Surveillance Camera Players

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The Surveillance Camera Players (SCP) is a small, informal group of people who are unconditionally opposed to the installation and use of video surveillance cameras in public places. The SCP was formed in New York City in November 1996 by two groups of friends/activists: one centered around Michael Carter, the author of the manifesto for The Guerrilla Preprogramming of Video Surveillance Equipment (1995), and the other around Bill Brown, fresh from the Unabomber for President campaign (1996). Both share a strong interest in the theories and actions of the Situationist International, especially its use of scandals, pranks and "detournement" (diverting bland or oppressive materials for subversive purposes).

The SCP's first performance was on 10 December 1996, when the group presented its version of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi on the 100th anniversary of the play's first performance. Texts relevant to this performance —which was interrupted and shut down by the NYPD—plus an announcement of the SCP's upcoming season of performances, were published in Bill's situationist zine, NOT BORED! (#26, November 1996 and #27, May 1997). In July 1998 the group performed for a second time. In the meantime, then-Mayor Giuliani and then-Police Commissioner Howard Safir had begun to install and extol the presence of surveillance cameras in a few public housing developments, subway stations and public parks around the city. And so, the group's third and fourth performances, in November 1998, featured stronger, more relevant material: the SCP's own version of George Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four. The group has been intensely active since then.