American performers
denounce the absurdity of video surveillance

On the screen, a video monitor, that of a surveillance camera placed at the corner of 14th Street and 7th Avenue in a New York subway station. The travelers parade by, pressed to return home or go to work. Suddenly three people appear, carrying pasteboards on which a number has been written. A fourth person advances towards the camera -- a skeleton mask on his face -- and exhibits a large pasteboard on which one can read: "Big Brother is Watching You."[1] Welcome to a slightly peculiar theatrical piece, a fast and cheap[2] adaptation of 1984 by George Orwell. A version of 10 minutes (!) written to be performed in front of one of the thousands of cameras that surveill public space in New York.[3]

In ten years of existence, the Surveillance Camera Players -- that is the name of these American performers -- have made a reputation among the defenders of civil liberties. They regularly interpret little sketches as absurb as necessary (other than 1984, they perform The Raven and The Masque of the Red Death by Poe, Ubu Roi by Jarry, and even pieces of their own composition, all animated by a single slogan: "We surveill the cameras that surveill us!"

Watching their seditious exploits, tinged with a ferocious black humor, the spectator is forced to recall that many of his own movements are recorded. Would he dare, the next time that he passes before a camera installed at the curve of a hallyway or at a crossing, to crack a small smile for the sake of the video eye that spies upon him?

(Written by Thomas Becard and published in Telermama, #2975, 20 January 2007. Translated from the French by the Surveillance Camera Players.)

[1] English in original.

[2] English in original.

[3] See YouTube display of the Surveillance Camera Players' performance of 1984. The video is in fact less than 10 minutes long: 5 minutes 55 seconds, to be exact. A full two minutes are missing from its beginning!

Contact the New York Surveillance Camera Players

By e-mail

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