Fashion 014 Yasmin Photography Kirill Kuletski
038 Freaks Photography Dario Salamone
054 Subterranean Desire and the Captive Self Imogene Newland and Chris Parker
060 Mare au Diable Photography Francois Coquerel
072 Part 38. The Uncanny aids a Charcoal-Burner Phil Sawdon and Rob Ward
080 Captive Photography Michael Bader
076 Kingdom Liam Hogan
112 Untitled Study Photography Rudolph Jrazo
079 Gore Vidal Andrew Selby 088 ‘When I get through with you, you’ll look like a tree!’: fashion photography and contesting captivity in Funny Face Paul Jobling 100 Captive and Captivated by Blast Theory’s Kidnap Niki Woods 108 This Pulpy Thing: the captivating body Ross T. Smith
Art 020 Utopian Democracy In Conversation with Tushar Joag Ben Parry 028 Taken Alan Dunn
Architecture 094 Alexandra Palace Gordon O’Connor-Read
032 The elephant in the room: Bill Drummond’s Curfew Tower Alan Dunn
ISSN 1746-8086 www.stimulusrespond.com
Editor in Chief Jack Boulton firstname.lastname@example.org Editors - Literature Phil Sawdon and Marsha Meskimmon email@example.com Editor - Fashion Matthew Holroyd firstname.lastname@example.org Editor - Architecture Rose Cooper-Thorne email@example.com Editors - Art Alan Dunn and Ben Parry firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com For advertising opportunities, please contact the editor-in-chief at the address above. We welcome unsolicited material from our readers. If you would like to make a contribution to future issues then please email the editorial team at the addresses above. Stimulus Respond is published by Jack Boulton. All material is copyright (c) 2012 the respective contributors. All rights reserved. No reproduction without prior consent. The views expressed in the magazine are those of the contributors and are not neccessarily shared by the magazine. The magazine accepts no liability for loss or damage of manuscripts, artwork, photographic prints and transparencies.
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Cover image by Hien Le Contributors This Issue Alexander Anna at Nevs Anna Michae Bader Yasmin Bawa Beau at Nevs Francois Coquerel Bill Drummond Alan Dunn Heidi Franke Arkadius Giesek Liam Hogan Sabrina Holtmann Tushar Joag Paul Jobling Rudolph Jrazo Kirill Kuletski Michael Lammler Jessica Marchegiani Matteo Simon Mellnich Imogene Newland Tammi Nguyer Ailís Ní Ríain Gordon O’Connor-Read Rayan Odyll Aiga Ozo Chris Parker Ben Parry Lindsay Robertson Kathrin Rutschmann Dario Salamone Phil Sawdon Andrew Selby Simona Ross T. Smith Serena Toffetti Tugs at Izaio Rob Ward Niki Woods
photo sabine volz
Yasmin Photography Kirill Kuletski Fashion Lindsay Robertson
All clothes Yasmin Bawa Hair & Make-up Tammi Nguyer Models Anna and Beau at Nevs Photography Assistant Aiga Ozo
Utopian Democracy In Conversation with Tushar Joag
During a screening of Anand Patwardhan’s award-winning-documentary at St Xavier’s College Mumbai about the atrocities of India’s Dalit (oppressed) castes, my meeting with artist Tushar Joag two nights earlier comes suddenly into focus. At over three hours long, shot over 14 years and mixed with a wealth of found footage, Jai Bhim Comrade demands your attention. What strikes the non-Indian viewer, despite the complexities of the social order through the caste system is the pivotal role music and poetry plays in telling stories of struggle and oppression. This form of cultural expression both unites and becomes a peaceful expression of solidarity in protest. It is the power of this storytelling through traditional music that drives this film forward, substituting voice-over and traditional narrative structure instead collaging songs of emancipation with individual testimonies. Tushar Joag’s practice as an artist occupies the territory of activism, public art, protest and intervention. Sitting through the three hour screening admits a three hundred strong audience, who often break out in applause during speeches at rallies or defiant words of widowed mothers and those recounting the atrocities, served to place Joag’s work within the recent history of social-political resistance of India’s urban poor. Beyond the gallery, in the streets and public spaces it is difficult to find signs of artists’ presence in the city. There is no public art, no subverted billboards or ambiguous messaging, even the auto rickshaws here or the vernacular of street vendor’s carts and kiosks lack the creative flurry of colour and sign-writing that can be found all over India. Instead I find the traces of these artists working outside the traditional artworld, not through a trail of pasted over murals or painted out graffiti but through conversations with activists and urbanists who punctuate their urban narratives with stories of radical interventions made by artists. Not so strange then, it turns out to be a union advocate who runs a foundation for rag pickers in Dharavi who introduces me to the work of Tushar Joag. Bombay traffic and keeping late hours mean it’s long after 10pm before we are positioned comfortably on the outdoor terrace at the artist’s home in Gokuldam. Though we have the theme “captive” as a guide to our discussion I abandon this based on the introductory story about a project Joag made last year where he locked himself in a make-shift 5x3ft cell from 24th-30th
March. It was part of larger project he had curated titled ‘Right to Dissent,’ which included an exhibition, film-screenings and discussion. The various artists had been brought together to mark their solidarity with the Indian human rights activist and pediatrician Dr. Binayak Sen who in 2007 was arrested and jailed on charges of sedition. On the 15th April 2011 the Supreme Court granted bail with the verdict still pending. Despite warnings from the police Joag invited Dr. Sen to attend the show where he gave a talk and symposium to a packed out auditorium, at which his presence could be publicised only retrospectively. Joag ended his 7 day incarceration that evening and joined the panel discussion. Comfortable we have covered ‘captive’ already, we settle down with a large bottle of India’s popular Old Monk rum. I begin by asking Tushar about the relationship in his work between art and activism, when these concerns began to emerge in his work. “From around 1995 onwards I have been working with social issues, but at that point, not very overtly. Eventually I became totally disillusioned by the whole art scene, I no longer wanted to associate with the art world at all because I thought it was such a frivolous thing, a useless activity that just wasn’t giving back to society, and in 2000 I stopped making art all together.” Not even wanting to associate with his own past as an artist, Joag then destroyed all the work he had made up until that point. In destroying all the documentation he erased all trace of his life as an artist, since graduating from his masters in 1990. This radical shift came during the time Joag was finishing a two year residency at The Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. At the celebrated ‘open studios,’ Joag instead shut off his studio, broke everything inside it and without word promptly returned to India. “That was the breaking point somehow, and to think of artists being in this kind of competitive politics waiting to be picked up by galleries for shows, and being given so much money to be in the Rijksakademie to catch the eye of the curator – it was disillusioning and I didn’t want to be part of that culture.” In 1999 Joag and Sharmila Samant set up Open Circle as an artist residency platform and exchange programme by inviting national and international artists together. Having now rejected such a model and negated his own practice Joag set out to make OC more relevant
