US-Artists Play for the Police

Opening-Night Action Theatre for Surveillance Cameras

Street theatre for police and security guards combined with protest against video surveillance systems -- that is the concept of the theatre group Surveillance Camera Players (SCP), which centers around the New York action-artist Bill Brown and (in short) performed their play Alles klar, Herr Kommissar in front of 100 by-standers in the pedestrian zone.

"We always use humor," says Brown -- whose main occupation in New York is editor at a publishing firm -- in one of his productions. Since the video-systems do not transmit sound to the central police, Bill and his friends perform as if in a silent film. The texts are delivered through placards, which are held up to the camera.

At their performance, the Surveillance Camera Players (founded in 1996) gave a sampling of the subcultural program they've been offering in the US Metropolis New York. Every week, Bill Brown and his friends present introductions and camera walks on the streets of Manhattan. "Normally, citizens such as ourselves are like performers in a play watched by the police on their video monitors," Brown says. In Surveillance Camera Theater, the guardian of the peace becomes part of the production: "The high point of the presentation is usually the intervention of the police."

The New Yorker does not want to be an irritant, neither back home in Manhattan, nor on the group's three previous European tours, which have been to England, the Netherlands and Italy. "We are not violent and we have no fear of police officers," Brown says. The guardian of the peace laughs along: "That's only a joke, we know we can live with it," says Volker Boehm of the President of the Police, and the sentiment was echoed from the Town Hall by Michael Schnellbach.

Tuebingen, Munich, Frankfurt and Heidelberg are also on the SCP's itinerary.

(Written by lang, published in the 22 May 2002 issue of Der Mannheimer Morgen, and translated from the German by Bill Brown.)

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NY Surveillance Camera Players