We are thrilled to address you, our comrades in the Arizona SCP, for you are a dream come true. You are the very first people to heed our call (issued almost two years ago) to form a group that performs in front of surveillance cameras installed in public places and calls itself "The Surveillance Camera Players." We welcome you as we would a new brother or sister. We hope your arrival heralds many more for this family without parents. -- A special message from the New York Surveillance Camera Players.
1. Between 12:40 pm and 1:30 pm on Wednesday, 28 February 2001, the "Theatre for Social Change" class at Arizona State University concluded its study of the [New York] Surveillance Camera Players by performing twice in front of surveillance cameras on Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. The first performance was in front of the city's web cam, which for some reason is pointed at a Starbuck's. The second performance was in front of a security camera that watches a public sidewalk located behind Chase-Manhattan's corporate offices. Security became alerted to the group's presence, and the performance was cut short about 30 seconds.
Instructor Charles Banaszewski along with his students created a three-part performance for these occasions. The performance started with a poster-board performance protesting the proliferation of reality-based television programs, which encourage the proliferation of surveillance cameras in public places. The second part portrayed a modified version of the [New York] SCP's Headline News, which proclaimed We're watching you watch us, included Sports and was sponsored by CBS, Pepsi and MasterCard. The third part was a dramatic performance (by JT, Edward, and Jennifer) protesting Tempe's strict loitering rules on Mill Ave., the message of which is If you're not here to eat or shop, you should leave, otherwise you will be fined heavily.
2. At noon on Sunday, 6 May 2001, the Arizona SCP once again performed on Mill Avenue, directly in front of the web cam operated by the City of Tempe, Arizona. As before, the performance protested against anti-loitering laws on Mill Avenue and against reality-based TV shows, which encourage the proliferation of surveillance cameras in public places. The following pictures are available: the performance is about to begin; checking by cell phone to see how it looks; talking to a passerby.
3. At 8 pm on Sunday, 6 May 2001, the Arizona SCP performed in front of webcams that have been installed in two local bars. The following pictures are available: before the start of the performance; Big Brother is watching you; this webcam is transmission without permission; and standing at the pool table. This broadcast sponsored by CBS.
4. At 11 am and then again at 7 pm on Wednesday, 4 July (Independence Day) 2001, the Arizona SCP returned to Mill Avenue, handed out flyers and performed directly in front of the web cam operated by the City of Tempe, Arizona. One of the subjects of these performances was Joe Arpaio, the Phoenix-based Sheriff of Maricopa County, who has set up a blatantly unconstitutional webcam inside the county jail. The following pictures are available of the first performance: You are being watched; the banner of the Arizona SCP, which sets itself against Joe A, who is wrong and being watched because of it; and explaining it to a passer-by. Of the second performance, there are the following pictures: the performance seen from afar; and the man in the crowd.
5. At 3:30 pm on Sunday 8 July 2001, the Arizona SCP returned to Mill Avenue, handed out flyers, and performed for the City of Tempe's unconstitutional webcam. The group got several by-standers involved in the performance. After re-setting things, the group then sat down and stayed sitting to protest against the City's "no sitting" laws. The group also talked politics with passers-by.
6. At 11 am on Saturday 11 August 2001, the Arizona SCP debuted a brand-new play in front of the City of Tempe's unconstitutional webcam on Mill Avenue. Entitled AZSCP TV, and written by Chuck, the new play focuses on "reality-based" television shows and the role they play in acclimating people to the constant video surveillance of daily life, so much so, in fact, that people end up desiring what they would otherwise reject outright. Implicated by name in this process are Boot Camp, the Weakest Link, Survivor, Blind Date, Inside Edition, Real TV, The Real World, web cams that operate in bars and Sheriff Joe Arpaio's infamous jail cam. On two occasions, private security guards from Centerpoint came out and tried to stop the performance; they also tried to stop Chuck from handing out AZSCP flyers and talking to people. When told the guards were going to call the police, Chuck did the only sensible thing: he told them to go ahead and call the police! The performance went on, uninterrupted, for another 15 minutes, that is, until the webcam changed position. The police never came!
