Countersurveillance Readymade The Umbrella

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Countersurveillance Readymade

The goal of this performance is to educate its viewers about surveillance and ways to avoid it. The project introduces a Countersurveillance Readymade, in this case an umbrella.
The performance is meant to be a low-quality, low-cost way to illustrate the need for countersurveillance through in-class participation. Feel free to reinact this project in other classrooms or venues.


" (WHILE PASSING OUT PAMPHLETS) I would like to introduce myself. Unfortunately I cannot reveal my real name, but I will call myself Foucault. I am a member of the Guerrilla Counter Surveillance movement. The newly formed group is based out of New York City, where rapidly increasing surveillance is infiltrating the city. These new surveillance technologies threaten our privacy and our personal security. Our goal is to counter-act surveillance using low-quality, low-cost guerilla style techniques.

The group is just starting out, which is why I am here. Today I need to ask for your help with our mission. Being in a class called "Techniques of Surveillance," I'm sure you are aware of the increases in surveillance technology and the government's power to surveil.

I have come to you because I hear that Brown has some of the brightest and most liberal students in the country. I'm asking for your help on our mission. When I am done here, please spread the techniques of counter-surveillance that I am going to share with you today.

As best I can, I would like to express to you what grave danger we are in. You and I are being watched more often then we can imagine. Even at Brown, information about counter-surveillance is becoming increasingly relevant. In the past five years, surveillance cameras at Brown have tripled?the number of surveillance cameras on campus has risen to 180, from just 60 cameras in 2000.

But your university will not share information about the full policy on cameras, a list of camera locations or about how long the footage they record is archived. Right now the campuses claim it is just a scare tactic. But to be honest, I'm concerned when a private entity (Brown is actually a corporation) has full control of a system of surveillance cameras, with no specific guidelines or purpose.

Since the "war on terror," the abuse of power is more frightening in the country as a whole. As of 2005, a video security firm in California estimated that there were 26 million surveillance cameras in the United States generating more than four billion hours of video every week. At this point the footage can be screened for all sorts of characteristics in order to identify individuals. However, these technologies are highly unpredictable and are still inaccurate, meaning that the government could be targeting the wrong people.

Similarly, The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Report reveals that the government made 2,072 secret surveillance requests last year, the highest number ever. Worse though, none of the requests were denied by the Courts! I ask you, where are our checks and balances!

More frightening than the technologies themselves are the lack of laws accompanying them. Unlike the U.K., where CCTV is most prevalent, the U.S. has almost no new legislation to protect its citizens. "Information is power," and therefore our personal information gives power to its owners, in this case, the US government. Putting power in the hands of an unstable democracy gives the government an opportunity to usurp power and revert to a totalitarian state.

SO what can we do to counteract this surveillance? We will never beat the government at their own game. We need to be hackers, we need to revert back to the most basic techniques in order to outsmart the cameras. However, I don't want to run. I don't feel comfortable changing my behavior as a result of my own country's poor excuse for security. We need to go undercover. Literally.

And so I present to you counter-surveillance readymade! (OPEN UMBRELLA DRAMATICALLY) The umbrella! It is easy and cheap to find. I bet most of you already own one. With this counter-surveillance tool, you need not run and hide.

The umbrella is the ultimate form of outdoor counter-surveillance because of it's dual potential. Closed, (CLOSE UMBRELLA) the umbrella is a weapon. With this, you are an aggressor. You can fend off police, break cameras, the works. Opened, (OPEN UMBRELLA) it is a shield. You are protected from the unruly spies.

Now, let me demonstrate how the umbrella can be used to counter many types of cameras. Feel free to reference the diagrams in your pamphlet while I demonstrate. "Eye in the sky" cameras are overhead surveillance cameras. Most often, they are discreetly packaged in semi-spherical globes on ceilings or attached to tall poles. In this case, hold your umbrella directly over your head to block the camera's view. Cameras can also be wall-mounted. In this case, hold your umbrella at relatively the same angle as the camera's line of vision. Most often, this is approximately 45 degrees. May I do a demonstration on your computer? Are there any questions?

Now it is your turn: Please pass on any available information to friends and cohorts. I appreciate your time. Maybe we will meet again."


printable outside printable inside

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