It was winter and I was working full-time as a cold-caller at a dank call centre on an industrial estate when I received a message from Barclaycard to say that there had been a missed payment on my account and that I would be charged a hefty fine. I had in fact already made this payment and so the fine had occurred as a result of a technical error on their part. I knew that after spending all my daylight hours on the phone - mostly on-hold - for my work, I would now have to go and spend precious hours of free time when I got home on hold to Barclaycard, too, to try and get them to rectify their own mistake. The prospect of the call, and of being stuck on-hold instead of doing the things I had planned on doing, hung over me for the rest of the day.
When I got home, after some procrastination, I called Barclaycard. As expected, I was put on hold. 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes passed. I was intermittently played a recorded message:
At Barclaycard, your call is important to us. Please continue to hold and a customer service representative will be with you shortly.
10, 20 minutes passed again, all the while,
Your call is important to us…
I chuckled to myself – being told that my call (and by implication, I) was important to Barclaycard via a recorded message on perpetual repeat was ironic and a contradiction. Whilst hanging on the line, I imagined how a behemoth corporation like Barclaycard could make me actually believe that my call was important to them, whilst leaving me on-hold. I realised that if a human was saying it to me, directly and as an individual, it might seem more authentic. I tried to calculate the logistics of this – of employing people specifically to keep you company whilst you were on hold. I laughed at the complete impracticality of doing so in practice. Anyway, the fact that they were being paid and scripted would make it seem inauthentic. Whoever was on the line would have to actually seem to want to accompany you whilst you were on-hold. They would have to really care. And then it occurred to me, how amazing would it be if, when someone like me was calling in to Barclaycard, say, or Talk Talk, or the HMRC, instead of the usual on-hold, on-loop, time-hijacking you were dreading, your recorded message was interrupted and you found yourself on the line to me, saying:
Hello, I'm Lisa and I'm here to keep you company whilst you're on hold...
I laughed at the absurdity of the idea, and then fell in love with it.
Please Hold With Me would find me embedded within one of the behemoth corporations we are dependent upon and so, beholden to, to go about our day to day lives. For a week or two, I would be there full-time. When callers called in, sometimes they would find themselves on the phone with me, keeping them company whilst they were on-hold. The end result would be a radio piece constructed from the results.
There would be four rules for our phone conversations:
Will people be chatty and playful, or confused, bewildered, annoyed at being 'forced' to interact with me? Will there be awkward, long silences? Will people revel in the notion that their call will be recorded and disseminated? Will they tell me - the faceless stranger - secrets they'd otherwise never say? Will, at a critical moment, the caller be bumped through to the customer service operator?
Regardless, the possibilities are limitless and unpredictable and any outcome will likely yield raw, frenetic, and quite possibly funny results. Even 'unsuccessful' interactions would be intriguing. The radio piece would take the listener on a gripping journey - not knowing when or where the scenario would take us next and yet embracing the inbuilt dramatic suspense/tension of always knowing that a caller could be bumped from the call to the customer service operator at any moment. The sound textures of phone calls and a call centre - ring tones, recorded messages, looped music, the murmur of other call centre operators in the background - would also be embraced. It would be a portrait of what happens when our expectations of on-hold situations are subverted, and when the impenetrable nature of corporations suddenly, for a moment, seem penetrable and malleable – human.
Whilst perhaps there would be earnest and raw conversation, I imagine that the overall result might be humorous – at least for the listener, and quite possibly at my own expense.
I have spent much time thinking about routes in to making this project logistically possible whilst maintaining its integrity and purpose, and in this regard, I would love to have conversations with potential partners. I also have thought about the practicalities of permissions for using the conversations I would have during Please Hold With Me and have suggestions as to how this could be approached. In general, I would welcome suggestions about how a 'small' individual like me might be able to undertake Please Hold With Me without its intentions being diluted and ensuring the content generated from it be used in a responsible way.
The Chaucer Vaults, 45 Sea View Road, is a vacant public house located within a primarily residential area. After remaining derelict for a number of years, its condition has deteriorated, which has had an adverse impact on the appearance of the area.
The pub used to be a fighting ground for the supporters of two rival football teams. The landlord has since been waiting for urban regeneration, but funding has fallen through and the pub remains boarded up.
The top floor is full of small trees growing through the floor. The first floor contains vandalised kitchens and bedrooms. The furniture in the ground floor bar has also been vandalised, though drinks optics remain fixed to the wall. One room has been burnt out due to an arson attack. The basement can be seen through the caved-in flooring. The staircase is broken. Graffiti covers the walls. A tree weaves in and out of the interior and exterior of the building and through its floors.
For structure and lighting, please see attached images. The lights will be switched on during old public house opening times 6-11pm. I’ve been researching lighting in window displays such as Selfridges, whose famous windows attract many visitors. I have also taken into account a painting whose similarly voyeuristic viewpoint we recognise, Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, in which the interior of a bar is brought to life at night through its illuminated windows.
An increasing number of independent pubs around Liverpool have closed due to rents, taxes, cut-price alcohol from supermarkets and off-licenses, locals having less disposable income, the smoking ban, changes in drinking habits and the popularity of wine bars. Wholesale prices are so high that publicans are struggling to make a profit.
Where else but the pub can you find a place that so inexplicably combines the style of a front room with that of an agricultural outbuilding, with the bonus of draught alcohol. When you get to the pub, you leave the troubles and hierarchies of the outside world at the door," says Pete Brown, blogger and author of Man Walks Into A Pub. "When you say, 'do you fancy a pint' at work it means you can go offline – and relax. When we are in the pub we can be ourselves and as a nation we are quite stiff and reserved and we need the pub to give us a nudge and break down social barriers. – Martin Hickman, The Independent on Sunday, 6 March 2008
The project would take place out of the London art scene and gallery based work. This is a huge project that would motivate other areas for the arts. This site-specific piece questions changes in social space and the cultural landscape. This would ultimately be a commentary on preserving a history of the great British pub. This is the kind of place where you and the residents would not expect to encounter a cultural experience.
I am in contact with the pub’s landlord and estate agent and have had discussions with them regarding the premises.
It is important, in the short term to ensure that any long-term vacant properties such as the Chaucer Vaults PH are effectively secured and refurbished in such a manner that will provide a more aesthetically pleasing appearance – local council report
The Bouncing Bubbles is an interactive light installation at Derwent Reservoir. A floating network of reactive bubbles, or ‘light buoys’, that emit bright colours when agitated by movement of the water.
Recreating the historical experiments carried out by Dr. Barnes Wallis, the stones echo the journey taken by the bouncing bomb as they skip along the surface of the reservoir. As the stone ricochets, the surface tension of the water is disturbed and the floating bubbles illuminate in ripples. The result is a patchwork of light created by the audience.
The buoys float on the surface of the water and illuminate when moved, creating a reflexive pattern like the stone as it ricochets along the surface of the water. Visitors are encouraged to interact by skimming stones to create their own patterns.
By replacing a destructive urge with a creative one, they become part of the installation themselves through participation. In throwing a stone into the reservoir, the audience effectively use the water as a controllable device; the more people who use it, the richer and more colourful the experience becomes.
