Performance For Surveillance

performance for surveillance

For roughly 8 years soniCanta has been practicing non-traditional sound journalism in the borderlands, telling stories in new ways and lending an ear to hear what is rarely heard. This work has also been extensively documented in traditional media as well as the work of other artists.

In recent years I've become interested in the observer effect where the act of observation changes the phenomenon being observed. In some cases I was the phenomenon. In other cases the phenomenon was Homeland Security / Border Patrol.

During the last decade, the borderlands have become increasingly peppered with towers, drones, cameras and all manner of observation tools. Not to mention the quintessential stereotype of a lone agent sitting in his/her truck upon a hill with a pair of binoculars watching for something, anything, suspicious --- often in the middle of nowhere.performance for surveillance

And this got me to thinking about how everyone --- both the watchers and the watched ---- are impacted by this mirror game of feedback. How does the act of watching change the behavior of those being watched and vice versa?

But more importantly, what happens when those being watched are performing for the watchers? How accurate are those observations and does that in turn cause the watchers to engage in their own brand of theatrics?

From these and a multitude of other rumblings emerged: Performance for Surveillance ---- a score drafted specifically for the purpose of performing in this age of observation.performance for surveillance

The draft score (pictured on right) was completed over the summer and was finalized, formalized and submitted for copyright earlier this week with the Library of Congress/ United States Copyright Office.

You can get the score plus full soundings and a video HERE.

The work was also performed on 10/10/13 upon the border wall in Sasabe Arizona directly in front of a Homeland Security watchtower.

Subsequent to the performance,  Freedom of Information Act requests were filed with Homeland Security and Border Patrol requesting all video, audio or other documentation pertaining to the work.

As this progresses I'll keep you updated.

Stay tuned and watch what you hear...


10/30/13 UPDATE

Received via email:

Dear Mr. Weyant:

Re:  2014-HQNPPD-00034

 This is in response to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) dated October 15, 2013, and received by this office on October 25, 2013.  You are seeking copies of any/all video/audio/reports made on 10/10/13 between 8:30am-11:30am of performance in the vicinity of the Sasabe Port of Entry in Arizona. 

 Upon initial review of your request, I have determined that the information you are seeking is under the purview of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  Therefore, we have transferred your request to their office at the below address.

 U.S. Customs and Border Protection
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC  20229


ROCHELLE CARPENTER                                     


11/18/13 UPDATE

Received FOIA request answer via email from Department of Homeland Security but this time they pasted boilerplate at the bottom which states the correspondence with them via email is apparently FOUO -- "For Official Use Only" or more likely "Fuck Off Use Only."

But to sum up: Information about requests for files regarding zebra-masked, border wall playing cellists performing directly in front of a multi-billion dollar observation tower is strictly on a "need-to-know" basis and must be vetted by an authorized DHS official before being released to the public.

And of course there is no information regarding who the authorized DHS official is or how to contact him/her.

So, the performance continues...

Stay tuned.

12/05/13 UPDATE Appeal Filed

Freedom of Information Act Appeal: Act Two of Performance for Surveillance

Associate General Counsel (General Law)
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528

Re: Freedom of Information Act Appeal

Dear: This is an appeal under the Freedom of Information Act.

On October 15 2013 (certified mail stamp/not on initial letter), I requested documents under the Freedom of Information Act. I was notified via two separate email my request was assigned the following identification numbers: 2014-HQNPPD-00034 and CRCL 14-007.

On November 18, 2013, I received a response to my request via email from Fernando Pineiro Jr., FOIA Officer/Records Liaison, Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Department of Homeland Security.

I appeal the denial of my request.  A copy of my FOIA request and the agency determination which is the subject of this appeal is attached for your convenience.

The information that was withheld/ was said to not exist directly contradicts verbal information conveyed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in the field in the vicinity of the FOIA location as noted in the original letter. This information has been conveyed on numerous occasions regarding observation and documentation. This leads to either of three basic conclusions which this appeal seeks to clarify as detailed in the score: Performance for Surveillance (see attached).

1) U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents are intentionally misinforming the public in the field about their operations in the area re: surveillance as detailed in the original FOIA letter;

2) U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in the field are not intentionally misinforming the public about their surveillance practices but are rather misinformed themselves regarding the capabilities, etc.;

3) The information requested exists but is being withheld and this appeal requests a reexamination of the initial request and release of the information according to FOIA guidelines.

I have also included a telephone number at which I can be contacted during the hours of 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Baja Arizona Time, if necessary, to discuss any aspect of my appeal.

Thank you for your consideration of this appeal.


Glenn Weyant


12/14/13 UPDATE Appeal Delivered

foia appeal delivered


1/09/14 Appeal Update

Today received a DHS email essentially stating the FOIA request previously denied is still open and should be completed by December 6, 2013. Am fairly certain this expired deadline and notice means the appeal is now being considered. 

Details as this progresses through DHS can be found via the following link:

foia image


2/10/14 Copyright Update

Today received a notice from the Library of Congress United States Copyright Office stating Performance for Surveillance has been issued an official copyright and registration number. 

No word yet on the DHS FOIA request. So the performance continues...

perfromance for surveillance



11/07/14 Appeal Update

Today saw that the FOIA request appeal is moving ahead from "Submitted" to "Evaluation" and now "Assignment."

Wadd'ya know.

I'd love to be wrong about this.

The wheels are slow but they seem to be turning.

Now let's see where it takes us.

foia 11_6_14 perf for surv

12/17/14 Appeal Update

Performance For Surveillance took yet another turn into ouroboros absurdity with the latest U.S. Customs and Border Protection email.

In a nutshell, after roughly a year of evaluation, the Freedom of Information Act appeal was denied by CBP because it is a "duplicate of an earlier FOIA request."

The duplicate case is apparently CBP-2014-008171, which according to their on-line database does not exist.

The most recent communication notes CBP-2014-008171 is being processed. But that does not explain why the FOIA request was intially denied and the duplicates existence was only noted during the appeal process.

In other words, the initial FOIA request --- which was denied ---  is upon reflection a duplicate of a FOIA request that does not exist.

And if it does exist, the duplicate file they reference was created in 2014 while the initial FOIA request was filed in 2013.

You can look for the file yourself via this search link:

If you do find it, any information would be appreciated. But my take is something ain't right.

I'd contact Sharon Deshield, U.S. Customs and Border Protection directly to find out the status and try to learn more, but not only did she not include any contact information with her communication, but she doesn't even seem to have a title. 

Anyway, more than a year since the initial notes were played on 10/10/13 and the FOIA request was mailed in, Performance for Surveillance continues on...

foia Sharon Deshield CBP


 12/29/14 Third Act : Appeal the Appeal

Roughly one year since it began, Performance For Surveillance took a new turn with the letter below from U.S. Customs and Border Protection which I think reiterates the original finding and suggests I appeal the appeal if I find the findings of the appeal to be unappealing. 

And so it goes....again...

foia appeal letter cbp