and effectual at the local level. OC began to seek creative engagement with contemporary political issues by engaging interdisciplinary platforms, primarily activism and art. This manifest in annual workshops and symposia where practitioners across the cultural field were brought together with activists to share in their address of local situations, whose political ramifications extended to the global. Anand Patwardhan was one of the first cultural practitioners to join the study circles. Joag explains, “it was about an artist, in this case a documentary film maker, coming together with an activist to show how people working in the cultural field were trying to address political and social concerns”. Open Circle examined instances where various art forms had worked on issues that were simultaneously engaged in ongoing struggle. One such series of projects invited a group of folk artists who were former ‘Mill hands’ working in Mumbai’s textile mills. “As migrants coming to the city they had established their own theatre in which to stage their productions. Since those early mill days they have been doing a song and dance repertoire that talked about the whole political scenario. So we got them together with activists who are currently working on the Mill issue right now, including a women trade unionist and an architect who made presentations or lectures.” Open Circle became a significant platform in which to share possibilities of how and where art can be relevant outside its own domain, and for Joag, “how it can give back to society in some way and to see instances of where this has been done.” In May 2001 when Patwardhan invited Open Circle to attend the hunger strike at Azad Maiden by Medha Patkar and others, in support of the Narmada Baccho Andolan; a social movement of tribes people and human rights activists against the ongoing construction of Sardar Sorovar Dam, across the Narmada river in Gujarat. Since then Joag has been a supporter of the movement and continues to work ‘whenever ‘life’ permits!’ with the indigenous communities in the affected areas. “During that time I was also doing a lot of emergent activism, I would just join a protest, sit with them, go on marches. There were times when I’d be part of meetings and I’d suggest some way of protest or agitation, but people would say “ah, no, I don’t think that will work”. One time we were planning a protest and it was determined we would all wear black bands and march. Instead, I said why don’t we all carry alarm
clocks going drrrrbrrrrrbrrring! to say wakeup man! it was something where the government need to act swiftly – everyone carrying alarm clocks going drrrdrrrrrr – “No” they said “we need to put on black bands and march.” No poetics or creativity can come in there at all. Instead we assign Tushar Bhai, (brother Tushar), “Tushar Bhai will make our poster.” So that’s the only role assigned to me, I have to sit there with a brush, forget drawing, forget images, just copy out text with a brush. It used to get very frustrating, because you still have that creative urge, you want to engage and finally, you’re an artist and you want to approach these issues through creative means. That is what will engage people, otherwise you’re just shouting and people think its just another one of those protests. But if you do something more creatively you can at least get them to engage with it.” The event that broke Joag’s three year abstention happened at the end of 2002 during an Open Circle event against the rightwing party following the bloody Gujarat riots that same year. Among the theatre groups, performance artists and musicians staged at Churchgate railway station, Joag made a performance in which he “auctioned his past” that talked about secularism and the syncretic traditions and history of India. “I auctioned my past, intangible things like my education, upbringing and such, because the right wing party in power were playing divisional politics and negating contributions of other, and Muslim communities in particular, to the ethos of the sub continent. The party were also attempting to strike out chapters from India’s history books, effectively erasing the past.” In a city with no former culture of art as intervention, Joag instead took the performative aspects of street theatre and activism, translating those tools and methods into his own form of interventionist art. “Activism has this sort of performative aspect, when you do picketing or go on hunger strike, it’s a performance and its involving the body. Hunger fast is typically one of those endurance performances.” In this shared space art can be functional in fulfilling a role where activism often lacks cultural methods to engage issues outside the common protest vernacular. Joag’s interventionist practice inhabits a functional role that operates in that shared space. “Basically, I think there are two ways of making art; politicising aesthetics and aestheticising Politics. Both are necessary and both are valid forms of practicing art, you have
to aestheticise even the politics, and you have to politicise your aesthetics. That is how I got into this mode. Then we did more interventionist things that were more about getting art out on the streets.” In 2001 Open Circle and the Bombay support group of the Narmada Bacchao Andolan carried out an intervention outside the Mantralaya (state government headquarters in Mumbai) in which a large group of art students and others marched into the busy road junction. Halting traffic they proceeded to mark out rectangular plots, pasting the names of the Samovar dam oustees to symbolically allot them rehabilitation. All were promptly arrested. When in March 2006, the Narmada Control Authority gave clearance for the dam’s next height increase of 10 meters (from 110.64m to 121.92m) - despite a Supreme Court ruling in 2003 that no further increases would be made - the artist exposed a major discrepancy in the case put forward. The Supreme court ruling states that the affected people must be allotted new land and resettled at least one 1 year before the height increase. Joag then explains, “they are increasing the damn height whilst telling the Supreme Court lies, that these people have been resettled and rehoused when in fact they haven’t. During the hunger fast they had organised a press conference. I went overnight to four of these villages and I came back with pictures. Pictures that showed those very villages, villages they claimed had been resettled, were in fact still there. I took snap shots of ‘business as usual’ street markets, everyday life in full swing. On paper, they submitted a report to say this village has been rehabilitated – so I also go to the rehabilitation site and I click pictures of what is basically tracts of barren land. There is however this big board saying “rehabilitation Site Nissarpur.” On that tract of land you can also see one board that says “Primary School” there is no building, no nothing. So the action report taken by the State Government is a pack of lies – “Status of resettlement and rehabilitation” shows the population balance to be resettled as ‘zero’. Its complete contempt of court.” Joag burned CD’s of the photographic evidence and gave them to all the attending journalists and showed slides at the press conference. He tells me that in most cases only partial and unfair resettlement has occurred, and at that new height submergence and flooding is possible. False surveys and endemic corruption
mean those communities are being offered treacherous land deals, they are signing papers and accepting compensation for lands whose elevation falls within future risk of submersion. Despite ongoing and regular visits to remote and indigenous villages from the affected areas across the Narmada Valley, Joag had never visited the dam until only a few years ago. As part of a performance project titled Riding Rocinante Joag made an epic road trip on a 350-cc Enfield Bullet ‘with sidecar’, from Bombay to Shanghai via Sardar Sarovar and the Three Gorges Dam. The 9600 mile journey took a gruelling 53 days in August-October 2010, often in sub-zero temperatures over difficult terrain across the Himalayas. At the Sardar Sarovar Dam, Joag was able to take a boat up river to the sites of abandoned villages now submerged, “we sailed by tree tops, below us whole villages, further up river they pointed out 11 submerged villages, those houses cant be saved, and instead these indigenous villages basically keep moving up the slopes.” When the Sardar Sarovar dam is finally completed by 2020 more than one million people will have been displaced and the environmental degradation will be huge. It was during his journey that the Chinese government issued a statement accepting the Three Gorges Dam was a failed initiative, the projected benefits had not been met. “Even now and despite that, there is simply no room for protest, people don’t talk about the dam, there is no willingness to talk or saying anything negative about the dam. Everybody’s scared and everybody’s being watched.” All past protest around the Three Gorges Dam project was quickly silenced. The activist and journalist Dai Qing who was trying to raise a voice against it had collected a huge amount of information that led to the publication of her book Yangste! Yangste! It was banned shortly after the Tiananmen square riots and led to her incarceration. She had openly opposed the project and regarded the dam as “the most environmentally and socially destructive project in the world.” Joag’s journey culminated with an exhibition shortly after arriving in Shanghai. The gallery exhibit included the entire bike dismantled and submerged in troughs, “breaking the bike apart to talk about the breaking apart if communities and submergence.” His daily blog was translated into Chinese and printed, displayed alongside clothes,
