Hooked on Classics

New tech art is no longer just about the technology

[...] The conceptually intriguing Surveillance Camera Players tap into the ubiquitous presence of cameras that monitor public spaces. Theirs is an art rooted in the idea that it's difficult not to look at our own images, for example, when they show up on the video monitor hanging from the ceiling of a convenience store or a bank lobby. Yet we rarely take this to the next step, to imagine that the footage is viewed by an invisible "audience."

To address this topic, the group performs highly theatrical plays before existing surveillance cameras positioned in the New York City subway system. Dressed in skeleton masks, the somber performers hold signs about being watched and are shackled with placards hand painted with identification numbers. They videotape their actions off official monitors in the subway corridors -- the footage has a gritty quality appropriate to the genre of surveillance -- to remind people they are being watched. But one also imagines that they hold captive the bureaucrats who monitor the monitors, the guys cooped up in an office filled with banks of TV screens, munching on pastrami sandwiches and scrutinizing the mundance activities of subway patrons for fare scams and potential terrorists.

The resulting project, which is more interesting conceptually than formally, has the look of traditional street theater, the kind that Dadaists and surrealist artists may have engaged in [sic] the early 20th century, but the artists use handmade signs and off-the-shelf Halloween costumes to address an Orwellian vision that unfortunately seems to be growing ever more pertinent [...]

(Review of exhibit in San Francisco entitled "ID/ENTITY: Portraiture in the 21st Century," written by Glen Helfand, and published in the 27 February 2003 issue of the SF Gate.)

Contact the New York 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