Big Brother is everywhere

LUDWIGSBURG. Since 11 September, the debate over the use of surveillance cameras in public places has intensified. At Ludwigsburg's DemoZ, a theatre group from New York will explain the consequences.

Rudi Maier from the Democratic Center (DemoZ) is audibly proud of the fact that tonight at 8 pm, the New York art group the Surveillance Camera Players (SCP) will make an appearance at the back house of 45/1 Wilhelmstrasse. "The concerns of this group are of the highest social relevance," Maier says. "Their performances aren't simply concerned with the use of video cameras in public places." He recommends the presentation by the visitors to "everyone for whom Big Brother is more than just the name of a boring TV show."

The SCP work at the intersection of theatre, art and politics. In the USA, the theatre group, which was formed in 1996, is a leader in the struggle against the use of camera technology. The dangerous effects of surveillance -- for example, the cameras in the Rotebuehlplatz in Stuttgart -- are, to the New York group, a reversal of the presumption of innocence and a violation of basic privacy rights.

In their homeland, the SCP's political theses and unusual artistic ideas have already created a bit of a sensation. The speciality of these action-artists is performing theatre for police officers and security guards who watch public surveillance cameras. After the events of 11 September, important U.S. newspapers have documented and commented upon the SCP's creative struggle for civil rights. The "New York Times" has said that cameras in public places do not prevent terrorist attacks from taking place: the surveillance systems at the World Trade Center simply recorded their own destruction.

A nation-wide network of artists and activists have arranged for the SCP to make ten appearanes in Germany. The plays that the three New York action-artists performed in front of the German Press Agency and 100 by-standers in Mannheim on Tuesday last only a few minutes. "It isn't true that only those who have something to hide are opposed to surveillance," says Surveillance Camera Player Bill Brown. Tonight, Brown will repeat these sentiments at the DemoZ in Ludwigsburg -- with certainty [translator's note: this last phrase might also be rendered as "with security"].

(Written by Frank Buchmeier, published in the 24 May 2002 issue of Die Stuttgarter Zeitung, and translated from the German by Bill Brown.)

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NY Surveillance Camera Players