The Surveillance Diaries

In June 2018 I performed two versions of my sound and text piece, The Surveillance Diaries. The first performance took place at The Smokehouse in Ipswich, followed by a performance at Toynbee Studios for Steakhouse Live

Drawing on my own experiences and source materials – sporadic notes and diaries made during the period 2000 to 2004 – I performed a live soundscape [using the Innalog modular synth, a reel-to-reel tape machine and microphone] reimagining the impact of the intense surveillance and state infiltration on the direct action protest movement of that era.

The piece opens with a reading from my personal diaries at a time when I was involved in anarchist activist circles, attending protests, engaging in direct actions and helping run a squatted infoshop and community space in north London. We were openly under state surveillance. The reading is recorded live onto reel-to-reel, the ‘tape’ being a signal of someone ‘listening in’. The audience becomes aware this has happened only when the tape is audibly rewound, causing my words be played backwards at high speed, unrecognisable, high-pitched, scrambled. I then press play on the tape machine. I take my seat, and, while my words are being replayed, begin to manipulate another pre-recorded version with a granular spectral processor and a sampler, which is then layered over the top – looping, glitching, stuttering, ommitting; random moments broken down to their constituent parts and held in the air: frozen, fragmented and dissolved. The resulting soundscape reimagines the context-less snatches that officers from units such as the Special Demonstration Squad (known as ‘Spycops’) would later attempt to incorrectly piece together, as well as giving the audience a glimpse into the firsthand effects of these invasions of privacy and personal space.

Photos: Greg Goodale

328_Steakhouse Live 13 by Greg Goodale