The light buoys themselves will be a grid of nodes housed within translucent waterproof spheres. Each sphere will contain different coloured LEDs controlled by an accelerometer that responds the motion of the water.
We want to use this opportunity to stage an ambitious event of mass participation: starting with one person kissing another, them kissing the next and so on. A sequence of encounters. This could be a live event, but would probably be a recorded one. The resulting work has the possibility to exist as a document of the action, following this ongoing kiss, or indeed to develop into a kind of unconventional narrative.
The work aims to explore the boundaries of collaboration, power, intimacy, acting and reality. In the resulting performance/footage a kiss would be passed between a group of participants, male and female, of various ages. With deliberately no contextualising information as to who these people are and what their relationships might be, the work becomes a metaphor for all our histories of intimacy.
This idea is developed from an instructional performance which became our recent video installation, What have we done?, where a kiss was endlessly passed around a circle of six people (auditioned unknown actors). What have we done? is part of an ongoing series of instructional performances, where our interaction with others forms the basis of the work. A provocative situation invites the participant/s to make a decision; and the consequences of participating – or not – in what we’ve constructed has implications beyond their and our control.
We learn that this is not theatre; subjects do not know their manners in advance. Solicited out-with their inhibitions, it is their reaction to the experiment, and consequences, that is documented. The subjects are 'revealed' as they engage in their activity. The results present a loaded circumstance; a concentrated ceremonial presentation of the dynamics of social relations, attitudes and beliefs, of the widespread collectivity of social intimacy. – Laura Edbrook, The Fruit of Their Actions, MAP 25
The potential participants, site and logistics of such an undertaking would be determined through discussion and with the help of Artangel's invaluable expertise and resources. We want to push this idea beyond expectations and can only envisage this with a collaborative support structure and mutual trust. Would this be something that happens in a building or spreads across a place? We just don't know yet but are excited to find out.
Our work is predominantly about relationships, starting with our own. (We have worked collaboratively and have been together as partners for just over twenty years). We have made a number of works using the site of the mouth – and indeed the intimate and destructive qualities of a kiss – but this would be an entirely new way opening up the work to others on a considerable scale.
Our own practice continually pushes the possibilities of collaboration: fundamental concerns revolve around human relations and what people are capable of doing to one another, physically and psychologically. We want to engage the viewer with ideas about the nature of the relationships we have with one another (intimate, familial, social, political). Central to this exploration is the body and its context and different media are used to explore ideas of separation, unity and ultimately, mortality.
Celebrating the ordinary in an extraordinary way
Following an extended programme of public engagement, Festival of One Citizen presents the life and times of an unrecognized UK citizen in a takeover of the city of Norwich*. It examines one citizen in their 50th year and subjects their belongings, interests and personal history to the same rigorous museum and programming processes that are normally only accorded to the famous.
Festival of One Citizen is an ambitious idea that could impact on all public-facing institutions of the city. It goes beyond the idea of ‘participative performance’: the whole city turns towards one ordinary person. An exhibition will track key events in the selected person’s life; there will be an arrangement of personal objects and interpretive displays. A talk and workshop programme will explore their interests or the things they wish they had learnt (aviation, ornithology, knitting, tango, whatever). A series of screenings will showcase the selected person’s all time favourite films or introduce them to genres they have never encountered. Theatres and concert halls present works resonant to the selected person’s life. Restaurants and cafés serve favourite foods; a gym runs bespoke exercise classes… and so on.
*I have chosen the city of Norwich but in fact any city could host Festival of One Citizen. In order for the takeover to feel comprehensive and at the same time ambitious, I think a population of between 150,000 – 200,000 seems about right.
Festival of One Citizen is not really about the one selected person who forms its core but about celebrating ordinary local people who have made an impact on their community. More than anything it wants to press questions about how ‘non-art’ citizens relate to the cultural offer. What does it mean to really place the audience at the very centre of the work you programme, to address their life-narrative directly?
Born in 1965? We want to hear from you!
The ‘festival’ is in itself only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of a protracted public engagement programme. A call asks members of the public to nominate people who will turn 50 in 2015. It explains that we are looking for people who have led a normal but nevertheless interesting life based in the UK, and who have given something back to their community.
Alongside the public call there will be a programme of workshops in institutional and community settings across Norwich, focussing on issues of citizenship, family and local history, and personal stories. A schools programme will use the project as a way of engaging intergenerational dialogue. We will work with mainstream media outlets to create excitement at this amazing opportunity and to track down people with interesting stories.
A series of house visits and informal interviews will then establish a shortlist of potential participants from which the final individual will be selected.
Those visiting the Festival of One Citizen, who may or may not have engaged with the project up to that point, will encounter their city anew. Glancing down the printed programme or watching the short video introduction, they realise that the entire programme of the festival is based around the life of one ordinary person; a person like them. As they engage with the events they begin to build a picture of this One Citizen and they consider their own attachment to the world of culture that surrounds them.
A group of acrobats have taken up residence in an abandoned tower and have been so influenced by the architecture that they’ve created a total art work inside it; everything from their movements, clothes, wall drawings and even plates have become an intrinsic part of the work.
The work would be an immersive, walk through experience, where visitors explore the environment and also see the acrobats performing within the space, their bodies making specific shapes and relationships with the building.
The tower I mention could be any number of places, although I am very interested in architecture that has become defunct and where its original purpose may not even exist any longer. In particular, I am drawn to decommissioned aircraft control towers, bunkers and other military architecture.
It is a slow and layered piece that could give the impression of having taken a lifetime to build up. A Gesamtkunstwerk, the bodies, furnishings, decoration and objects within the building all become as important as each other and build up a narrative collectively.
The work would be a continuation of my exploration of the relationship between bodies and buildings and how we are shaped by the places, which we inhabit. The work would take the building, its history, previous inhabitants and features as the starting point and everything would be made around that.
The proposal is to create an artificial mirage with sustainable resources in an area not normally associated with the Arts.
The aim is not to create an optical illusion or to rely on holograms but by artificially creating the contrasting air temperatures light rays are bent or refracted potentially creating mirages. It is often assumed that mirages are merely optical illusions but in fact they exist when various factors and temperatures combine and may be photographed.
The idea of mirages is often connected with the desert where the ground temperatures reach very high levels and contrasting with cooler air reflect the sky and give an illusion of water. The same effect is often observed on asphalt highways in hot summers where pools of water appear to exist.
To re-create a mirage artificially is a challenge and especially so in the British climate. The weather conditions are of the greatest importance and complete unruffled stillness is essential. Temperature readings can fluctuate over very small areas and affect the image.
I propose heating a large flat area with geothermal resources and ground heat pumps so that there is a strong temperature change between the air at ground level and above. The science consultant for the project is Dr. Mark Dennis from the Physics Department, Bristol University who will supply very specific calculations of temperature changes and gradients and area measurements.
