Starting today, we film them back

Artists fight against video surveillance with glancing blows

[...] The biggest threat to privacy certainly comes from video cameras, which increasingly monitor public space and many private businesses. Especially since September 11th, a vague fear of terrorist attacks has become a common argument in favor of control. Also the fear of "increasing crime" has brought to the video surveillance of shops, pedestrian zones and bus stations a level of acceptance that it didn't have ten years ago.

[...] Of all the protest groups, the Surveillance Camera Players (SCP) from New York have been at it the longest. Since the mid-Nineties, they have performed short versions of plays such as Waiting for Godot for the surveillance cameras in shopping malls and subway stations, "so that the people who watch the cameras won't be bored," says the SCP's Bill Brown, with a knowing wink. In the tradition of political street theater, the real audience members are the passers-by. They are also given fliers about the well-hidden cameras.

"We want to disrupt people's everyday routines," Brown says, "and to show them that there's no reason to be intimidated by these cameras. In addition, we also want to show that not all forms of protest are loud and boring, that one can also use humor to get the point across." The fact that they introduce George Orwell's "1984" with a joke in the form of a quotation places the Surveillance Camera Players in the company of other artists and activists who are concerned with the surveillance of public space [...]

(Written by Tilman Baumgartel and published in the 4 September 2003 issue of Die Zeit. Translated from the German by Bill Brown.)

Contact the New York Surveillance Camera Players

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