the Writing on the Wall: Smile!

Of those two prophetic works that dealt with man's subjugation by the State, Americans have traditionally recognized characteristics resembling their own society in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, more so than in George Orwell's 1984. Yet while we continue to validate Huxley's vision of a culture placated by psychotropic drugs and the continual consumption of commodities, the Patriot Act has resurrected fears of a Big Brother that censors information and monitors its citizens for signs of dissent.

These fears resulted in increased awareness of groups like the New York Surveillance Camera Players (SCP), an organization that tries to educate the population on camera locations in public spaces around the city by performing relevant plays -- like 1984 -- in front of them. Building upon the theory that cameras do little to prevent terrorist attacks or even crime, SCP seeks to simultaneously expose the oppressive surveillance system and subvert that system to give the oppressors an idea of their own absurdity. And there is much to expose: the New York Civil Liberties Union estimates there are at least 2,500 cameras scrutinizing public space.

Watching an SCP performance brings to mind French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard's assertion that there is no distinction between life and cinema. SCP's goal is to remind individuals that this assertion is no less true when someone not affiliated with SCP passes in front of a camera.

(Written by Ryan Gavaghan and published in the 3-16 March 2004 issue of The L Magazine.)

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