Although I live in the varied and splendid landscape of the Brecon Beacons National Park and am surrounded by a variety of options for sites not normally connected with the Arts the specific requirements of this project have to be considered. I have therefore not pursued any area where for archaeological or historic reasons drilling would not be possible. Again for geo-thermal resources to be applicable the site cannot include concrete and tarmac. Many areas within the Park have stretches of flat ground that have different types of ground cover and clumps of vegetation that would interfere with the image. Also remote and beautiful areas tend to have narrow and difficult access and poor parking facilities.
Bearing in mind this essential list of conditions there is a flat area of grass below the architecturally interesting town of Crickhowell which lies below a flat topped hill called Crug Hywel. One of the most frequently seen mirages reflects the sky and a lake appears. Or part of the landscape is inverted and appears upside down.
There is an active and successful Arts organisation in the town called Arts Alive Wales who have enthusiastically offered their support and are keen to work on the project with general administration, PR and public involvement. This is a charitable organisation who do not receive official funding and part of their brief includes courses or people with disabilities and those who find life challenging.
Rather than just a visual experience Mirage will gather opinions and follow on ideas from the experience. Everyone will be asked for their opinions and views in a series of radio interviews with people well known and recognisable in the area as a series of informal chats and discussions. This will form a an invaluable reference for future events either locally or further afield.
Crickhowell is a compact small town with a strong sense of community and visual harmony. It is ideally sited within outstanding landscape and is in the Brecon Beacons National Park. There are parking facilities for visitors in the town and it is fifteen minutes from a railway station in Abergavenny. The town is well supplied with cafes and places to eat.
The idea of a mirage is an elusive, slippery event, seemingly not quite real and certainly not substantial but shaking our confidence briefly in what we see and perceive as reality. This too solid reality parts briefly and gives us a taste of other worlds and possibilities. Our belief in what we perceive as concrete certainties is momentarily disrupted and our sense of other dimensions extended. Perhaps everything is not always what we think we see and it is this combination of the elusive and ambitious that propels Mirage as a realisable concept.
Edgespace is a fictional company presented as playfully real. It explores and exploits the edges between real and digital worlds, recasting one as the other to reflect the matches and glitches between the two. It occupies an ambiguity of space in edge lands between corporate and public space, between the city and wilder landscapes, and the frontiers between the present and future, always nosing opportunities for profit.
It’s concerned with the nature and opportunities of space, and interconnections, including those hidden in fields of big data and the algorithmic potential of the digital world which we can’t grasp. In its playing relationship to you the audience it offers a Faustian reciprocity: it will assess you for your value to the company as it reveals more of itself to you. It might recruit you as a temporary worker only later to discharge you
The hidden central image is of the corporation not as human sociopathic entity but an animal, a collective chimera gorging on self-reflexive needs and desires, itself haunting all these edgeilands.
In the process of developing the piece there would be a reconnaissance, selection and mapping of other places globally in the wider Edgespace world. From these for the live experience media is recorded by remote agent-performers, with some live interaction might be possible during the performance.
To develop and then produce the piece, Coney would assemble from its wider network a team of artists and makers, directed by TS. The ideas and execution of the piece would be developed and supported by iteration and dialogue with Coney HQ and Artangel.
The live experience is a journey and a piece of immersive theatre, where the audience can choose how much they watch and reflect, how much they play and interact. It presents as a corporate recruitment event, which allows easy conceptual frameworks in which an audience might spectate - learn more about Edgespace – and might interact – be tested and recruited by Edgespace.
The event model is perhaps units of up to 60 audience entering at one time, with several entrances in an evening. The heart of the live experience is sited in a business park on the edge of a city. The model incorporates a coach journey to and from a point more convenient to the centre of the city for its audience.
There is also naturally a digital extension of the experience. Edgespace exists online as edgespace.com, and you can if you choose engage with this in advance of the live experience. This offers a series of light playful psychometric-esque tests and provocations, plugged into the digital platforms you already inhabit. Your actions and choices in advance help determine your seat on the coach and the role, actions and objectives to suit you in the live experience.
The first section is a coach journey. It’s modelled on a guided tour, facilitated by a performer as company member. The tour intercuts between sights in the real world outside the coach windows, and a video introduction on screens on the backs of seats. The journey goes through the edgeilands between city and a wilder space (imagining Epping Forest) where the party might leave the coach briefly before heading into an edge-of-town business park. En route might be real sights curated with some as-real sights – e.g. a billboard for Edgespace – and the narration reflects on the opportunities and insight that these present for a company like Edgespace.
At the business park, the coach party of audience enter a large warehouse (imagining a PC World) and into a space which should feel as if Edgespace has made a temporary installation in this real location, only one stop on a global tour.
The warehouse is divided into smaller playspaces, with a number of interconnecting routes through its labyrinth. The audience journey in small groups of up to 12, each group taking a different route.
In each playspace, facilitated by a performer, there is something to play, and something to watch. There might be an array of digital communication devices as in a PC World, connecting to other playspaces not just in the warehouse but also in the wider Edgespace world - from say outside an orphanage in Marrakech to a public square in Portland, Oregon. There might be screens on which group instructions and information videos are projected. Some spaces might involve observing and predicting the actions of other groups of audience in the play space. It should feel like one tiny corner of a panopticon.
Audience can watch and play individually and collectively with the challenge and provocation that each play space presents, before time is up and they move on into another playspace. The route each person follows depends on the choices they make individually and collectively. No person can experience everything.
The return coach journey is speedier, with perhaps an on-screen presentation and individually personalised soundtrack reflecting your collective and individual performance, as well as discussion and sharing of experience facilitated by the guide-performer.
If you choose to play edgespace.com in the tail of the live experience it further reflects your journey through the live experience, and makes hints towards the true nature of the corporation, perhaps only offering to reveal the truth at an unspecified moment in the future if you also accept a discharge from the Edgespace workforce (and a severance package of one share).
This piece is a confluence of various ongoing interests and obsessions of mine as an artist. While building on and extending some currently developing practice, it would be a game-changer in making a piece of this scale to involve a playing audience in a live and digital theatrical experience.
Feature film. HD. Full Script completed, supported by Swedish Film institute.
They all speak English with a heavy accent. No specific country or city specified. Soundtrack/ Concerts take place in its full length. The three women are between 50 and 60 years of age.
The Travel agency 90 min:
Anna runs a travel agency. It may look like a normal travel agency, but Anna only sells one-way tickets.
Anna assists her clients to commit suicide.
Two women enter the travel agency. One of them, Ellen, a GP, wants to die; Alice, her friend, wants to live. Ellen is hypnotised, it's a method Anna uses to help discover whether she can help the client. It helps Anna to ascertain where the perfect final destination might be.
Ellen begins to tell trivial stories that feature the mundanity of everyday life.
In each of these stories, one of five objects appears: a sticker, a key ring, a set of keys, a pen or a coin.
Anna, the travel agent and her friend Alice follow Ellen's stories with genuine interest, and demonstrate this through their posing of detailed questions for each story.
Anna announces that she is ready to go.
Just before they depart, Alice, set to accompany Ellen on her final trip, is hit on the head by a block of concrete and dies immediately.