7. At 10 am on Friday 7 September 2001, the AZ SCP performed in front of the City of Tempe's unconstitutional webcam on Mill Avenue as part of 7s01 an international day against video surveillance. For this special occasion, the AZ SCP performed AZSCP and a brand-new play entitled Don't worry, you'll still be allowed to shop! Though T.E.A.M. Security attempted to stop the performance, the AZ SCP simply laughed at them, picked up our video camera and said "Go ahead and try." They didn't do a damn thing because they know they have no power. The cops were there, but they just enjoyed the show and left when the AZ SCP decided to. The following pictures are available: the biggest SCP banner you've ever seen; the AZ SCP takes on Sheriff Joe Arpaio a couple of times; you are being watched!
8. At 11:30 am on Saturday 20 October 2001, the AZ SCP once again performed directly in front of the unconstitutional web cam operated on Mill Avenue by the City of Tempe, Arizona. One of the primary subjects of this performance -- entitled AZSCP vs. Joe A -- was Joe Arpaio, the Phoenix-based Sheriff of Maricopa County, who has also put a webcam inside the county jail. The following pictures are available: AZSCP vs. Joe A; you are being watched; we watch you watch us.
9. At 3:50 pm on Saturday 12 January 2002, the AZ SCP debuted a new play entitled Hi Mom in front of the unconstitutional web cam operated on Mill Avenue by the City of Tempe, Arizona. The following pictures are available: Hi Mom; Big Brother is Watching; and Hey Joe: We Watch You Watch Us.
10. At 4 pm on Thursday 21 March 2002, the AZ SCP debuted yet another new play in front of the unconstitutional web cam operated on Mill Avenue by the City of Tempe, Arizona. Entitled Got Change? Got Change? this new play was written and staged in response to Tempe's pro-gentrification laws, which encourage shop owners to call the police if a person asks for change more than once ("aggressive panhandling"). The following pictures are available: we are the AZ SCP; pointing to the camera; and got change?
11. On Wednesday 20 November 2002, the AZ SCP debuted yet another new play (wow!) in front of the 6th Avenue webcam on Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Entitled The Universal Protest Sign, it features a single, entirely blank placard. Here's Chuck's report:
The reaction was more than my wildest dreams could have imagined. It started out as a one-dimensional protest that turned into a multi-dimensional performance between artist/activist and spectator. Performance-wise it was a mixture of AZSCP meets Augusto Boal's "invisible theatre" meets guerilla theatre meets Candid Camera.
Here is what I did. For some this will be like blah, but for Matt and I it was really stimulating. I have been trying to think of something different to do for some time and I was looking at my blank cardboard trying to come up with something I wanted to address, and then it came to me. In Tempe, we have a lot of laws that take away people's rights to assemble and freedom of speech, not to mention the 4th Amendment. For example, you can't sit on the sidewalk, you can't ask someone for change more than once, you cannot hand out flyers in certain areas, and you can't stand with a sign in certain "public-like" areas that are really privately owned. So I'm thinking, "why not hold up a blank sign to see if the T.E.A.M. security people will kick me off the property like they usually do?" So I am going to address the camera by standing in front of the brickyard 6th street camera, address freedom of speech, and the right to assemble and see what happens.
So I go down there and do it and it was amazing. Peoples' reactions ranged from fear, to laughing, to giving me a hard time for holding up a blank sign, to asking what's my point, what am I trying to say and my response was "what do you think it says?" Then people starting coming up with all kinds of ideas and occasionally I would say things like "Isn't it refreshing I'm not trying to sell you something?" or "You would read into it if it had words" or "Why does it have to say something?" or "Is it a sign? -- it looks like a piece of cardboard to me!" or "Silence is not neutral."
