Surveillance Cameras and the Death Penalty

Perhaps you are here this evening to see the legendary Living Theatre perform Not in My Name, an anti-death penalty play that the group performs in Times Square when a capital execution has been scheduled. Perhaps you are wondering, "Why is the Living Theatre sharing the stage with the Surveillance Camera Players, a group that's concerned with the erosion of privacy in public places? What is the connection between surveillance cameras and the death penalty?"

This unusual collaboration originated in the fact that the area in which the Living Theatre usually performs Not in My Name is heavily surveilled by cameras that aren't easy to spot. There are at least 129 surveillance cameras at work in Times Square: most of them are closed-circuit television cameras operated by private security guards, several of them are closed-circuit television cameras operated by the New York Police Department, and a few are Internet "webcams" operated by private companies, including Earthcam. (See the map on the other side of this flyer.) And so, whether its members realize it or not, the Living Theatre has been, in addition to everything else on its impressive resume, a surveillance-Theatre group like the SCP.

For their part, the Surveillance Camera Players were founded in New York City in November 1996. An informal grouping of anarcho-situationists, the SCP use aspects of the theatrical tradition that both includes and is inspired by the Living Theatre to call attention to and question the existence of surveillance cameras in public places. Much like the Living Theatre, the SCP use such tried-and-true street Theatre techniques as costumes, name-placards, speech balloons, banners and hand-made signs -- but the SCP do so because neither surveillance cameras nor Internet webcams are allowed to record sound. This is why the group's performances are silent.

In coming together, the two groups -- despite the novelty of the combination -- are simply trying to keep up with the worst developments in contemporary American society, which might be best summarized by the administration of the Maricopa County Jail, Phoenix, Arizona, by Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Four Internet webcams have been posted in this jail, supposedly as a "deterrent" to further criminal activity, but also as a way of attracting the attention of the millions of fans of such "reality-based" crime shows as Cops and America's Most Wanted. (Click here for the webcams installed in Sheriff Arpaio's jailhouse.) Unfortunately, the existence of such a website heralds a future in which capital executions are carried live on the Internet. And so we say:

Stop the executions! Down with Big Brother!

(Text of hand-out, distributed during performance on 16 August 2000.)

Contact the Surveillance Camera Players

By e-mail

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

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