Ellen, devastated, decides to press on. Anna and Ellen take different flights, with each taking half of Alice's ashes in an urn, just in case one of the flights crashes.
Ellen, terrified of flying, boards the plane full of tranquilisers, believing that she and Anna are to meet in a far away, exotic destination. She falls asleep to a violent disaster film, but wakes up just as the flight is forced to make an emergency landing.
On landing, Ellen is taken to a hotel in a poor, miserable town. There she is told to wait for the next available flight.
Confronted by the poverty, Ellen has a nervous breakdown. She calls Anna to comfort her, believing that she, at least, has arrived in 'paradise'. Anna is, in fact, in the same town, and attends Ellen immediately, putting her in a taxi.
The taxi drives them to The Dead Sea, as Anna thinks that this is the perfect place for dying.
They stay a night in the desert, near to a Bedouin encampment, and Ellen changes her mind, deciding that she wants to return home.
Anna will stay for a while longer.
They say their goodbyes, and Ellen returns to the airport dragging her suitcase on wheels. It is very heavy. She joins a queue that contains some people she recognises, but she can't decide from where.
They are people with the objects she has seen in her hypnosis sessions.
Ellen is stopped at customs, and they search her heavy bag, finding that it contains only a few, small objects. These are the objects, which were pictured in her hypnosis.
A sticker, a key ring, a set of keys, a pen and a coin.
She puts the items back in the bag except for the coin, which she puts in her mouth.
She is waved on. She enters the airplane.
At a dusty bar in a poor village by the Dead Sea Anna is having tea and smoking a water pipe.
The bar has a TV, which shows the news. The flight Ellen boarded has crashed.
The concept is to construct a monumental mountain making appliance, that is activated by a series of situations and scenarios using live MMA (cage fighters) using the site as a training / fighting ground. Life models use the ground between the daily fights to cleanses the scene and to revive the situation. Although this could take place in various locations across the UK (galleries, warehouses, theatres) one location we are particularly intrigued by to fulfil this in is the Skerries Islands off N.Ireland. With its plinth like status situated roughly 2 miles off the north coast in the wilds of the Atlantic we feel this location would lend itself to a primitive futuristic battle scenario. We propose to build an interlocking series of cage fighting arenas that are made of building materials in a cell like structure filmed and broadcast thought sound and film and designed to utilise sculpture in a human monumental architectural fashion.
Amy Thomas and Oliver Irvine have worked in collaboration over the past six years. The duo formed from a shared interest in using sculpture as a means of creating psychological situations, installations, performances and sculptural environments. In their time collaborating they have exhibited extensively throughout Europe, with solo shows in China at CEAC and major large scale immersive installations at the Tate Modern Tanks, Tate Britain and the Garage Centre For Contemporary Culture in Moscow. They have also instigated many projects, and two galleries in the UK.
ATOI’s work is heavily influenced by the process of creation through the use of their materials and concepts their work plays with, questioning instinct aggressively and the creative act itself. This has been explored in recent projects whereby ATOI has been reworking the canvases of a deceased painter in a sculptural manner, utilising cage fighters in live situations to deconstruct the gallery as a sculpture, and also using the public as a means to generate mass sculptures through destructive components.
Recently, ATOI have also been working with live cage fighters, bulls, horses and dogs and placing them into manipulated and sometimes even controlled scenarios whereby these live elements have total or a lack of control over whats produced. ATOI feel creating these psychological situations not only creates an unbalance within the intuitive structure, but also allows for an unorthodox conclusion.
ATOI's intention and interest lie the collision of energy and the matter and formulations created from the consequences from these 'staged events' and creating sculptures from the unpredictable situations that undertake force, energy, collision and renewal. Their work is heavily rooted in material and matter and the concept of taking the work out of the "creators" hands. They have been influenced by physics and geology. In particular, Geologist Bailey Willis and his theory on how mountains are made, a process which involves layers of matter which over time collide and break, but in turn form a monumental product: the mountain.
Tree stumps of various sizes and species cast precisely in the traditional bronze style.
Planted in the public squares and private gardens of the UK.
A forest, a thicket, or alone.
Sited in Kew Gardens, Parliament Square, the pavements at the end of the street, your garden.
This work could be misinterpreted as an environmentalist statement, a memorial, an anti-war declaration, a statement on sculpture.
A live performance, staged over nine evenings in an Edinburgh tenement stairwell, unchanged in 119 years. Six writers collaborate, multiple characters; a handful of actors; intimate groups of spectators. For webcasting and live radio broadcast and made available for catch-up on iPlayer. Eighteen episodes set at seven-year intervals (the time it takes for all our skeletons’ cells to be replaced).
Solid, familiar, unchanging: the common stair that leads to six Edinburgh flats. Suppose a turnover of fifty residents over a seven-year period; in 119 years, those stairs have delivered 900 people out into their daily lives and seen them home again. Unowned, undecorated, uncelebrated, cursed for the climb, welcomed for the shelter: a common space.
I’m proposing eighteen dramatic narratives set seven years apart, in a classic, capacious, Edinburgh stairwell between 1893 and 2012. On each of nine consecutive evenings, two episodes will be performed for live web and radio broadcast and made available for catch-up on iPlayer. The audience will be drawn into a series of eighteen self-contained stories which will also be linked by characters who span different times and by a super-narrative.
The dramas will be a direct response to this fascinating space, whose constancy juxtaposes the transitory nature of life and serves as a physical metaphor, exposing the wonder and absurdity of the human struggle to rise in the world. This constancy of impulse for human endeavour throughout time ultimately resolves the juxtaposition, uniting ‘space’ and ‘people’ as enduring and fundamentally unchanging. The tension in the dramas themselves is held by the conflict between those who struggle to rise in the world and make their indelible mark on history and those whose passion is for contemporary society and the people most in need on the ground. . . . and then there are the others, whose desire is to escape from the climb and fly off unnoticed.
Using the smallest possible number of actors to play multiple roles - a device reflecting the drama’s theme of human endeavour - the action will mostly take place on the top landing of the stairwell. To enhance the web and radio audiences’ sense of proximity to the people of the past in this common space, the landing beneath will provide space for a small number of on-site spectators each evening. Webcams above the entrances to the flats on all three levels will pick up momentary appearances from characters as they come in and out of those flats and of characters that pass the spectators as they walk away from or towards the main playing space on the top landing. In such moments, the audience at home catches sight or hears the sounds of the on-site audience on the second floor.
For these on-site spectators, the action on the landing above will be reflected back to them on a large mirror mounted on the wall of the staircase on the opposite side. This way, though privy to the characters’ private physical journey as they walk past them on the penultimate landing, the main drama and interaction are reflected back to them on a two-dimensional plane to create a similar sense of the tantalisingly close but somehow untouchable proximity of the past which the on-line/radio audience is feeling. Characters may also appear from the first-floor apartments below, heard but unseen by the on-site spectators.
With an additional webcam mounted on the mirror, on-line viewers see a similar performance to the live spectators. Ceiling microphones will capture the natural resonance of the space for the broadcasting.
