Theater

Rien à cacher

Collectif Rien à cacher

We awakened our instinct for liberation

Based on archives, conferences, rigorous research, and interviews with surveillance specialists, the Rien à cacher collective offers a documentary theatre performance in the BAnQ Vieux-Montréal Reading Room on the subject of data collection and concerns brought about by big data.

Story

WE FREE OURSELVES

As the performance ends we are left feeling shattered, torn into a thousand small pieces of doubt – overwhelmed, crippled by a thousand questions. We leave the magnificent consultation room of Montreal’s archives on Viger Avenue, with its elegant white columns, old-fashioned corridors and the intimate glow of its lamps, convinced we have experienced a rare moment of truth. We take to the street wishing we could tell every Montrealer we cross paths with how little they know of what is happening when they consult their tablets, computers and smartphones. “Big Brother is a joke, compared to this,” says a spectator who brags about having no more than a hundred Facebook friends. He’s perfectly right. We haven’t noticed how far beyond that we have come. During the forty minutes of the presentation, four performers circled around us as they recited disturbing discoveries, modern tales, horrifying stories of electronic surveillance.

Among them, a Canadian musician and journalist who was refused entry into the United States following an examination of his personal e-mails by border patrol, which revealed a small fee paid for a concert. Though the payment was indeed illegal, the refusal was most likely based on an anti-Obama article he had written in the past. There is also the Catalan family suspected for the Boston attack, presumably because of their simultaneous online shopping for pressure cookers and backpacks, two items used by the terrorists (1). Not to mention a foray into Facebook’s underpinnings where we discover a secondary profile behind the one displayed to our hundreds of friends; a profile that compiles our tastes, our acquaintances and our interests. A profile designed for advertisers. “My name, my pictures and my content can be sold without any compensation. I am sold for money, not a dime of which I’ll ever see,” says Marilou Craft. One day an eco-friendly toothbrush advertisement appeared on Marilou’s screen, perfectly aligned with her values, even though she had never searched for such a product. More stories abound of political and commercial espionage happily joining forces; stories about how our lives are manipulated without our consent.

At the exit, the non-profit École de sécurité numérique (2) offers useful tips to avoid being tracked every moment of the day, advice we eagerly accept. We fear running out of the time and the courage it takes to break free, though we desperately want to free ourselves from these invisible, ruthless forces. And so we take to the sidewalk on an autumn evening in Montreal, convinced of the need to end this impending doom.

  1. www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/01/new-york-police-terrorism-pressure-cooker
  2. www.esn514.net

Utopia

One of these days we will tell the story of how we got ensnared in a trap, caught in a net, the story of how we became addicts and junkies. We’ll reveal how we used to browse through our aluminum-zinc-lithium-petroleum-based boxes of light over twenty times a day, on every street corner and during every break; during red lights and subway rides; even while waiting at the dentist. We’ll recount how we were perfectly aware of the insanity of the situation, but were incapable of doing any different, how completely estranged we felt from the world, our perspectives and our desires stifled. How our screens became our entire world, rather than the world being reflected through our screens. 

One of these days we’ll learn not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We’ll be capable of praising the Web as a space from which powerful social movements emerge, where there are novel artistic expressions, revelations essential to democracy, as well as an indispensable sense of solidarity, all while remaining critical of our addiction to tools, objects and our aluminum-zinc-lithium-petroleum-based boxes of light.

One of these days we’ll tell the story of how the ultimate trap lays not in the conscious alienation, but rather in the fact that we were initially unaware, blithely hurtling through a seemingly impetuous and obscure world that science fiction had no reason to envy. We’ll cry out in horror about how our finite world had been dominated by Big Brother, about how our rectangular light boxes became our worst enemies, allowing major brands and data collecting agencies to follow our every trace, compile our data, anticipate our desires, and ended up reshaping our minds to fit their own self-serving mould.

We will share our stories.

Our stories will belong to the past because we will have attempted to turn the tide. Because we will have decided to break free from this invisible cycle with each passing day.

Because WE WANT.

We want to reclaim the city, our impulses, our moods, our desires. We want to prevent advertisers from lawfully lodging themselves into our cortex and gaining access to our emotions. We promise to control our narcissistic impulses on social media, the public display of our preferences and the strange, sterile need for transparency that drives us.

We want to navigate through the city in a free, graceful and creative manner.

We want to renounce the constant geo-location. We want to be free to roam without the pressure of having to visit THIS or buy THAT. We want our wanderings to be free from suspicion and endless analysis.

We want to learn from those among us who are already fighting against this fatal stranglehold (1).

We want to read, to understand, to try and to share everything that enables us to move farther away from this merciless surveillance. We want the city to become a welcoming home and an adventure playground, rather than a space where one is measured, spied upon and taken apart.   

We are Montreal.
We want to bring forth the future, today.

 
(1) To achieve this, visit the exceptional École de sécurité numérique 514 website.


Traces

Rien à cacher and Digital Security

Workshop presented by École de sécurité numérique 514 

During this POSSIBLE, after the performance ESN514 instructors were on hand to answer questions about protecting privacy and data. They offered help to those who wanted to take initial steps to enhance computer and telephone security.

The workshop focused on:

Verrouiller sa carte SIM et son écran d'accueil
Modifier des paramètres de réseau
Faire le ménage de ses applications
Installer des applications alternatives

ID card

Collectif Rien à cacher

Collectif Rien à cacher

While creating the ishow, a performance mediated by technology, three members of the collective (Dominique Leclerc, Patrice Charbonneau-Brunelle and François Édouard Bernier) became fascinated by the “quantified self”, the digital prints we all leave behind on the web. Marilou Craft, dramaturg and law student, joined them to work on a new creation on this subject. Around the same time, in the media, whistleblower Edward Snowden kept revealing consistently troubling information on the massive data collection operated by governments and private companies alike. The four artists felt the urge to link those revelations to their work in order to explore the risks now menacing privacy. Rien à cacher is the result of their work. A first version of the project was read at the Jamais Lu festival in April 2016.

Share

Co-production and co-diffusion

Théâtre Aux Écuries
LA SERRE – arts vivants

Thanks

Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec
ESN 514

Credits for the piece

Creation Dominique Leclerc, Patrice Charbonneau-Brunelle, François Édouard Bernier du Collectif Rien à cacher et Gabriel De Santis-Caron
Dramaturgy Marilou Craft

Video

Director and Editor Joël Morin-Ben Abdallah; 
Camera Isabelle Stachtchenko, Charlie Marois, Joël Morin-Ben Abdallah;
Sound Sophie Bédard Marcotte, Joël Morin-Ben Abdallah;
Filming was made possible thanks to the equipment provided by ON EST 10, solidarity co-op

Photos

Event Chloé Larivière
Portrait Collectif Rien à cacher Ⓒ David Ospina

Follow the Alternate Routes

Use headphones