travel items and three maps that highlighted details around the Sardar Sarovar and Three Gorges Dam: “These two projects became the brackets within which I decided to examine what being citizens of a Democratic and or a Republic state meant to people, of both these countries and what it gave them in terms of development, dignity, rights and enfranchisement.” Comparing India’s situation to China the artist contends that in the Narmada Valley, “people are standing their ground, they are fighting and they are notching up some victories. If this movement had not been there these people would be under water by now without their rightful compensation. The Three Gorges was finished in no time, but here Its because they have been asking for whats rightfully theirs and have been forcing the government and the agencies involved to give them their rights, that the construction has taken 25 years. People are fighting and they are getting their rights. The struggle is on but I’m very optimistic and the people are optimistic.” Issues of corruption, displacement and the struggle for human rights runs through much of Joag’s work, whether he is talking about illegal street vendors or intervening in the debate and actions of slum clearance his projects oscillate between art and activism whilst challenging such categorisation. While many actions join a specific movement others are entirely self-directed and autonomous. Following an agressive wave of citywide slum clearance in 2005 the artist devised the project “Venice of the East”, part satirical critique, part political prank and a provocation that sought direct engagement with the issue. Joag targeted over 6000 affluent home owners from middle and upper-middle class buildings across Mumabi. The official letter informed residents that the property they were living was located within a major new urban renewal scheme, a city-wide construction of a canal network from Powai Lake, designed to alleviate congestion and water shortage. It mocked their aspirations for a “World Class City” through its marketing slogan, “Venice of the East” whilst insisting residents would be temporarily rehoused in far-flung quarters of Mumbai usually reserved for slum resettlement. Many fell for it and wrote to the artist in abject horror, others complained of harassment and foul play, in each case the artist was able to enter a dialogue with individual residents about the issue of displacement of the city’s most marginalised people’s.
Joag remains critical about his own labelling as an activist artist. “It’s not something you just take up because its fad, or because you have the scanner switched on for what juicy issue you can do next - it has to be integral to the way you think and make work. I am beginning to feel I do not want to be labelled as an activist artist at all. I think its quite stupid to call me an activist artist because the times I’m referred to in this way, I feel I am not doing enough to be called an activist, or even and activist artist. In fact I want to totally separate these two, in the sense of what ever activism I do will happen, and whatever art I do will naturally be informed by what I’m doing there and the politics will absolutely be at the heart. So, I do not want to make these kind of community projects, of art interventions that I feel do not have a direct or much of an impact. My art is informed by activism but it’s a difficult way of how you define yourself and practice.” Finally, I ask the artist what draws him to a particular cause or campaign, from remote agricultural settlements to the inner city slums against a backdrop of so many injustices faced by the urban poor. “If you look back through my work then you can say its basically about inequitable development. It is called development and you see it doesn’t really effect me directly because I am from the middle class, it doesn’t affect my situation if the hawkers are cleared off the streets, it wont change my life. Simply put, I don’t want to be part of this kind of development. It’s a very simple human demand that people should benefit equally, with equal access and share from this so-called development. ...Compared to those rural communities I think in the city it is much faster and much more brutal, the power centres are here, you get cops there, you bulldoze the houses and start building. And yet you would think people in the cities would be much more organised but they are not - in the cities the perpetrators are much more organised.” www.unicellpwc.org/projects.htm riding-d-rocinante.blogspot.in
Taken Alan Dunn
Taken is a sound installation by contemporary classical composer Ailís Ní Ríain at Clitheroe Castle Keep, Lancashire, in the north west of England. During the 400th anniversary of the Lancashire Witches being held in captivity, Taken takes the notion that sounds never fade to create a haunting four-seasons long evocation of isolation and persecution. Alan Dunn chats with Ailís about the development of the piece. AD: Could you firstly tell me a bit about the context of your work in general and Taken? ANR: Alongside concert music, opera and musictheatre I have been composing music for outdoor and unusual structures in recent years including a K6 red telephone box at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry, a lighthouse in Maryport, a disused mill in Ancoats, the old area of Temple Bar in Dublin and a retail unit in a Birmingham Shopping Centre. I visited Clitheroe Castle at Christmas 2010 when the whole area was deeply covered in show and I began imagining what my musical and conceptual responses to the space would be. The landscape around Clitheroe Castle is stunning, overlooking East Lancashire, and the Keep itself towers over the whole town. It is a magnificent place and for me made an immediate impact; I knew I had something to create something for it. AD: This year is the 400th anniversary of the witch trials across England and Lancashire in particular. Did this influence your research? ANR: Taken was launched in June 2011 and the original commission was completely open in respect of subject matter. It was my own idea to re-imagine the Keep through the last days
of the Lancashire Witches, I didn’t realise that 2012 was the 400th anniversary of the Trials when I proposed my idea. I typically approach the researching of a new public realm work in a number of ways and in the case of Taken I visited the site several times in different weather conditions as I felt it was essential to experience the Keep and the surrounding grounds in a variety of light and natural sounds before beginning work on the piece. In addition, I read some books, researched online and visited the fascinating Clitheroe Castle Museum itself in order begin the process of release. By that I mean the point where I consciously let go of the facts and begin to imagine, fantasise and visualise about the space I am making work for. AD: The relationship between Taken and the architecture is very strong with the geographical height of the Keep and the temperature. It was freezing when I visited it and the cold air seemed to carry the sounds that are already some of the highest sounds in Lancashire. The light levels and background noises also seem to carry the legacies of outdoor concerts or rituals. ANR: I’m pleased that you’ve picked up on these elements. I see Taken as a collaborative work between myself and those local men who built the Keep that has dominated the local skyline for over 800 years. I simply re-interpreted the structure in the context of local history. There are two particular experiences of Taken to be had. The first is inside the Keep, where the visitor is enclosed, save for the giant boulder hole in the stone that can cause a ferocious wind in the Keep.
too much as they hear the work filtered through their own memories. Â The second experience of Taken is from the outside, where you can walk right around the Keep on both an elevated walkway and at ground level. This was a deliberate decision on my part. I was not content with the music simply wafting out and being carried off by the wind so we ensured that speakers were cunningly concealed around the Keep to ensure that the music carries. The visitor has the experience of being a voyeur, aware of people being held captive in the Keep, hearing them humming however now at a comfortable distance as the music is mixed with the sounds of the everyday world continuing to spin, spin, spin and they can walk away from the wrongly accused...