The project presents the unique opportunity for six writers to collaborate on a single site-specific work. Each writer may take the lead on up to three of the episodes, collaborating on other episodes where individual style and narrative choices allow. The challenge will be in maximising the intrigue and suspense for the audience created by characters appearing in more than one story and by sub-plots that are established by one writer then taken up as a the major narrative by another.
I would be seeking collaboration on the project with a creative producer and/or company. I have secured the interest of Patrick Rayner as director. Patrick retired in 2010 after nearly 30 years as Head of Radio Drama, BBC Scotland. He has won several awards as well as three Sony Golds and has also directed for the stage. Also committed to the project is Abigail Docherty, a recent resident writer with NTS and Pearson Playwright-in-Residence at The Tron Theatre, Glasgow. She was also the winner of the National Open Stage Playwriting competition at the Tron Theatre with her play Sea, Land and Sky.
Below is an outline of three episodes that I will propose to initiate the writing collaboration:
1893...... a young female doctor leaves her flat. She’s heading down to the Canongate slums for her rounds. She finds her opposite neighbour hanging out an enormous human wing over the bannister rail, for the glue to dry. The man’s plan: to take human flight from the recently completed Forth Rail bridge. Their long-lived sparring flirtation has run its course and commitment beckons, putting the Doctor’s profession in jeopardy. Downstairs, a young local girl is being successfully courted by a coal miner from Lithuania. They dream of a happy future and a child called Laima, Goddess of fortune.
1942...... the hero is away, training to be a fighter pilot. His wife has been spending time with a conscientious objector whom she has helped to evade the authorities, giving him refuge on the roof by means of a ladder from the landing to the skylight. His seclusion isn’t so easy to keep from the neighbours. He’s discovered and has to leave. Caught between forbidden love, pacifist principles and loyalty to her husband, it seems the choice is not hers to make. A young sergeant appears from the airfield, bringing news of her husband.
1991...... A left-wing, feminist journalist; a disgraced San Franciscan philosophy professor; a depressive student and her misogynist fiancé and a young painter who’s come to decorate the frame of the skylight. The journalist offends the painter whilst trying to seduce him. He quits the scene, leaving his ladders in place. Late at night, the temptation is too great for the girl who doesn’t want to be married and has secretly aborted her child. The 98-year-old Polish-speaking woman who lives below opens her door and hurls a radio set against the professor’s door, a mystery resolved by the journalist’s discovery that the world’s highest man-made structure has fallen: a radio mast in Warsaw. The journalist calls out to her through her letter-box to check she’s alright. The old woman’s name is Laima.
An Artangel Open 2013 proposal for a temporary time-based architectural installation at a central urban place.
A full-scale church and mosque will be simultaneously constructed and deconstructed at the same spot at a central urban place. Collaborating with builders and volunteers from the local Muslim and Christian communities, the shells are built out of lightweight concrete blocks and juxtaposed in rotational symmetry. The process is synchronised so that the construction and de-construction are choreographed sequentially: Opposite segments of the two shells slowly move around each other until the project is completed. The church and the mosque will have appeared at the same spot at the same time. During the process they will be a structure of constant movement as walls appear and disappear, its spatiality constantly changing and unstable. The construction of the monumental becomes an event, a visible and spatial experience of a process in flux rather than the presentation of a finished architectural structure.
The working title for the project Dyadicum is inspired by the term ‘dyad’ that originally denotes the number two or a pair, and has its roots in Latin dyas/Greek duas. In mathematics and science ‘dyad’ describes something that consists of two elements or parts (an operator which is a combination of two vectors). In sociology ‘dyadic’ refers to an inter-relationship between two people that has a lasting impact on both. The communication of ideas between two people for long duration of time or of any intensive duration of deeper impact may be called ‘dyadic’ communication.
Dyadicum could be potentially realised anywhere within the right urban context. Ideally, the project is sited at a central place in London. In previous projects, I have always worked with local volunteers supported by local companies and construction colleges. I would like to continue this approach and, ideally, involve Muslims and Christians equally. Depending on the final design, scale and process, the project could last between three and eight weeks. After the completion of the project all construction materials will be donated/recycled and reused in permanent buildings.
I will record Dyadicum using specially constructed cameras that are positioned strategically around the installation. The photographic plates are exposed for the entire duration of the project (three till eight weeks) to produce time lapsed black and white photographs. The resulting large-scale photographs eventually reveal the only complete view of the two separate buildings, the overlaid shells of the church and the mosque. This form of recording is the only way to capture and visualise the entire building process as well as both completed architectural structures merged in the same image.
Additionally, time-lapse videos are made.
Dyadicum is my most ambitious project to date. Please have a look at my previous installations that are using a similar methodology:
The piece is inspired in particular by two written works – JG Ballard’s novel High Rise (1975) and Laura Oldfield-Ford’s art-zine and book, Savage Messiah (2011) – which explore dystopias of gentrification and the cheap luxury of modern high-rise living environments. In both, a sinister fantasy-project of controlling and perfecting humans through their material possessions and physical environment unravels with ghastly results.
The electronics within the house are not behaving in a normal manner. Eerie colours emanate from under the bookcase, the lights above the kitchen counter form strange rhythms, the TV and oven turn on and off of their own accord, taps drip and spit. Every rebellious light triggers its own sound, giving the feeling that the place is haunted by an electronic poltergeist. These sound/light behaviours are played as an electronic instrument by computer composition in the background. The composition is on a very long loop and is partly generative and randomised so that each cycle is different from the next. The flat’s occupants (the audience) also influence the flat’s behaviour, but not in an obvious manner. If someone lifts a magazine in the living room it triggers a lighting flicker response in the bedroom; if someone lingers in front of the mirror in the bathroom and someone walks in front of the mirror in the hall they see both see a fleeting shadow. They are unwittingly affecting others’ environments, although this will only become apparent either by chance or through a deep exploration of the space. However, if these effects are discovered and repeated in a controlled manner, the house rebels further.
In High Rise a utopian building complex spirals into a psychological nightmare, perversely compelling residents to act out their darkest desires and inner turmoil. Rubbish rots in lift shafts, pets are slaughtered and eaten, and sexual depravity is rife. Ultimately there is a fight to the death after class war breaks out between floors. The occupants play out their internal nightmare in physical form – dumping rubbish, eating dogs, etc., moving from the macabre to the grotesque. Show Home is brand new and we are yet to sink to these depths, however hints at this decline are there - a toy dog nods disturbingly from inside the oven, the shadows in the mirrors, the sinister leers from the covers of lifestyle magazines on the coffee table (and the random pages of pornography inserted inside), and most of all the claustrophobia created by the tight sound and light responses of all the malfunctioning equipment.
Flats such as the Dalston Square development in East London are built quickly from cheap materials so as to look luxurious upon completion, but quickly deteriorate. Show Home reflects this – at different points in the day cupboards are unlocked to reveal the mess of wires that run the building as well as building refuse, rubbish and hints at the site’s past. Again only at certain points of the day, there are holes in the skirting with wires pouring out, or dark liquids seeping from the ceiling. An hour later they are gone. The TV intermittently comes on – sometimes showing daytime television but at others the output of the security camera throughout the building offering a brief glimpse of strange goings on in other, bare shells of unfinished flats we cannot access.
