Animal Farm

Between 1 and 1:30 PM on Saturday 22 July 2000, the Surveillance Camera Players (SCP) performed Art Toad's adaptation of George Orwell's novel Animal Farm two times in front of a webcam. Owned and operated by Earthcam, this webcam is one of six operating in the Times Square area of Manhattan in New York City. In the past, the SCP have used Earthcam's cameras #1 and #3 (mostly the latter) to broadcast the group's Times Square performances. For this performance, the SCP used camera #6, though it provides fuzzier images than either #1 or #3.

"Why?" you ask. Because, unlike the others, camera #6 no longer sweeps from one end of Times Square to the other, but is now constantly trained upon 2 of the 500 life-sized, fiberglass cows that have been installed all over New York City as part of an art project called "The Cow Parade." The cows that have been installed in Times Square -- to be specific, on the pedestrian island between 46th and 47th Streets (on the south and north, respectively) and Broadway and Seventh Avenue (on the west and east, respectively) -- are typical of the herd. One has a transparent belly into which has been stuffed a variety of banal consumer goods, while the other is covered with a cityscape that has been made out of pages torn from The New York Times and includes a picture of Lou Reed (?!). None of these consumerist details are visible to Earthcam's webcam, but the viewer of Cow-TV can easily make out the shapes and faces of the people who are -- at all times of day and night -- playing and posing for pictures with one of the two bovine oddities.

Bored and even a little revolted by this over-publicized display of official Dadaism, the SCP decided to "get back at it" by staging Animal Farm in front of and around one of the surveilled cows. Note that others who dislike this pathetic outdoor exhibit of the herd-mentality have vandalized some of the cows. Indeed, the story that has dominated news coverage of "The Cow Parade" in the weeks since its installation has been the creation of a "hospital" in which damaged cows are repaired. According to a report aired the day of the SCP's performances, more than 50 of the cows were being treated for broken ears, holes, graffiti and other defacements, etc. This fact demonstrates well that New Yorkers know exactly what to do when they are confronted by objects that remind them all-too-well of their own status as domesticated creatures. (It is possible that Earthcam changed the direction of webcam #6 so that it could -- in addition to stimulating the web-tourist's imagination of what New York City is like -- assist the police in identifying and prosecuting vandals.)

The members of the SCP -- vandals who, in broad daylight, do damage to the very idea of the cows, rather than attack particular members of the herd when no one is looking -- decided to strike back by performing a silent and abbreviated adaptation of a novel that is both well-known and closely associated with barnyard animals. (There are indeed cows in Orwell's allegory, but they play a very small role.) In the SCP's version of the story, all references to Stalin and the betrayal of the Soviet Revolution of 1917 are dropped and replaced by references to the betrayal of the American Revolution of 1776. Other than that, the SCP's version is fairly faithful to the original, which was published in 1946. In a detail carried over from the original, the defeat of Farmer Jones and the creation of "Animal Farm" (on the land "Manor Farm" used to exist) is, in the SCP version, referred to as a Rebellion, and not a Revolution. Art Toad decided to put off to another day the question of whether referring to the uprising as a Rebellion suggests that a Revolution is not possible or that mere animals are only capable of rebelling and incapable of launching a revolution.

Though nearly a hundred people saw the SCP's two performances of Animal Farm, each of which took about 10 minutes to complete, only a few of them seemed to take notice. "Only in New York!" someone (a tourist, obviously) exclaimed as he tried to get around the performers surrounding the cow and on to the line for discounted tickets to Broadway shows. Unfortunately, the SCP was short of performers that day, and thus could not afford to have someone concentrate on giving out flyers, talking to people and answering questions, as the performances took place.

For these debut performances of Animal Farm, the SCP consisted of Miranda, Susan, Bill and new-comer Gus. No media was in attendance, and no images of the performance were downloaded from the webcam.

Contact the Surveillance Camera Players

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

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