AD: Could you talk us through that last night in the Keep for those condemned? ANR: This is a special question for me and one that is difficult to answer. I suspect if I could answer the question eloquently in words I wouldnâ€™t have needed to respond through music. For me, Taken is a re-imagining of the last night of the twelve accused Lancashire Witches after three months of captivity in a cell that measured just 20x12 feet and was reportedly dark, dank, cramped and airless. It is a spot where one of the accused actually died awaiting trial and others were beginning to suffer mentally in the appalling conditions.Â The experience of the piece inside the Keep is very different from the outside. Some visitors have spoken of being overwhelmed by it, especially when the music becomes particularly contrapuntal at the point I am trying to evoke the voices of twelve human beings being held captive - the absolute terror, fear, sadness and maybe for some the final defiance and eventual sense of peace found through memory of better times and hope for the next life. The effect inside the space is unrelenting, there is no escaping the voices of the accused and some visitors have described it as unsettling, haunting and eerie. For others it is
Taken weaves the humming voices of twelve local men and women into a composition for classical harp and bells AD: I wondered whether you did any research or thinking around other notions of captive sounds, of gallows songs, the use of song as final prayers and so forth? ANR: No. Deliberately not. I wanted to keep my mind as free as possible from these influences which of course I know is never actually possible. As an artist my sub-conscious does most of the conceptual work. I allowed myself the time to let the idea come to me, embed itself and direct me to what I needed to do. Which, for me, is to suspend my ego and allow my mind inhabit the space with the accused in captivity, not an easy thing to do, for me it was necessary to excavate my own psychological response to captivity as I have experienced it personally, only then do I feel as an artist that I have the right to express myself in music what this feeling is like for me and maybe others. AD: The humming from your collaborators - was there something about the wordlessness that attracted you? How relevant is it for us to know which tunes were hummed?
ANR: Taken weaves the humming voices of twelve local men and women into a composition for classical harp and bells. We put out a public call for people based in the area to contribute their humming voice to the composition in the form of a tune that holds a special resonance to them. We had a lovely long day in March where I met with all the hummers and introduced them to my work as a composer and talked to them about my idea for the project. Up until that point none of them knew what the subject matter was. I discussed my research and told them of the Lancashire Witches, their supposed crimes, the witnesses, court proceedings and individual trials. I could tell they were fascinated and moved. Like me, they had heard of the Lancashire Witches but were not knowledgeable about the specifics. We spent the rest of the day recording where I met with each hummer individually in a quiet, low lit, peaceful space where we talked about their choice of melody, why it was special to them, discussing why people hum as opposed to sing and finally imagining the captivity of the twelve accused. I treasured these one-to-one meetings and am very grateful to each hummer for sharing something so meaningful and personal with me to incorporate into the work. I was careful to allow each hummer to imagine those last days and nights of the twelve (then eleven) accused, when words, I imagine, were redundant and the full realisation of what lay ahead became clear. Each of them will have known that they would hang based on the little and terribly inadequate misrepresented ‘evidence’ from (including others) a girl of nine and a teenage male that today may be labeled with learning difficulties who incriminated himself and his whole family. The whole trial was a tragedy and of course similar injustices are taking place daily today in our own lifetime. AD: Do we know any more about that teenager? ANR: As I understand it, those investigating the case coerced him. When they realised that he was loquacious, they gave him ‘special attention’, encouraging him to speak at length in a way he was probably not otherwise regarded. In a similar vein, I came across this in a recent BBC documentary: Jennet Device, a beggar-girl from Pendle in Lancashire, was the star witness in the trial in 1612 of her own mother, her brother, her sister and many of her neighbours and, thanks
to her chilling testimony, they were all hanged. Jennet’s appearance in the witness box cast its shadow way beyond Lancashire, impressing lawyers, politicians, clerics and even King James I himself, and setting a dark precedent for child testimony in witch trials as far away as America. AD: As I was approaching the Keep I was also thinking of Paul Rooney’s ‘Lucy over Lancashire’ 12” that wove threads between the region’s relationship with satanic worship and Pendle witches. As each work evolves, do you seek out new music or sound experiences? ANR: For me, each new project absolutely has to involve something new, either to my development as an artist or to my development as a human being. I only take on projects that I am passionate about; if I don’t have the right gut feeling around an idea, I drop it. For me, being complacent as an artist, or a human, is not why we were put on this earth and given a talent. Artists, in my view, have a duty to hone their craft and demonstrate humility. Taken has been at Clitheroe Castle Keep from 18 June 2011 and has been extended until 3 June 2012. Ailís is an award-winning composer whose music has been performed all over Europe and in the USA. Recent work has been commissioned by MetalCulture for the Liverpool Biennial, The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Cornerhouse and the AND festival. See www.ailis.info For audio excerpts, see: www.alandunn67.co.uk/stimulusaudio.html
The elephant in the room: Bill Drummondâ€™s Curfew Tower
Since 1999 the Curfew Tower in Cushindall, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, has been run as an artists’ residency programme by a Board that includes Bill Drummond and Susan Philipsz. Throughout 2012, all the artworks ever produced during these residencies have been removed and locked in the Tower’s dungeon. This act has been instigated by Paul Sullivan from Liverpool’s Static Gallery, selected by Drummond to curate the year of activities. In place of objects, Sullivan is inviting a series of creative practitioners to stay in the Tower to make analogue audio recordings of the building and its locale. Alan Dunn was the first artist in residence after the confinement took place and this is his report. Arriving into Belfast International on a crisp first day of March, I am met by the Spurssupporting Micky and his Radiohead-loving brother Zippy, fourth generation fleshers (butchers) from the beautiful small village of Cushindall on the stunning north east coast of Northern Ireland. I am driven up and over the highest town in Ireland and down into one of the nine Glens. The Scottish coast is now nearer than Belfast and before the coast road was built the
main trade route was between these Glens and the Mull of Kintyre. The 40ft high Tower was built in 1809 by Francis Turnly, freshly returned from services with the East India Company. Designed as a garrison for a single soldier with a Curfew Bell to be rung nightly at 9pm, for many it remains a symbol of British Imperialism. The locals I ask seem nonplussed by it. Driving down into Cushindall is akin to entering someone’s warm and homely living room, with a large hearth in the middle. The elephant in the room. The librarian seems flustered when I ask if there is any literature on the Tower and the tourist board raise an eyebrow when I say I am spending the night there. Zippy lets me in and points out the two analogue tape recorders that have just arrived. In 1999 Drummond bought the Tower from Hearth, an organisation responsible for historic buildings, and offered it to artists for short residencies. Work produced during residencies are exhibited at the annual Festival of the Glens and a prize for best artwork awarded. Walking along the narrow ground floor corridor, a red door flanks a thin brown one with eye-level window and two metal