All of sudden, my simple protest was becoming layered, with "new" meanings depending on the audience member's perspective. Some knew there was a surveillance camera watching them; others were concerned about capitalism or the right to stand where we want; for others the meaning was censorship, or being creative and thinking outside the box; some thought, "This guy is an idiot or a jerk." Future performances will include multiple blank signs and blank flyers.
The following pictures are available: hey! that's cool; explaining it; explaining it to a police officer.
12. On Thursday 21 November 2002 -- as part of "The festival for the arts" -- the AZ SCP once again performed The Universal Protest Sign on Mill Avenue. During the 1.5 hours Chuck stood in front of the webcam, holding aloft the blank placard, he related the conversations he's had, taking both sides of the dialogue himself:
this Person said: What's your sign say?
I said: Is it a sign?
this Person said: Well, it's a piece of cardboard.
I said: Does it say anything to you?
this Person said: Ummm. . . . No, nothing.
I said: That's too bad.
Chuck's "rap" also including the following monologue: "One person came up to me and asked me if this was about recycling or the homeless. Another said to me, 'Man, it is really refreshing that you are not trying to sell us something.' Another asked, 'Is this about the 1st Amendment or the right to assemble or the governement-sponsored camera watching us on the top of that building right there?' I said to someone else, 'You know, silence is not neutral. There is something in nothing if you want there to be. So does it say anything to you now?' In answer to this question, some people said really cool things; others said 'No, it doesn't say anything to me.' When they said this, I would reply, 'Well, that doesn't suprise me because most people today have nothing to say.'"
The following pictures are available: standing there alone; waiting to have a conversation; another conversation; and another.
13. At 10:30 am on Sunday 8 December 2002, the AZ SCP once again performed The Universal Protest Sign in front of the webcam on Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. The following pictures are available: talking; conversing; discussing.
14. At 10:30 am on Friday the 13th of December 2002, the AZ SCP once again (!) performed The Universal Protest Sign in front of the webcam on Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. The following pictures are available: standing there, waiting; talking; enjoying the sunshine.
15. At 10:30 am on Sunday 23 February 2003, the AZ SCP debuted a new play, one entitled People Protect People, which was performed in front of the webcam on Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. The following pictures are available: people protect people.
16. At 10:30 am on Saturday 29 March 2003 (during the "Tempe Art Festival"), the AZ SCP debuted (yet another!) new play, one entitled Act Normal, in front of the webcam on Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. According to Chuck,
Everything was going great until about 45 minutes into the protest, when I was approached by one of the corporate Centerpoint people. He asked me to keep moving so I began walk around him in a circle with my sign to carry out his order. Then they sent his boss over who wanted to tell me to leave, but I told them both that they were trying to surpress my First Amendment rights. The boss said that I was "out of there." In the meantime, people were taking pictures and a crowd was gathering. And then the always-dependable T.E.A.M security guys came over to try to remove me from the area. Nathan was the name of one of them -- he showed me a prosecutor's badge (I guess police work isn't paying that much these days) -- and he threatened to have me arrested on a misdemeanor charge. I said "Fine, it's not a felony, so I don't really care." I told him to go ahead and call the cops. He did, but they didn't come. After five minutes' of arguing, I decided to leave because the show was over; all people were seeing were two people arguing with each other. I went and found a police officer and we talked about rights and laws. At the same time, I held the Act Normal sign facing traffic. It was quite humorous: people beeped their horns as they went by.
The following pictures are available: the play starts; some passers-by join in; some guy from T.E.A.M. security shows up and won't go away.
After this incident, Chuck fired off a letter to the city government, which operates the webcam in question (and thus systematically violates the Fourth Amendment).
I stood in front of your camera today, 3/29/03, hoping to get my picture taken (just like you want us to), which I did but for some reason T.E.A.M. security, especially someone named "Nathan" demanded that I leave (he flashed a stupid badge, which he knows he shouldn't do but did anyway because he wanted to scare me and because intellectually he couldn't deal with the issue at hand). I told him to call the cops, which he did, but they didn't show up and I left on my own with a little "push" from "Nathan."
