From the pages of proto-Situationist zine 'Not Bored!' comes a stunning profile of the Surveillance Camera Players, one of the funniest and subversive agitprop theater groups in existence today. This web-site includes position papers, scripts, photographs, performance summaries, and more.

In the tradition of the 'Situationist International' and urban agitprop activists, the Surveillance Camera Players are a New York City based theater troupe who have gained legendary status by performing scenes from books, documentaries, films, and plays through a unique medium: the neon glare of security camera video monitors.

Mike Davis may have defined the intersection of urban planning and corporate controlled surveillance technologies via incredible books such as 'City of Quartz: Excavating The Future Of Los Angeles' (Verso, 1991) and 'Ecology Of Fear: Los Angeles And The Imagination Of Disaster' (Vintage, 1999), but the Surveillance Camera Players are closer to the Situationist International, Punk, and Hip-hop movements, which keep things real, and keep the focus definately [sic] on the street. Savvier than a busload of autodidactic 'Ivory Tower' postmodernity theorists who have memorized Michel Foucault's lectures on Jeremy Bentham's 'Panopticon', the Surveillance Camera Players find captive audiences consisting of everyday people: police, security guards, salespeople, couriers, school administrators. An audience forced to watch performances through the very device that has become the symbol of their daily oppression. Activist groups such as the Surveillance Camera Players draw upon humor and ambiguity as subversive political themes (thereby defeating appropriation of their iconography and methods by the mainstream), walking the razor-thin line between opportunism and self-depracating [sic] irony. They have performed scenes from George Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty Four'; Wilhelm Reich's 'The Mass Psychology Of Fascism'; Alfred Jarry's 'Ubu Roi'; Edgar Allen Poe's 'The Raven'; Samuel Beckett's 'Waiting For Godot'; Bill Brown's 'You Are Being Watched For Your Own Safety', and their own improvizatory 'Headline News' satire.

The most effective activists in the longterm work on several levels simultaneously. On a geo-political level, the Surveillance Camera Players perceive a link between surveillance technologies and the policies of predatory multi-national corporations and non government organizations (notably the 'World Trade Organization' and 'International Monetary Fund'). On a national level, the disenfranchised voices of environmental activists, homeless, working class, and autonomous democratic governments (civic, local, and regional) must be heard, and the most effective method is to turn the 'Society of the Spectacle' machinary back on itself, revealing the process of moulding 'imagologies' for all to see. As a reaction against the draconian policies advocated by New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the Surveillance Camera Players are slowly building a state-wide anti-surveillance camera movement. Whether their fame lasts for fifteen seconds or fifteen years, the Surveillance Camera Players will be remembered as the agitprop theater troupe that made seizing the power and fighting back hip again.

Research by Alex Burns alex.burns@disinfo.net

[Originally published 5 April 2000 at Disinfo.com.]

Contact the 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

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