bars. Unlatching it and pushing it open brings one into a 6x8ft dungeon that is now packed with around 120 artworks including postcards, framed photos, gold covered guitars, models of towers, paper boats, shells and surveys, evidence of artists desperately trying to make sense of the context. Voices from outside constantly float through cracks in windows. Young men looking for the restaurant. Sitting in the dungeon, the pointlessness of making art permeates the damp walls, as does the pointlessness of not making art. The art in the dungeon feels absolutely useless, clutter for our modern world. Failures. Fireworks. Drummond’s previous work comes to mind, his burning, cutting up and ‘NO MUSIC DAY’ billboards. I think of Michael Landy’s ‘Breakdown’, rumours of great artworks stored under Liverpool’s Stanley Dock during wartime, the MOMART fire and the burning of ‘Hell’. Stacked right at the back I find a panoramic frame with ten faded photographs of blank billboards. These grey billboards have faded until they are the same grey as the sky. A blank billboard merely serves to advertise its own slow death as marketing budgets shrink; ten postcards from
an analogue city. I take the billboard images upstairs to the warm living room to revive them. I place next to it a copy of the new ‘Adventures in numb4rland’ CD I put together as I turned 44, in homage to Drummond’s ‘45’. I go to the kitchen to make coffee and sit under the Echo & The Bunnymen poster cellotaped to the ceiling and flick through the large logbook that has been kept since the first residency. ‘Surrounded by Foot & Mouth, after five days we concluded that the Tower is peculiarly Irish and the Irish are great writers’, writes John in April 2001, ‘shouldn’t we be writing here?’ I turn to the next blank page and write only a tiny ‘44’. I go back upstairs and slip the copy of ‘Adventures’ into the shelf of other CDs. Ask me why but don’t ask me why. AD: What made you decide to remove all the artworks from the Tower? Paul Sullivan: Before I went to the Tower, my first mental image was that it was on its own in a field, removed from a town. After some initial research I found out it was in fact in the town and very
much part of the identity of that town. Before my first site visit in November 2011 with Craig Pennington and Bill Drummond I had started to think about removing all the artworks as I wanted to remove the possibility of the invited residents responding to the previous works. I wanted the idea that when everyone arrived they were faced with an architecture that was itself the object of response. I was interested in the idea of the stories of the previous thirteen years worth of artists and artifacts being mediated to the residents, not through the works themselves, but through talking to the local community. I wanted the community in effect to make the images, if indeed the residents were interested. The moment I walked into the Tower for the first time, I knew that we had to incarcerate all the previous works in the dungeon, apart from one, which was Bill’s original NOTICE, the first thing you see when you walk in. It informs you of what you are meant to do. I liked the idea that we had returned the Tower to the state it was in when the first resident walked in 13 years ago. AD: You simply carried all the artworks into the dungeon? PS: Yes, myself and Alan Scroggie visited in early February 2012 and systematically removed all the works from their locations and placed them in the ground floor dungeon. We made plans of each floor and drew up a simple system that allowed us to name, number and place each item just in case they ever have to be repositioned. AD: Removing the artworks makes one focus more on the details that are left such as the onehanded clock, the handprint and ‘redrum’ text in the bathroom. In a sense you un-gallery the building. PS: Yes, as stated earlier, we wanted to remove everything and un-gallery it, however, as you mention, it became clear that by removing the artworks, it heightened your awareness of a number of works that were actually in-situ, fixed to the walls. We also left a series of audio works and texts in the Tower as we wanted to leave some media traces of previous activity, traces that could potentially be used or deciphered by new visitors. In this way we were acting as anonymous members of the community, leaving our selective or curated history of the tower in order for it to become part of our record.
AD: And the aim is to replace them all at the end of the year? PS: The aim was to itemise, name, number and show the previous location of each item before placing them in the dungeon and leave it up to Bill to think about what he wants to do with them. We will replace as we found them if required, or maybe not. AD: What is to happen to the recordings made in and around the Tower? PS: The recordings made in the tower will be made into two things. Firstly, a full and unedited radio transmission of all the field recordings that will be broadcast from the Tower as part of the Antrim Festival of the Glens in August 2013. This is the time when previously the people of Cushendall have been invited into the Tower to choose their favourite artwork from the previous years residency. However, in 2013 they will only be ably to choose from a series of field recordings. The usual temporary radio license in the UK that is still run by the government is an 8-mile radius and you can normally get a Sunday night shift from 9pm onwards. AD: Similar to the four very successful Sunday radio slots that Static programmed as part of the 2002 Liverpool Biennial? PS: Yes. As the Tower is near the coast some of this radius will be in the water. To listen to the live event you will need to be in the radius thus the project starts to play around with invisible geometries and a movement of people from the outlying towns and cities who may make their way to within the radius to listen. It will also examine who controls the radio waves in Northern Ireland. Secondly, the field recordings on tape will be collected between each residency as each participant will be required to put it in a stamped self addressed envelope and send to Static guaranteed delivery. We will then edit and produce a record. The recording of a record or cassette tape of course references Bill’s own music industry history as well as providing a delivery mechanism for the ideas of the invited residents. We will then put 50 copies of the record (25 signed and 25 unsigned) on an e-bay auction sale exactly 5 days before the ONLY ever live broadcast of the piece in its raw state which
will be transmitted from the Tower as a radio broadcast. At the exact time the e-bay auction finishes the live radio broadcast will begin. This will be the time that the normal prizegiving event happens as part of the Heart of the Glens Festival. This element of the project examines the relative fame or celebrity of the recording artists as the records are bought without ever being listened to. During the 2013 summer Festival we will also sell a further 50 copies of the record and may also develop it into a larger art/music event. AD: Your project is in a sense a coming together of Bill’s ideas and your own. Could you sum up what are the fundamental ideas involved in staying at the Tower and recording? PS: The fundamental idea from Static’s perspective was to continue with some of our current ideas about residency and practice. As we are working across the disciplines of art, architecture, music, film and writing, we wanted to invite all of these practices to have a residency. The idea of making a record came first, the idea of field recording then followed and then the idea of analogue rather than digital. The idea of asking these practitioners to each make a field recording was like making them force their ideas through an analogue interchange, some form of neutral space which allows all of them to operate as opposed to asking them all to make a piece of visual art. We also wanted to invite practitioners to stay between 1 day and 3 weeks as we know that everyone is at different points in their practices and some have more time for residencies than others. We also wanted to tap into a transient community of practitioners who may be visiting Belfast, Derry or Dublin to give a talk, do a gig or open an exhibition. By setting up contacts in these places, we wanted to create a flexible network of agents who would be able to ask people who were only in Northern Ireland or Ireland for a short period of time to participate in the project. We wanted to tap into travel networks. We have also asked three practitioners to make a series of works remotely, firstly because we want to work with these practitioners but also because when we come to edit the record we are interested to see the difference of recordings and to give ourselves different possibilities in our decision making due to the field recording vs. remote recording geographies.