This security "team" must know not to touch people who are not presenting them with a physical threat. I don't think "Nathan" wants to be sued by the ACLU over his ten-dollar-an-hour job. But just so that it is "on the record," I'm telling you that I'm contacting the ACLU about the incident.
Make up your mind, Tempe! You want people to be photographed by your web camera, but you don't want them to use it to say something. I stood there and held up a sign that said "Act Normal." What's wrong with that? It's no more offensive than "Fresh Lemonade." It's you, the City of Tempe, that violates our Fourth Amendment rights. TEAM security and that godawful corporation to which you sold Mill Avenue viotates our First Amendment rights.
You know what the sad thing is? It's the fact that you all think you're doing the right thing, which you're not.
17. At 4 pm on Thursday 11 September 2003 (the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks), the group debuted yet another new play. The initials in the play's title, S.O.S., might stand for "Safe Our Ship" or "Same Old Shit." Standing in front of the infamous government webcam on Mill Avenue, and holding up a sign, Chuck asked, "What does SOS mean? What does 'help' mean?" After about 15 minutes, two security guards showed up, followed by a police officer on a bicycle.
18. On Christmas Day 2003, the group debuted yet another new play (wow)! Entitled Made in China, it was performed on Mill Avenue, in front of Tempe's new and "improved" "Sneaky Peek" webcam. Merry Christmas, Shoppers!.
19. On 3 April 2004, the group once again debuted a new play. Entitled The Protestor Mirror, it was performed on Mill Avenue, in front of Tempe's infamous government webcam on Mill Avenue, during the city's annual art festival. Wearing a T-shirt bearing the word "Protestor," Chuck held up an "empty" golden picture frame. When asked, "What are you protesting?" Chuck replied, "I protest a lot of things, such as people who violate our 1st Amendment and 4th amendment rights; people who don't recycle; and those surveillance cameras up there." Then Chuck asked, "What would you protest against?" He received tons of responses, including "abortion," "George W. Bush," "the war" and "I don't know." Keeping the dialogue going, Chuck asked, "In what ways do or would you go about protesting that issue?" Once again, he received a great many responses. The play or, rather, each dialogue in it ended with Chuck thanking the actors and wishing them a great day.
20. On 23 April 2004, the group once again performed The Protestor Mirror, this time in front of a surveillance camera on the campus of Arizona State University. There was some excellent press, which published a good picture of the performance.
21. On 27 May 2004, the group performed an expanded version of The Protestor Mirror in front of surveillance cameras operated by Centerpoint in Tempe, Arizona. The following pictures are available: mirror, mirror; friend; act normal; the universal protest sign; behave; SOS; and people.
Goodies: $10 (postage included) for a copy a videotape of the AZ SCP in action; and $12 (postage included) for a T-shirt that bears the Arizona SCP's logo on the front and the back. See contact information (below) to order either item.
Press coverage: Chuck and Sonya of the AZ SCP were interviewed on Arizona State University's radio station at 8:30 am on 26 April 2001. In regards the 7s01 day of action, Chuck was interviewed for and quoted in Reason, the ASU newspaper The State Press, The Phoenix New Times and The Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Newsletter. In October 2002, the AZ SCP was mentioned in an article that appeared in Shade Magazine. On 10 March 2003, the group was written up by The East Valley Tribune. On 28-30 April 2004, the group was the focus of an excellent pair of articles in The State Press about cameras at ASU.
Miscellaneous photographs: The phrase AZ SCP visible on the monitor of a food check-out scanner at Fry's Supermarket, Rural Rd and Southern Ave, Tempe, AZ. Hi, Mom! You are being watched.
Contact the Arizona Surveillance Camera Players
By e-mail Arizona SCP
By snail mail: Charles D. Banaszewski, Department of Theatre, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-2002.
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