Is it the NSA or an MFA?

"Surveillance" is a pertinent and chilling exhibition at the Jersey City Museum. It not only presents artworks that wrestle with the Bush administration's authorization of the National Security Agency to eavesdrop without warrants, but some pieces feature "secretly recorded" audio and video material.

[...] One of the oddest works in the exhibition is by the artistic collective called Surveillance Camera Players, founded in New York in 1996. The piece, entitled "1984," and performed in 1998, consists of an 8-minute video in which the collective's members enact a theatrical version of George Orwell's "1984" in front of a security camera in the subway station at Seventh Avenue and 14th Street, recording their performances off the MTA's own surveillance monitors.

These types of works were originally intended "as entertainment for the security personnel sitting at the other end of the camera," the wall label tells us. But the stunts eventually became performances and artworks in their own right, replayed in museums.

[...] "Surveillance" will be at the Jersey City Museum, 350 Montgomery Street, through Aug. 20. Information: (201) 413-0303 or

(Written by Benjamin Genocchio, and published in the 12 February 2006 issue of The New York Times.)

Contact the New York Surveillance Camera Players

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