Although many of the ideas are Static’s and come from the moment Bill invited us to do the project, there are of course a number of obvious linkages to Bill’s practice and history, not least the production of a record, the use of invisible geometries, in our case a radio circumference, and the use of media, celebrity or publicity stunts within elements of the project, in particular the sale of the record on e-bay and during The Festival of the Glens in 2013. For further information: The Curfew Tower www.curfewtower.com Static Gallery www.statictrading.com Bill Drummond www.penkilnburn.com For supporting audio files: www.alandunn67.co.uk/stimulusaudio.html
Freaks Photography Dario Salamone Fashion Serena Toffetti
Jumper by Prada; t-shirt by Givenchy Styling Assistant Jessica Marchegiani Models Alexander, Anna, Matteo and Simona
Jumper by Giuliano Fujiwara; trousers by Artisanal by Fabrizio Talia; shoes by Prada; glasses by Tom Ford
This page Shirt by Suzanne Susceptible Opposite page Jacket and top both by Costume National; trousers H&M; boots by Demania
Opposite page Jacket by Artisanal by Fabrizio Talia; top by Delphine Murat; shorts by Dark Leval; boots by Fantasy This page Shirt by Il Sistema Degli Oggetti; boots by Fantasy; tights stylists own
Vintage jacket by westband, models own
Anna wears dress by Covher Lab; top by Paolo Errico; boots by Fantasy, tights stylists own Alexander wears top by Andrea Incontri; trousers by Il Sistema Degli Oggetti; boots by Demania
Necklace by Shourouk
Jacket and t-shirt all vintage; can by Coca Cola
Subterranean Desire and the Captive Self Imogene Newland and Chris Parker
Down the steps underground the metal door closes behind. The steel posts that support the steel mesh of the floor above the concrete walls and floor unfinished and cold, the light beams that see a black dress the black dress my desire can for a time control. I count 1, 2, good the words 3, 4, arms legs flesh light on the metal post, use the post that’s good 5, 6, hit the bitch good that’s good 7, 8, pull her down, 9, 10, they move in and out of the light, I move right watch the focus lovely good move, move, lower 11, 12, I count, struggle by the post keep it around that area legs bend the light catches bare skin arms twisting resisting their slow bodies contort 13, 14, 15, the shutter clicks still counting keep the tension up 16, 17, the long blonde hair covers the arm deflecting light, left hand focus right shutter click wind click wind 22, 23, 24, looking nasty scrappy dirty, bare flesh illuminated the light pours through the metal grid above casting patterns across the floor, the thin shoes they show strong 25, they really mean it violence much stronger 29, 30, if this goes on someone will get hurt 31, 32, 33, keep it up more keep going go on hit her 34, that’s great twist her arm more 35, again 36, DONE OK FINISH REST. Desire holds us captive. As Freud suggested, we might consider desire as an unconscious drive that is by nature inherently subterranean (Freud, 1911). While we might be aware of the
conscious manifestation of our desires, through fantasy or through lived out behaviours or actions, the origin of these desires often goes unacknowledged and in some way, remains hidden from the self. It is often the self that imposes constraints on our psyche, even when these constraints appear to have a social or cultural origin. Yet, the self is often so elusive that what we constantly attempt to grasp, re-mould and consolidate about ourselves through our interaction with objects and people becomes not an innate understanding, but rather a process of projection. Desire grips our being, often in a way in which we feel little in control, only to resurface in such a way as to uplift and dislodge our sense of who we are. In short, we become captive. Even by exerting the rational mind over such drives, desire itself does not disappear merely through justifying a means by the end, or through an end by the means. In Four Basic Concepts of the Self (1979), Kohut discusses the self as the examination of ‘man’s inner life’ through introspection and empathy. This inner experience is what constitutes the ‘I’ in a given situation and is distinct from identity in that it refers to the core of a person’s being pertaining to ambitions, ideals, skills and talents. These so-called ‘constituents of the self’ can become fragmented when presented with choice, particularly when making decisions
Desire 4 Photographer: Chris Parker Models: Imogene Newland and David Bird Location: Sonic Arts Research Centre, Belfast
linked with self-expression. Such decisions need to be integrated into a person’s sense of being to dissipate feelings of dissonance, which are a natural part of decision-making. Fragmentation arises when the decision that is made is out of keeping with various factors including social norms and cultural predispositions, as well as the sense of who we are versus what we feel is expected of us. As such, the self may be described as [...] a unit, cohesive in space and enduring in time, which is a centre of initiative and a recipient of impressions (Kohut, 1977 cited in Ornstein, 1991: 452) Our beliefs and desires are an intrinsic part of our sense of self and affect the way in which others perceive us. These aspects may take the form of both conscious and unconscious intentions that are transformed into thoughts, actions and behaviours. Importantly, these drives are mediated by psychological factors that are both socially contingent and culturally dependent. For example, The Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971 proved that attributing particular roles within a given social framework predisposed the individual to thinking and behaving in ways specific to that role. Through dividing a group of students into two groups – ‘guards’ and ‘prisoners’ – the researchers found that those in the ‘guard’ role became sadistic whilst those in the ‘prisoner’ role became withdrawn and depressed. This kind of ‘social herding’ suggests that we may not have so much choice in matters as we might reasonably assume. Included within this framework are ways of behaving that conform to social appropriateness, which in certain settings relieves feelings of vulnerability. In other settings, ‘standing out from the crowd’ may be actively encouraged and viewed as a natural part of selfexpression. Whatever the overall cultural trend, those immersed within any dominant social ideology experience ‘accepted’ conventions as unconscious and invisible, and to a large degree, unquestionable aspects of everyday life. These paradigms inform the choices we make, even when we are aware that they are disparate from those decisions that feel ‘right’ to us on an individual level. As Markus states: [...] what appears as the all-important choice can be found in most cultural contexts, but the
significance and consequence of selecting one alternative over another depends on the set of cultural understandings and habitual practices that come bundled with this action (Markus, 2003: 281) The idea that art communicates interior subjective experience is nothing new. In The Captive Mind (1953), Miłosz provides a personal/ historical account of his own experience of inner dissonance provoked by his role as an underground writer in Poland following World War II. Miłosz details the interior conflict he felt having to pander to the dictates of governmental policies whist secretly harbouring a personal defiance against the communist regime. The book brings the notion of freedom of choice into sharp focus, where the schism between the conscious and unconscious mind is illustrated as the conflict between what is felt on a personal level and what is deemed socially acceptable. We might say that Miłosz was acting in what Satre defines as ‘bad faith’, a kind of feigned sincerity that does not necessarily acknowledge the selfmotivated origins of his actions (Satre, 1943). In contrast to Miłosz, Renata Adler’s Pitch Dark (1984) explores the contradictory and often ambiguous nature of the self. Through a fictional account of the character’s internal dialogue, Adler voices thoughts and emotions as a kind of conversation between disparate aspects of the self, in which no immediate resolution between the various fragmented parts is given. She analyses the character’s romantic relationship from the standpoint of things which are left unsaid but rather understood through body language and through reference to self-experience. Through this analogy, Adler provides a portrait of a woman who is the victim of her own thoughts, hounded by an internal dialogue that spirals uncontrollably into believing things which don’t really exist. These two accounts of interior experience provide ways of understanding how the self interacts with the exterior environment and explores how a comprehension of others might arise as a consequence of self-reference. However, they also confirm the presence of dissonant and often contradictory viewpoints within the mind that affirm the fragmentary nature of the self. Indeed, they allude to the notion that a ‘sense-of self’ is not so much a fixed agency but rather a continually renewable and ever-changing state of being.
