Guten Tag, Deutschland!

[This text will be updated as needed. Last update: 24 December 2001.]

Thanks to the Internet, news of the Surveillance Camera Players' 10 November 1999 performance in front of a section of the Berlin Wall that is displayed as "privately owned" sculpture in midtown Manhattan reached Germany in a timely fashion. The performance was publicized in advance by several German Web sites. As a result, the Surveillance Camera Players came to the attention of a number of people who otherwise would never have known about the group or its performances. Within three months of the SCP's Berlin Wall performance, no less than four reviews of the group were written and posted to German Web sites; one of these reviews was posted by three different Web sites.

So far as we've been able to determine, the reviews were posted in the following order: on 26 November 1999, the AME netNewsletter posted its anonymous Surftip, which was re-posted by both Cool Web (in November 1999) and Unipress (in January 2000); on 29 November 1999, Stern posted the review by Gernot Kramper; in January 2000, Augustin published the review by Hannah Kneucker; and in February 2000, NZZ Folio published the review by Jatzek and Zauner.

But it appears that this last review (the one by Hannah Kneucker) was actually the first to be written, and that it was in fact the basis or inspiration for the other two reviews. Note that both the AME Surftip and Gernot Kramper's review are very short, flippant, roughly the same length and have the same internal structure (there are more cameras in public places; bored security guards in New York get to watch the SCP; snide remark about the SCP). This shared structure is all-too-similar to the structure of Kneucker's long and well-considered review, which also begins with a reference to the proliferation of surveillance cameras in public places, moves on to introduce the SCP, and then offers a bit of criticism ("performing silent theater plays in front of cameras and guard personnel may seem like a very weak method of fighting against the eyes of Big Brother"). But while Kneucker offers criticism that is meant to be constructive, the other two are more concerned with appearing witty. People like Kneucker do the hard work (her review is in part a summarization of the SCP's statement on social transparency); witty bastards find it easier to rely on the hard work of others.

By far the worst of the witty bastards is Gernot Kramper. Despite everything the SCP has said to the contrary, this trendspotter feigns to detect a deeper truth, which is the entirely fabricated notion that the members of the SCP are struggling artists or unemployed actors who have taken to performing in front of surveillance cameras because they are desperate for work, not because they are in fact "ordinary people" who are justifiably alarmed by the steady erosion of the right to privacy in contemporary America. (This same "insight" is implied by Jatzek and Zauner.) Note, by contrast, the accuracy of what Kneucker says: "All of the SCP's activists are volunteers with no acting experience or training."

Has this Kramper ever been to New York? Has he been here recently, since Giuliani took command? Or is he feeding off of some media myth of what the "city of dreams" is like? Note his telling reference to "making it" on "Broadway." Note as well that Kramper is the only one of the German reviewers to mention the SCP's connection to the Situationist International. Were the Situationists also unemployed actors, who played at social revolution because no other roles were available?

As for the other (anonymous) witty bastard, the one who perhaps published the first piece on the SCP in German, there is little to say, that is, other than make a correction. "Waiting for Godot in the Subway Station" isn't in fact one of the plays the group has performed, even though it has performed "Waiting for Godot" in a subway station. In any case, "Waiting Room for Godot" would be a better title.

It was a pleasure to encounter Hannah Kneucker's review and to be able to read an English translation. It is clear that the author knows English well enough to read several texts on the SCP's Web site, including, as we've mentioned, the text on transparency. (She also appears to have read the text on Artaud as well.) In this, she is unique among reporters who have written about the SCP. Except for Hannah, all of these reporters have spoken English as their first language, and yet none of them bothered to read the SCP's theoretical texts, even though they are posted in an easily accessible "public place" (a Web site).

It's important to note that Hannah's remarks on Oakland, California, are somewhat misleading, and that it is the SCP that is "to blame" for the misinformation, not Hannah, for she was simply repeating what she read in SCP texts. It isn't accurate to say that "the American Civil Liberties Union prevented the installation of video surveillance in that city" or that the ACLU argued that surveillance cameras are "only instruments of power for the state." All the ACLU did in Oakland was ask questions. Literally. In the letter it sent to the Oakland City Council, the ACLU used its space to ask a very long series of questions, none of which it answered. The strategy ultimately worked: the Council voted not to install surveillance cameras. But it is important to realize that the ACLU helped obtain this result by implying that if the ACLU couldn't answer the questions it raised, then the Oakland City Council certainly wasn't going to be able to answer them. The ACLU never articulated a clear and detailed position against the cameras, and implied that such a position couldn't in fact be worked out. The only reason surveillance cameras weren't installed in Oakland was that the City Council couldn't articulate a clear and detailed position in favor of them. And so the ACLU's "victory" in Oakland may turn out to be a Pyrric one.

To fill the vacuum left, in June 2000 the SCP drafted a position paper that sets out in detail what the group thinks are the answers to the constitutional questions asked by the ACLU.

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See Viennese TV Gets It Right, Orf, Berlin On-line, Aufbau: Die Deutsche-Judische Zeitung, Der Spiegel Online, Der Spiegel Television, Metronauten, Die Suddeutsche Zeitung, Der Standard, Die Sonntagszeitung, Jetze, Jungle World and Perlentaucher for more German coverage of the SCP.

Contact the New York Surveillance Camera Players

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

Surveillance Camera Players