Show Home is a greatly expanded, life-sized development of a test piece made last year – a one-room 1/6-scale doll’s house diorama entitled New Build. The intention has always been to build a version that was set in an actual flat in an actual block where the visitors are the occupants. The composition of New Build was realised in an unusual way: I began with a series of lights, and planned what colours would be where in the room, and whether they would flash or fade. I then composed for these lights, visualising them as I wrote the music / sound design. Each element of the music was then mapped back to its corresponding light so that lights and music triggered at the same time. This kind of compositional feedback loop intends a true synergy between sound and light, in which neither has preceded the other (as happens with many such fusions). Show Home will take this concept significantly further by not only the amount of possible sequences and the fact the occupiers influence them but also they influence each other – when triggered in combination certain sequences have an effect on the sonic qualities of others in other parts of the flat. In certain conditions controlled sonic-feedback is created when microphones in one room pick up speakers in another and are piped to other mic/speaker combinations. When very rare conditions are met, all of the lights in the house come on and a momentary blinding light is created, followed by a moment’s darkness and silence.
Show Home will be a comment on the realities of gentrification in UK cities and our perception of luxury from both inside and outside, and on our contemporary domestic psychological environment. Visitors will experience a range of emotions from amusement to deep unease. The house will reward those who spend the time to explore, but the more they try and control it, the more it will rebel. We are haunted by our own environment – controlled by it rather than vice versa. These materialist new-build utopias are haunted by the human life-forces and spirits they suppress, which linger on in ghostly form or run riot as destructive poltergeists.
50 years ago, The Beatles undertook their Autumn 1964 UK tour. They had already conquered the USA, earning over $2m for their first tour there playing 20 – 40,000 seat venues, becoming the most successful band in the world. However, the Autumn 1964 UK Tour had been booked by their manager Brian Epstein before the US conquest came about and included stop-offs such as Stockton-on-Tees, Hull, Bradford, Luton and Ipswich (full list below), playing 1 - 2,000 seat cinemas for just £425 per show. The audience’s hysteria, Beatlemania, was at its peak on this tour and very little of the music could be heard above the screaming of the fans.
On the 50th anniversaries of each date of the Beatles’ UK Autumn 1964 tour, and on the specific sites that they happened, the Feral Four (a group of disability artists who collaborate as 15 mm Films) propose to present their ‘conceptual tribute’ concert; a tribute not to the Beatles themselves but to the hysteria, the Beatlemania that they inspired. In ‘Feralmania’, the audience is invited to come and scream at ‘The Feral Four’, who, dressed as Beatles, will simply scream back. In these times of austerity and social insecurity we want to offer a cathartic opportunity for the public to really let rip: ‘AAARRRGGGH!’
Many of the venues for the Beatles’ tour have been demolished or converted for other uses. A tour of the sites of the twenty-seven venues would involve performing in a Dillons bookshop, Primark, three churches, two shopping centres and someone's flat in Nottingham. The Feral Four will identify the precise location of the stage for each of the Beatles’ original twenty-seven tour dates and stage their performance right there, or as near to it as possible. The plan is to advertise the ‘dates’ in advance and to drum up local newspaper publicity to attract an audience to come and scream at us.
In addition to the performances, we plan to produce a fly-on-the-wall documentary of the tour, capturing the hysteria.
Both the tour and the documentary will reflect on the profoundly changed character of the UK over the distance of fifty years. The documentary can be made in one of two ways; (to be discussed with an Artangel mentor if shortlisted):
Given Radio 4’s partnership with Artangel in the Open, and given the sonic originality of the project, the potential exists for a radio documentary.
The relevancy of disability to membership of the Feral Four echoes John Lennon’s complaint about only being able to see "cripples" screaming at him from the front row at Beatles concerts. Ironically, Lennon later described himself as Crippled Inside (a song) and took up Primal Scream therapy.
The Beatles’ Tour of the UK, Autumn 1964 – the venues now.
The Snowdonia Project is a proposed site-specific walking-performance revealing the day-to-day and seasonal workings of Hafod y Llan, a “true hill farm” located on Snowdon in Wales, and the relationship between rural and human life-events. Participants will journey by train to the summit of Snowdon (Eryri) from where, on-foot, they will descend into the farm amidst the annual gathering of sheep from the mountain.
The piece has evolved through an extended cross-disciplinary research process during which time Louise Ann Wilson has worked with the shepherds and logged their activities; spent time in conversation with individuals who have lay and expert knowledge of the farming cycle and the reproductive biology of sheep; studied maps, field names and topography; and talked to local historians and residents with inter-generational memories of the farm. On one occasion whilst working with the shepherds at Hafod Y Llan farm Louise was struck by how they referred to the ewes that had not ‘taken’ with a lamb that year as ‘empty’ and on another she watched the shepherd skin a dead lamb and put its fleece on a live lamb which is then adopted by a surrogate ewe as her own. Activities such as these power the imagination of the performance and inform its main subject matter which is biological- and non-biological motherhood, or lack thereof. It is explored by investigating the annual and reproductive cycles within the life-span of a single ewe, and her hefted flock. This ewe’s life and that of the flock, the farm, the mountain and the shepherds will be explored in their own right – they are the performance – but their cycles and actions will become a metaphor, exploring human fertility and infertility. In so doing the piece will reveal how ‘natural’ cycles are timeless and robust yet at the same time fragile, impermanent and easily disturbed.
Starting at the summit of Snowdon (Eryri), having reached it via the Snowdonia Mountain Railway, one half of the audience will descend the mountain via the Watkin Path into the Cwm Llan valley. As they walk, the annual September sheep ‘gathering’ will take place around them and they see and hear the shepherds, with their dogs, sweeping across the landscape, gathering hundreds of ewes and lambs off the mountain which echoes with their calls, cries, whistles, and barks. Meanwhile, the second half of the audience will ascend from the bottom end of the Watkin Path with the shepherds gathering the lower slopes. The two groups will meet at Cwm Llan Slate Quarry from where they will proceed down the valley as one large group of 250-300 people to Hafod Y Llan farm located 4 miles away in the valley bottom. As they walk they will encounter performative interventions and live art installations created in relation to distinctive landmark features. The geographical locations for these will correlate to phases within the life cycle of an ewe. A female choir will move in parallel to them, cutting through the valley tracing the tramway route carved in the mountainside along which copper and slate were once transported along a narrow gauge railway. Their singing will combine with the noise of the gathering and other sounds such as those of crows, wind, rain and low flying jets. Gradually the ‘rosary like’ rows of sheep seen tracking the landscape will be shepherded into the valley where the audience will find themselves in and amongst them. Eventually, everyone, including the sheep, dogs, and shepherds will gather into the farm where the participants will experience installations and happenings in intimate places such as the shearing shed, sorting pens, the lambing barn and an empty farmhouse.