Our ability to ‘explain away’ certain less agreeable behaviours of our significant others is based on the experience and understanding we have of our own behaviour In our personal relationships, our sense of self is in part defined by our interactions and perceptions of a significant other, which in turn affects our own sense of being. Our ability to ‘explain away’ certain less agreeable behaviours of our significant others is based on the experience and understanding we have of our own behaviour. Such justifications, which are common in social perception, help to defuse negativity and ‘[...] reconstrue the faults into virtues’ (Chen, 2003: 1287). Among these speculations may be our habit of intuiting other people’s desires, coupled with our own desire to please and live up to another’s expectations, which in turn has come to constitute our own desire for a particular way of seeming, being and appearing. When we are at a dissonance with those around us, we are also often in dissonance with ourselves, fighting to incorporate or reintegrate either our own personal views or those of others. The desire to be at one with those closest to us derives in part from that sense of being provided from feeling constituent with/ of another, a feeling of unification that supports our sense of self through ‘agreement’ with others. As Bataille suggests, overcoming resistances often renders desire both more authentic and meaningful, even if that desire will eventually fade: Hence love is based on a desire to live in anguish in the presence of an object of such high worth that the heart cannot bear to contemplate losing it. The fever of the sense is not a desire to die. Nor is love the desire to lose but the desire to live in fear of possible loss, with the beloved holding the lover on the very threshold of a swoon (Bataille, 1957: 242-243) Through her photographic series The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1979 -) Nan Goldin has explored the relationship between desire and the self through a documentation of underground
subculture. Beginning in New York in the 1970s, the series traces Goldin’s personal social interactions: through images of drug addiction, violence and sex to recording the loss of friends to AIDS, Goldin gives an honest and unsettling account of what has been termed her ‘extended family’. Goldin’s interest in the frailty and vulnerability of the human condition is reflected in her desire to capture the many layers of the self, even in circumstances that carry a high personal risk. Indeed, one of the reasons why Goldin’s work is so uncomfortable to look at is the knowledge of the reality of the images, not as a manufactured work of art but as candid description of her life in the underworld. The life of the artist is therefore used as a stimulus for work where the self forms a central theme. In relation to the exploration of the inner drives of the artist, two further photographers immediately spring to mind. While a comparison between the work of Diane Arbus and Francesca Woodman might not at first seem conducive, when we turn to an analysis of the self as a central theme we begin to find some common ground. By her own admission, Arbus was obsessed by the idea of uncovering the hidden life of her subjects. In a recent psycho-biographical account of the artist, Schultz explains that Arbus’ work was driven by an innate need for her to understand and come closer to herself, often forcing her subjects into uncomfortable scenarios to capture something of them which they did not know, or did not wish to know (Schultz, 2011). It is perhaps of little coincidence that Arbus chose to end her life when she felt her subjects no longer gave back to her what she so desired – a reflection of her interior subjective experience. Where Arbus’ work was concerned with seeking out the expression of inner experience, Woodman’s work might at first appear more about a study of female identity specifically concerned with corporeality. However, on closer inspection Woodman’s work, like that of Goldin and Arbus, seems to reveal something of the inner conflict of the artist. In Woodman’s case this was linked to body perception. This is most visible when presented with images in which Woodman has referenced the body as somehow imperfect; through attempting to integrate her body into the derelict interiors of run-down buildings Woodman implicates a feeling of physical empathy between the two compositional elements that references a feeling of interior fragmentation. This framework is echoed in
Desire 4 Photographer: Chris Parker Models: Imogene Newland and David Bird Location: Sonic Arts Research Centre, Belfast
similar studies where Woodman has made a more immediate physical intervention with the surface of the female body, as can be seen in another of her images in which her torso appears naked and faceless with pegs clipped roughly to the skin. Artists such as those discussed here have produced work that has an immediate resonance with the interior subjective experience that permeates our everyday life. This is the kind of work that invites us to look inwards and examine our own inner struggles and reflect on the illusions that we carry. Silverman suggests that the photograph captures something of the subject that is not intended, that of an internal desire to appear a certain way (Silverman, 1996). As Barthes discussed, the photograph can only exist in the present tense, where a snapshot of time that would naturally remain invisible to the naked eye is captured (Barthes, 1980). The photograph is an invitation for the subject to construct themselves as they would wish to be, as if it were they who looking through the lens of the camera. It is this interest that has fired the work of artists such as Goldin and Woodman – a deliberate seeking out and dissection of the fragmentary nature of the self. Photography as a practice forces us to be in the exact instant of every moment and as such represents the trace of time forever instilled in an everlasting present. This ‘being in the present’ might be suggested as an antidote to the captive self, in the form of escape from continual self-reference to the past or future. Indeed, even in the split second that a photograph is taken, it is not the factual substance of intention that is revealed, but the very process of desiring. The camera suddenly feels heavy I wind the film out. They walk around their heavy breathing turns to laughter spontaneity in a repeat it would be dead. My mind works back the words the communication the tone of voice rings in my head from the silence to guild to encourage coming from the darkness, single words and counting. It’s the fragments the small odd beautiful the only just visible flesh hair cloth that works in the mind to create images the remembered. What did we get, the wait I develop the film back and forth in the tank it goes tick tick the darkroom clock counting always counting, rinse fix wash dry. The pulse speeds did we really get what I saw did I catch those right moments. Make the contact sheets yes yes print. We talk we look, next time we could, already with knowledge
gained we plan like this like that it goes on the work always the work it’s us who we are desire to be. References Adler, R., 1984. Pitch Dark. London: Hamish Hamilton Ltd. Barthes, R., 1980. Camera Lucida. Translated from French by R. Howard, 1981. London: Vintage. Bataille, G., 1957. Eroticism. Translated from French by M. Dalwood, 1962. London/New York: Marion Boyars. Chen, S., 2003. ‘Psychological-state theories about significant others: Implications for the content and structure of significant-other representations’. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 29. pp.1285-1302. Freud, S., 1911. The Unconscious. London: Penguin Books Ltd. Goldin, N., Cave, N., Costa, G., 2007. The Devil’s Playground. New York: Phaidon Press Inc. Keller, C., 2011. Francesca Woodman. San Francisco: DAP/San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Kohut, H., 1979. ‘Four Basic Concepts of the Self’. In: Ornstein, P. H., ed. 1991. The Search for the Self – Selected Writings of Heinz Kohut: 1978-1981, Volume 4. London: Karnac Books Ltd. pp.447-471. Markus, H. R., Kitayama, S., 2003. ‘Culture, Self, and the Reality of the Social’. Psychological Inquiry 14(3/4), pp.227-283. Miłosz, C., 1953. The Captive Mind. New York: Vintage. Satre, J. P., 1943. Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology. Translated by H. E. Barnes, 1957. Oxon: Routledge. Schultz, W. T., 2011. An Emergency in Slow Motion: The Inner Life of Diane Arbus. New York: Bloomsbury. Silverman, K., 1996. The Threshold of the Visible World. New York/London: Routledge.
