For the past month tenants in the Flat Iron Building have been trying unsuccessfully to meet with Bob Berger, owner, over the installation of Internet cameras in the common areas of the building and outside on the street. Finally he's come clean. As he said in your article [July 13], his plan is to put the Flat Iron on the Web "around the world, around the clock" via the Internet, all to accommodate his desire to launch his new sitcom. From his interview it's clear he not only plans on spying on the artists and tenants, but also on profiteering from our lives. Though he claims in a Chicago Tribune article that he "knows what is best for the artists," there are others who think otherwise. They oppose the plans for the "little brother" atmosphere in the building.
Even with the threat of eviction hanging over our heads, many of us did speak out around this invasion of privacy and the security issues. Tenants said they would allow cameras if they were on a consensual basis. We took a principled stand opposing these nonconsensual cameras. We are not just thinking of ourselves, but we were also thinking of the broader implications of this sort of Internet monitoring.
More and more, the government, corporations, and now landlords are out to snoop into people's private lives, and some are trying to make a fast buck in the process. Bob Berger may own the building but he does not own our lives or the art that is created here. He does not have the right to subject us to increased security problems, especially for women, and he doesn't have the right to pimp off people's lives for his own personal gain. To the Bob Bergers of the world we would say, "Get your own life!"
As of July 15, only one tenant, RCP Publications' PR office, has been given an eviction notice. This office distributes revolutionary literature and promotes the positions of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Wielding this eviction like a club, Berger has tried to shut people up and chill out any opposition to his plans. He claims RCP Publications people are not artists and he needs the space. It seems Berger has a selective memory about the publications office being involved in art. He seems to have forgotten the very successful Nepal Art Show held in the ATC Space or the many International Women's Day art shows and Around the Coyote events they have participated in.
For many people in the building this was the first time we have come together to discuss common issues and to voice an opinion. God forbid we should have a mind of our own and disagree with "those who know best" for us. As one artist said at the end of a press tour through the Flat Iron, "It's ironic that in a building where free thinking, alternative lifestyles, and art are supposed to flourish, that at the first sign of dissent people get evicted." No, there probably won't be, as your article points out, a part in Bob Berger's sitcom for Jessie Davis, RCP Pubs' office manager. But as his plans pro-ceed, there will be many parts for people to play in opposing the cameras.
of the Flat Iron Building