Spies like you: Join a game of surveillance at Brooklyn Museum

Spies like you: Join a game of surveillance at Brooklyn Museum
Benno Tobler

Private eyes are watching you!

An interactive theater experience will turn visitors to the Brooklyn Museum into secret agents, teaching them the ins and outs of surveillance as they creep among the antiquities of the museum’s Egyptian Wing. But it is not all fun and games: “Top Secret International,” which debuts on Jan. 5, is designed to showcase the horror of having the government see your every move — something anyone on the Internet has already experienced, said one of the show’s creators.

“You’re part of it and that reflects the situation we are in — you can’t step out of it,” said Helgard Haug, who created the show along with two other members of the German collective Rimini Protokoll. “You can’t deny it and you can’t get out of it, and that’s something that people really experience.”

Each participant in the show will receive a small “notebook” that contains a hidden smartphone, which will track their movements and download important files. They will also strap on earphones, which will play excerpts of interviews about the benefits and dangers of surveillance from members of the National Security Agency, the Israeli ambassador, and whistle-blowers concerned about privacy. Haug and the rest of her team collected these interviews especially for the show.

As guests progress through the 90-minute game, various secret missions will appear on their disguised smartphones. For instance, a guest might have to establish a special signal in order to connect with a fellow spy and receive an important file. Another mission will synchronize the players to create a flash mob-like moment, according to Helgard.

Participants in the game will be mixed with regular museum patrons, adding an extra challenge to the missions, said Haug.

“There’s a normal visitor group as well,” she said. “There’s many people around and you don’t know who is an actor and who happens to be there.”

At the end of the show, each spy will receive a report of their activity, as recorded by their all-seeing electronic devices. There is no prize for completing the mission, but Haug hopes the experience will lead to more conversations about the practice — and the necessity — of collecting intelligence.

“There’s no easy solution, we can’t say let’s disconnect, let’s close intelligence,” she said. “If we close CIA, though it’s the wish of some people, you can’t do it.”

“Top Secret International (State 1)” at Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Pkwy. at Washington Avenue in Prospect Heights). Jan. 5–8 and 11–15, every 30 minutes from 1–4 pm (4–7 pm on Thursdays). $25.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Getting ahead in the game: The “Top Secret International” spy game coming to Brooklyn Museum on Jan. 5 had its debut in the pictured museum in Munich, Germany in December.
Benno Tobler

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