The creative vision for the project is being developed by Louise (as creator and scenographer/director). It is being written by Gillian Clarke, the National Poet for Wales, who is writing a cycle of site-specific poems based on the flock, the farm, and the landscape through which the participants walk. Writing will also be drawn from texts and maps of fields, boundaries, habitats and topographical features as well as being inspired by historic uses of the place such as the copper and slate mining – the marks and memories of remain highly visible.
The shape, journey and form of the performance will evolve out of: breeding cycles from birth to when a ‘draft ewe’ becomes ‘broken mouthed’; cycle of Cynefin – the inter-generational memory and knowledge of the mountain passed on from mother to lamb; annual cycles such as gathering, tupping, scanning, birthing, marking, weaning, shearing and slaughtering; cycles within cycles such as ‘Estrus’ and gestation cycles; broken cycles such as stillbirths or ewes being marked ‘empty’; and the unexpected cycles of repair through adoption, and surrogacy or a ewe thought to be ‘empty’ then birthing. This raw material will be gathered together and evolved into a series of scenographic and visual moments, emplaced into locations chosen for their symbolic resonance, that combine performance, dance, poetry, music, and sound as well as real-life happenings performed by the shepherds. Installations will be made from materials of the place such as wool, sheep-gut, cow-horn, slate, and copper; and choreographic actions will be distilled from activities such as how the shepherds: pull and push water-heavy sheep out of streams; throw them over walls; submerge them in sheep dip; deftly sit them between their legs for shearing; sort, count, and check them; mark them with knife cuts, coloured dots and tags; and how they skin a dead lamb and dress a live lamb in its coat then place it with a ewe who will adopt it as her own.
The proposed project is being developed by a consortium of organizations including Louise Ann Wilson Company Ltd, National Theatre Wales, Migrations, and the National Trust as well as other organisations, groups and individuals. However, in reality, the project, in its imagined scale, is larger than this consortium could currently hope to deliver and further support is being sought in order to realise its full potential.
My project proposal is for a specially commissioned balloon to be produced, the shape and form of the balloon is of an iconic head. I Reference the floating ‘Zardoz’ stone head from the film ‘Zardoz’ and the sculptured head of Karl Marx, (Highgate Cemetery) as two examples that exemplify my thinking. I am not however suggesting that a single celebrated or infamous bust should be used for the final modeling of the balloon. It is the essence of these personas that shall be reflected in the final balloon design. The illustrations supplied have been created using composite material and I consider that the completed balloon could be a synthesis, using different face parts to form the balloon shape. The balloon for all intent and purpose will be composed of graphic tones of black and white and in the sky it shall appear, ‘stealth like’ amongst the backdrop of urban and rural landscapes.
The sizable re-scaling and the qualities of stone are preserved in the graphic qualities through the re-interpretation of form & texture. The balloon stone head conveys incongruity and the design toys with the materials and meaning. The envelope‘s union with its materials, fabric and stone, lightness and heaviness is a contradiction manifest. The head however symbolises the possibility of defying gravity through a ‘superhuman’ endeavor. The balloon occupies the ‘free space’ and where man contemplates the void; looking skyward man confronts fears and dreams; the MoS is an investigation of freedom.
I am keen to have an artwork that advances balloon design and I seek the printing of the envelope to attain the highest possible standards in production (in terms of detail and complexity). In the sculpting of the head (in the manner of ‘composite articulation’) it shall bare all the features that make up the human face. The balloon shall be required to look and to feel unlike conventional leisure balloons. The balloon shall look distinctive and authentic from other shaped inflatables. It is to be viewed as an artwork, as sculpture. As an artwork I anticipate that it can also act differently by being given ‘artistic license’ to undertake actions (during public engagements) that are not always permitted at other times.
Propaganda consists of the planned use of any form of public or mass-produced communication. – Psychological warfare, 1954. Combat forces Press, Washington
By means of the balloon, I propose that ‘propaganda’ ordinance are dropped across strategic sites (to be determined). The identified sites will be reliant on a number of issues being discussed and resolved. These matters relate to access; the availability to fly over any designated sites and the right to operate (dropping ordinance) using UK airspace. I believe if this work were to be possible, it would be achieved through a period of consultation with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and The Directorate of Airspace Policy (DAP) as well as other (un-identified) bodies. Should the physical dropping of paper ordinance not be possible then the project could look towards virtual methods of disseminating visual material; perhaps an answer maybe found though Blue Tooth and Internet technologies.
The ordinance will be a vital link between the operators of the balloon and the citizen observers on the ground. The distinct images (printed on biodegradable papers) that befall one location could be of a very different nature in another location. An image of a bomb, a bacteria or a chemical symbol would send out one kind of message. In another location an image with a more passive and optimistic message could be dropped. Whilst disaster may occur in one place, so life inevitably carries on unaffected in another location.
The balloon (as an artwork) has a rare distinction of being able to operate in innumerable locations (whilst in flight) I would certainly like to see the balloon take to the skies over my home City of Nottingham; equally I am keen to explore other UK industrial, cultural and economic sites. In addition to ‘unrestricted flights’ I would like to see the balloon inflated within City Centre locations. For these experiences, the balloon may have to remain tethered.
This is an exploitative & ambitious proposal of possibility that coalesces Contemporary Art within the public domain. It is apparent that in order to transform this idea and put it into reality that it would require significant resources and a committed production team. The project would need to seek advice from the (CAA) for guidance at an early stage. I would anticipate however that it could be a viable project with some complexity. Should we get permission to drop ordinance, I anticipate that it is be a project that would be rewarding to those directly implicated and to earthbound observers who encounter the balloon as it traverses the open skies.
I believe the sight of a large balloon in the vein of a head that rises from the earth and floats above the English landscape would be a stimulating spectacle to bear witness. It is an artwork that could be viewed by a significant number of people as an object of spectacle. The public may not immediately be fully aware of the immediate context in which the balloon is rooted; I believe this matters not. It is possible that as the project generates publicity, the public may well find their way to our balloon by diverse means. It could just be a thought-provoking sight to see as it drifts across the English landscape. The March of Silence brings contemporary art into the ultimate public sphere - the sky.
Airspace is a national asset; the safe and efficient utilisation of this airspace is vital to both the UK economy and national defense. Accordingly, it is essential that UK airspace be provided, as far as possible, for the benefit of all users. – Directorate of Airspace Policy
I would like to add to Artangel’s existing list the name Pawel Althamer as the artist I would like to consider as a possible mentor for this project.
Concorde is regarded by many as the pinnacle of Franco-British technical achievement. It was also by far the fastest and loudest form of public transport ever invented. For those lucky enough to experience a Concorde flight it was more than simply travel - it was an event. For millions more it represented the dream of a better, faster, more elegant future, but its crash on the 25th of July 2000 changed the public perception of Concorde. It became a relic of a world that no longer existed.
For one day only Supersonic will invite thousands of people to perform one more transatlantic flight by creating their very own sonic boom.
We will create a performance on board one of the decommissioned Concorde aircrafts, and in the immediate area around it. The entire content of the piece will be derived from the technical data available from actual Concorde flights on the London-New York route.
