The demonstrators, who cannot be professional actors, are also prohibited from breaking or manipulating public or private propery.
If you want to protest, you can, but you cannot break anything. Tomorrow, the artists of the Surveillance Camera Players (SCP) will celebrate their first [sic] international day of action against the video surveillance of public places. The group, founded in New York in 1996, performs exclusively in front of surveillance cameras, which are scattered throughout the city.
The SCP perform in front of any type of surveillance camera, though they most often chooses to use public [city-owned or police] cameras. They have also taken advantage of [public] webcams, which are typically installed for the purposes of promotion and [virtual] tourism, to relay SCP actions via the Internet. Tomorrow, they will team up with a dozen SCP groups in the United States, Colombia, Germany, France, Lithuania and Turkey.
On the SCP's web page, one can find out about the type of action, who will be involved, and when and where the action will take place. In New York, the stage will be a webcam in Times Square. The Arizona group will take advantage of the webcam operated by the City Council of Tempe.
Since the cameras rarely pick up or record sound, the actors' very brief performances are usually pantomimes, in which placards bearing ironic slogans are held up towards the camera. Many of their performances have been based upon texts by George Orwell or Samuel Beckett. Other plays have been scripted for specific places, such as American churches that are monitored by video cameras.
The essential conditions for membership in the SCP include not being a professional actor and agreement with the libertarian ideals of the founding group. One can't destroy or damage surveillance cameras if you want be an SCP member, says Bill Brown, the group's founder.
"We are interested in using these cameras in ways that are contrary to their original purposes," he adds. "It's a strategy called detournement, which was popularized by the situationists. We use it to denounce the constant, indiscriminate and increasingly technologically sophisticated surveillance of the public places by the police, large companies, and even small businesses. We also denounce the proliferation of so-called reality-based TV shows, which we think encourages the acceptance of hidden cameras. The use of these systems of control is a flagrant violation of the right to privacy," Brown says.
In addition to fighting to protect this right, the SCP try out to familiarize the public with surveillance technologies. "We use humor and irony to demonstrate that all protests need not be boring," Brown says, "and to unmask the false myth that says only those who are 'guilty of something' oppose being watched."
[Written by R. Bosco & S. Caldana and published in the 6 September 2001 edition of Ciberpais. Translated from the Spanish by an Internet robot and checked by a hooman being.]
Contact the NY 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