PAW @ 2014 PEN World Voices Festival



For the finale of NY's PEN WorldVoices Festival, PAW is calling for participants to stage a Procession of Confessions. Amidst ongoing revelations about clandestine government surveillance, the Procession of Confessions provides a way to reclaim control of our information – by freely offering it up to whoever may be watching. Now is your chance to publicly flaunt your meta-data, display banal personal details, and reveal the metrics of your misdemeanors in a collective act of exhibitionism. Integrating large-scale puppetry with crowd-sourced sound and live video, this modern-day parade of PENitents will coincide with scattered solo performances worldwide joining in a simultaneous Flash-cloud of confessions. What will you confess?

During the Festival, PAW leads a series of drop-in workshops to construct and animate visual elements for the Procession. Drawing from the infrastructure of surveillance and the dark theater of Communist-era show trials, volunteers will help embody the specter of government overreach as a nest of arachnid eavesdroppers and cyclopean watchers whose video eyes will harvest and webcast the confessions of costumed penitents en route. Even if you cannot attend the workshops or the final procession you can still participate remotely by performing a simultaneous satellite confession on your own, wherever you may be. Don’t wait for a court order! Waive your 4th Amendment rights and come out to join your fellow citizens, as we fully disclose ourselves and our trespasses to the State.


BUILD puppets and other visual elements for the Procession in free drop-in workshops
PERFORM as a puppeteer or Confessor in the Procession
JOIN our Flash-Cloud. Create a data confession on your own, along with countless others worldwide.
SUBMIT an Audio Confession. Add your voice to mix for the Procession soundscape
WATCH the Procession live, or via streaming video from all-seeing camera-eye of the giant Cyclops
DOCUMENT: Share your photos of Confessions you encounter


Join us for drop-in workshops to create giant eavesdropping spiders, a looming surveillance cyclops, confessor costumes, and mobile architecture evoking the complexities of what Ariel Dorfman calls “the sculpture of forboding”.

in free workshops held at the Westbeth Center for the Arts (the former site of Bell Labs) in Greenwich Village. PAW artistic directors Alex Kahn and Sophia Michahelles will share techniques for large-scale lightweight performing objects, including papier-maché, bamboo/PVC armature-building, costuming, and any other tasks that arise each day. Although many jobs are geared toward adult skills, older kids (8 and up) are welcome to come and collaborate with a parent or guardian. Workshop participants will also have the chance to submit an audio confession and create their own personal Confessor costume for the final Procession.

Workshops take place every day except Monday from Wed. April 23 through Saturday May 2. Because of limited space, registration via our online volunteer form is required for all workshops.

Click here to register for workshops. . . .


The Procession of Confessions needs more than 50 performers to puppeteer, animate visual elements, and act as confessors en route. No experience is necessary (one will be provided). There are roles small and large for everyone. To join, respond via our online volunteer form, and our volunteer coordinator will get back to you with more info.

Click here to perform in the Procession . . .


At the same moment the main Procession of Confessions sets off on May 4, hundreds of others will perform satellite Confessions of their own in scattered locations citywide and beyond, extending the scope of the Procession indefinitely. If you can’t take part in the main procession, we encourage you to join our worldwide Flash Cloud of Confessors wherever you may be. Each confession will be unique, but we will all be unified by a common costume and a common purpose.

To take part, first download the instructions for creating your costume and confessional signboard. No special skills or materials are needed, just some posterboard, a photo of yourself, and any internet-connected computer with a printer. Confessor costumes consist of three key elements:

  • The Red Cap – encompasses the traditional Fool’s (or Dunce) cap, the ceremonial capirote of Catholic Penitent Orders, and the red Phrygian cap, an ancient symbol for liberty, used during the Revolutionary War and incorporated into many state flags and federal seals (including the US Senate, US Army, and the State of New York). In essence, it says: though state surveillance may reduce us to fools and criminals, but we retain a thread of our liberty.

  • The Lo-rez Self-portrait Mask – show yourself as the State sees you, reduced to a few points of data, a pixellated version of yourself, yet not yourself.

  • The Signboard Confession and QR Code –  A simple posterboard sign bears you data confession. We define confession very broadly to include any kind of meta-data and banal information that might be the target of digital surveillance. Your signboard confession is your opportunity to offer freely the data and meta-data which the surveillance state takes without permission or disclosure. The true comedy of this data lies in its pure banality. Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s Prism program, for example reveal that the government has been accessing data from Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Your confession might be something as mundane as your last five Google searches, or your recent rentals on Netflix, or a log of the numbers you called. The more banal the data seems the more it reinforces the pernicious and omnivorous nature of surveillance. Your instructions include a printable QR code to let perplexed observers "scan" you, learn more, and submit their own photos of the Procession of Confessions.

The Flash-Cloud coincides with the beginning of the main procession on Sunday May 4 @ 5PM. If possible, perform for 30 minutes, or even longer if you wish. Your performance will be silent, with the QR code and label to offer explanation to bemused or perplexed passers-by. You may wander or stay in one spot, as you see fit. Perhaps, you might choose a symbolically rich location (such as your Public Library, Federal building, or courthouse), or youmight simply perform in your own neighborhood. You may confess as a group, or as a solo act of pentience - it's up to you. For a complete list of DOs and DONTs and FAQs, view or download complete instructions for the Flash-Cloud here.



The soundscape for the Procession will be a compilation of audio confessions. As the Procession moves forward, it will envelope passersby in a cacophany of confessions, as overlapping voices emerge from wireless speakers embedded in various elements.

If you would like to be part of the soundscape for the procession, send us your audio confession. Llet us know via the online volunteer form, then just email us a voice-recording or video (one minute or less, please) to As with the visual confessions, your confession should be a revelation of almost comically banal data and information – the very sort of information that is secretly gathered from us all the time. Lists of phone numbers, Facebook likes, recent purchases, Google searches, are all fodder for the hidden ears of the surveillance state. What will you choose to share?


The main Procession steps off from Cooper Union on the final evening of the PEN World Voices Festival, along a route as yet undisclosed.

However, remote viewers can watch the Procession unfold via the streaming video feed from wireless camera mounted in the eye of the looming Cyclops figure. As the figure bends down to record each confession en route, those confessions – and anything else the all-seeing eye incorporates – will be simulcast to a dedicate URL.

Stay tuned.....


We are eager to compile a record of as many Confessions as possible, either in the Procession itself or in the Flash-Cloud of Confessions happening in scattered locales. If you encounter a Confession you would like to share, email us your photos (indicating where they were taken), or post them on the Procession's Facebook page.



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