The duration of the performance will be two hours fifty-two minutes and fifty-nine seconds (the fastest ever transatlantic passenger flight). We will invite a pilot, first officer and cabin crew who served on Concorde to switch the same switches, serve the same food and make the same announcements as they did as part of their Concorde routine. Of course, on this flight, the aircraft will remain static throughout the performance with engines switched off. As a result, there will be no jet engine noise - one of the most defining qualities of Concorde in flight.
The sound producing force of the engines will be replaced by large numbers of brass and percussion players positioned around the aircraft playing as loud as they can. The music that all players play will be a composition based on the technical data (e.g. noise levels, speed, pressure, energy use, altitude) and will form the loudest lament ever performed.
In our research phase, we will talk to the engineers who worked on Concorde, delve into the technical archives to obtain detailed flight data and track down the personnel who spent their lives shuttling between London and New York.
We will then create a compositional system based on the technical data we have uncovered, so that information on fuel usage, pressure, and altitude etc. will inform specific compositional parameters such as pitch, duration, and density. That system will be used to create the two-hour-fifty-two-minute and fifty-nine second score for brass and percussion that will accompany this flight.
We want to work with brass and percussion for several reasons. Firstly, they are the loudest acoustic instruments and so, with a large enough number of players we aim to reach the sound mass and volume of the four Concorde jet engines.
Secondly, we want to reach this sound mass and volume through unamplified sound, just as jet engines are unamplified.
Thirdly, the material of the instruments – metal - forms an appropriate commonality with the material of the aircraft and the engines themselves.
Brass and percussion are the two building blocks of that most British instrumental group, the brass band. The implied patriotism seems fitting when dealing with a British technological triumph. On a practical note, there are a vast number of brass bands in the UK and in order to achieve the sound mass and volume required over the full duration of the flight we will have to work with a very large number of players.
At any one time around 200 players will be performing, but due to the physical effort involved in producing the volume required for this performance, each player is only able to play in bursts of up to three minutes at a time, thus the requirement for over 1000 players. The result is constant choreographed activity around the aircraft as players take over from one another.
Supersonic is part of our trilogy ‘Public Transport’. In these works we address issues surrounding audiences and their demands and positions within performances.
Supersonic addresses these issues by allowing four different means of interacting with the piece:
The whole house had something of an egg shape; and it half hung, half stood in that steep, hillside thicket, like a wasp's nest in a green hawthorn. - From Chapter 23 of Kidnapped by RL Stevenson.
A few years ago I had a bout of man-flu and was confined to bed for two days. I picked up an old book from the shelf, and found myself reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Kidnapped’ for the first time.
It captured my imagination so fully it made me wonder what it might actually be like to ramble across the Scottish Highlands pretending to be chased all the way by English Redcoats.
So from 30th June to 25th August 2009, that’s exactly what I did.
I followed a route across Scotland from the south-western tip of Mull to the outskirts of Edinburgh, as charted in Chapters 14–27, stopping each day when characters in the book stopped, and starting again when the characters moved.
Sometimes the book seemed spookily accurate as if it wasn’t a novel at all, but a travel guide.
At other times it was clear that Stevenson had been sitting in his cosy soft Southern house in Bournemouth simply making things up.
Sometimes this meant I got lost.
Where is Cluny's Cage?
Perhaps the most obvious instance of Stevenson playing a bit fast and loose with the facts is Cluny’s Cage. It’s the place that our heroes reach after the famous Flight in the Heather across Rannoch Moor. And it’s supposedly based on a real cave where Bonnie Prince Charlie hid after Culloden.
I assumed it would be quite easy to find. Hell, it’s even marked on the OS map as Prince Charlie’s Cave so it shouldn't have been that be hard. But could I find it? No, I could not.
Thankfully, subsequent research has shown me that I’m not the only one having trouble locating Cluny’s Cage
Anyone looking for a cave in that area will have been completely baffled and the mix up in names is highly likely. – http://www.thefrasers.com/nessie/news/nesspapr010601.html
There probably was some kind of a hide-out on Ben Alder, but, with respect to the Ordnance Survey, to The Lyon in Mourning and (dare I say it?) to Robert Louis Stevenson, it was certainly not Cluny's Cage. – http://www.heraldscotland.com/sport/spl/aberdeen/trapped-by-the-lore-of-the-cage-1.490901
To all intent and purposes the Cage has disappeared, perhaps was never there. Which seems a shame, given its interesting role as a home for charismatic freedom fighters, fostering the spirit of Scottish independence and, to my mind, epitomising the idea of the rough but sublime natural mountainous retreat that has so appealed to the European Romantic imagination over the centuries.
So, what if we could secretly rebuild Cluny’s Cage, using all the historical and literary references we can find to work out what it must have looked like and where it was meant to be?
It would need to be eye-catching but completely camouflaged – a wasp's nest in a green hawthorn.
It would need to be incredibly hard to find and really hard to get to - somewhere deep in the heart of Ben Alder.
And above all, it would need to be a place that provided shelter and nourishment for rebels – in this case, rebel thinkers and independent types rather than terrorists and freedom fighters.
It could also act as a correlative of all those mountain hideaways and underground lairs that we’re shown on TV in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in the middle of the USA even – those remote places where bogeymen like Bin Laden plot their atrocities, and where despots and supposedly democratic leaders sometimes like to hide their dirty secrets, their weapons, their riches.
Pirate broadcasts from a secret location
And to give the place a modern purpose, and re-energise it as a place of independent thought and action, Cluny’s Cage would become the home of a pirate Internet channel, broadcasting from a secret location.
Every day we could take an issue arising from the book and from the landscape in which the book is set.
Sometimes it might be about the topic of political assassination. The next day we could discuss the fate of Scotland’s young men as recruits into the British Army. Maybe we’d like to talk about ‘Englishness’. Sometimes we might just want to talk about cooking or drinking or musical instruments or game-playing.
Almost certainly we’d want to talk about Scottish independence and why a softy southern English bloke like me would want to initiate a project like this.
We’d need to walk in invited guests – historians, artists, local citizen, politicians, food experts, soldiers, musicians, explorers - whoever seems right to interview and offer a platform to.
If members of the general public bothered to come and see us, they too should be welcomed – we’ll feed them, give then a seat at the table and interview them for the channel.
This could also be a place where craftspeople come to work with local materials, and we could all try out other exercises and experiences mentioned in the book: evading capture by soldiers on the Moor, trout guddling, a bagpipe battle etc.
We’d need to work out how to feed and shelter everyone. We’d need to work out how to set up a Web channel that broadcasts from the side of the mountain without the use of noisy generators or bright lights – or indeed anything that might give our position away and allow anyone to easily work out where we are.
I’d read out the whole of ‘Kidnapped’ during the stay, creating a site-specific audio book. And when we’d finished, the final act should be to dismantle the Cage, removing any trace that it was ever there – returning it to its place in fiction rather than fact.
All that would remain would be an online archive of all the broadcasts - providing a fantastic snapshot of how people in Scotland were thinking and feeling about themselves, about Britain, about their place in the world.