveillance cameras in the area makes Fifth Avenue a(nother) perfect stage for SCP performances and walking tours, one of which covered pretty much the same area, as scheduled, two days previously, on 3 December 2000. Indeed, so enticing is the spectacle of Fifth Avenue during the holiday season that the SCP -- which had intended its 7 November 2000 performance to be its last until Spring 2001 -- decided to perform in its midst, despite the fact that wind-blown New York is cold as fuck in the winter.

Debuted on 5 September 2000, when it was performed by actors who walked 'round in a circle or in a straight line through a confined area, It's OK, Officer was performed on 5 December 2000 as it was on 7 November 2000, that is to say, as a walking play. Starting at the New York Public Library (Fifth Avenue and 42d Street), the SCP -- which consisted of Bill, newcomer P.J., Kimberly and Susan -- walked north and raised the play's boards whenever someone in the line of peripatetic actors spotted a surveillance camera, which of course happened quite frequently. By the time the SCP reached Rockefeller Center (Fifth Avenue and 46th Street) -- where the group had to stop the performance due to cold weather and commitments to do other things -- it had played "trick or treat" with about 30 surveillance cameras. Most of these cameras are operated by the jewelry, watch and fancy clothing stores that line the boulevard; some of them are operated by the New York Police Department, and one of them is an Internet web cam in front of which the SCP has performed before.

Though the performance was mobile, lasted only 15 minutes and didn't include someone who handed out flyers or otherwise dealt with the public, it did manage to elicit responses from some of the passersby and spectators, most of whom were going to work and consequently saw themselves reflected in at least one of the play's boards (the one that proclaims IT'S O.K., OFFICER: JUST GOING TO WORK). The owner of one of the jewelry stores the group passed on its stroll, having seen the group and its large boards appear on the monitor(s) of his surveillance camera(s), was so struck by the play that he rushed out on to the street and asked the group about what it was doing. This (once again) confirmed the key points made during the SCP's previous performance of It's OK, Officer which are that 1) the cameras one sees on the streets of New York actually work (are functioning devices); 2) these cameras are in fact being watched by people; and 3) these people can, if need be, respond quickly to the images captured by "their" cameras. As for the jeweler: when he was told that the group was pointing out surveillance cameras as it made its way up Fifth Avenue, the man smiled and said good-naturedly, "You'll be walking for a long time."

In attendance during this performance was a small team from Shift TV, which is based in Toronto and intends to air a piece on the SCP in February 2001.

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

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