Mare au Diable Photography Francois Coquerel
“Economy” is here used in its etymological sense of “law” (nomos) of the “house” (oikos) and as a counter-balance to the Unheimliche (uncanny/un-homely).
The burni ng gates
Easel and Donkey. A donkey is an artistâ€™s sitting easel. The German word for Donkey is Esel
There could have been a conclusive flourish â€“
A serpentine underlining - but no such thing exists
Kingdom Liam Hogan
I’ve been counting the days, and yet when the light of the rising sun spills through the narrow cleft in the steep escarpment as it does every year at this time, my stomach still twists itself into knots. I take one last look over my Kingdom – the single valley, bounded on three sides by mountains and on the fourth by a small lake that empties out into a deep ravine – before hurriedly descending to the Great Hall to conduct the morning’s census and allocate the days’ tasks. I count twenty three men, twelve women and two – no, three children. There used to be more; more men, more women, and more children. My wife - the Queen – is not present. Some days she clings to my side, never more than a pace away from me. Today is not one of those days. Today, she is in bed, wracked with fear. She too has been marking the passage of time, and though it grieves me to see her this way, I must leave her to battle her own demons, for I have much to do and little time to do it. I must prepare for our visitor. The woodchopper’s assistant was also not at the census. I check on him after lighting the fires in the kitchen. He’s feverish, and in his delirium he cries out in a guttural, foreign tongue. I dress his wound but there is little else I can do for him,
and the stench of decay foretells his doom. I wonder if there will be another brave enough to take his place? It is at least a worry for another day - there is wood enough for the feast, and I have given the woodchopper other duties. Around noon the bell by the lake rings, a short, impatient peal and I carefully hand the sharp knife to one of the three cooks. King Ulfred, our neighbour in every direction and for many leagues beyond, is early. I hurriedly wash my hands and throw the fur-trimmed robe around my shoulders. By the time I swing open the heavy oak doors he is already there, bounding up the steps, lustily pulling on a rope. “Nathaniel!” He cries, “Greetings, old friend! I bring you new subjects.” I mumble my thanks as he hands me the tether, and the three men attached fall to their knees, cringing and forlorn. I rub the scarred tissue above my eye-patch distractedly. Two of them will not, I think, last to the next spring. The third, though his head is bowed, holds his shoulders erect despite the heavy pack he is carrying. The board around his neck proclaims him to be a counterfeiter; very well – let us hope he is good with his hands. King Ulfred claps me on the shoulder. He’s
beaming, his cheeks rosy from the row across the lake. “A fine spring day! I should warn you, I’ve worked up quite an appetite! How fares the feast?” Ulfred descends upon us each year at the spring equinox, when the ice has melted and the mountain lambs are young. He likes his lamb milk-fed; barely a month old. To my mind, the meat is too lean and the cost to our small herd too high. But they are the King’s favourite, and so half a dozen of our precious lambs are crammed into the ovens and onto the spits. A glut of meat of which only the choicest will be offered to Ulfred. “It is still being prepared, my liege. Perhaps some mutton stew while you wait?” He screws up his face. “I didn’t come here for stew, Nathaniel! A refreshing goblet of water, and then let us beat the bounds. We have much to discuss, fellow King.” He gives me a narrow look and I silently berate myself for my careless slip. “My liege” is not how Kings refer to one another. “Certainly, King Ulfred,” I say as I pour his drink. “I’ll just check on the kitchen...” He downs the goblet, and casts it aside. “Come now, I’m sure they can do without your ministrations for an hour. And I have need of your expert knowledge.” We talk about his campaign in the South, and his need to raise funds. I advise against the grain tax he proposes - last year’s harvest was not a good one - and suggest a few alternatives. He harrumphs, and says he’ll think about it. I fall silent. I was his advisor once; a trusted and loyal subject, my judgement valued. Until pride got the better of me, and I began to think that my wisdom was such that I could do a better job than the King himself. My pitiful coup collapsed before it had even begun. Too close to the court, I misjudged the level of fear that the King inspired outside of it. I know that fear now. I had thought my life forfeit; instead, it amused the King to banish me to this make-believe Kingdom along with my co-conspirators and our families, a lesson for others foolish enough to contest his might. The day is warm, and as we walk the thin trail that skirts the valley I slip the robe from my shoulders and carry it over my arm. King Ulfred tuts. “Nathaniel! Your shirt is threadbare, and by the looks of the needlework you must have darned it yourself! Perhaps I should send you my tailor?” I shrug, neither accepting nor rejecting his offer, wondering what the tailor has done to displease him. Perhaps no more than the ox
Ulfred sent when I asked for help to plough the fields; the beast mewling in terror and bucking at the slightest touch. Had it done anything to justify being the butt of the King’s cruel humour? We pass the ruins of the stables. “Improvements?” He asks, raising an eyebrow. “A fire.” I reply simply. “Any... casualties?” He seems eager for the gruesome details. I nod. “Seven. It took hold too fast for them to escape. We... also lost the ox.” A lie. The ox was dead long before the disaster that followed the first of the winter’s snows. “A shame.” King Ulfred shakes his head. “They were fine stables. You will rebuild them, I hope.” I look at him aghast. It was not a question - was it an order? He’s holding my gaze, the smile frozen. “Ahh... yes. Now that the weather is better...” I fluster. “Good! I do so enjoy our walks, Nathaniel. It is such a pleasure to be without my usual retinue, even if it is only for an hour, and it warms the heart to see what a fine King you have turned out to be. Long may you reign, hey?” I shudder, a momentary weakness, but the King’s back is turned and he fails to notice. We are at the rear of the hunting lodge that serves as my castle, near the kitchens, and the smell of roast meat fills the air. “Ah, now I am truly ravenous.” He says, licking his lips. “Let’s eat!” King Ulfred inhales deeply from the plate of tiny lamb chops. There is little to go with it - the last of the winter root vegetables, a few leeks - but he ignores these anyway. “Exquisite!” He says as he pops a morsel of moist pink meat into his mouth. “I’m really not sure the wine I have brought will do it justice.” I eye the bottle enviously, and he laughs and pushes it across the table. “Here. For you and your lovely Queen.” The Queen seizes hold of my hand, her grip fierce. I wait a moment, but she says nothing, and as her grasp weakens I fill and pass her the goblet. She takes it eagerly, quickly draining the blood red liquor, a thin dribble escaping down her chin. King Ulfred watches intently, and calls for another bottle, but the Queen ignores the refill, and Ulfred shrugs in disappointment and starts his feast in earnest. I sip my wine cautiously and watch him eat, remembering tales my wife once told me of exotic poisons the King employed to dispatch his enemies. When he finally pushes back from the table,
a satisfied look on his face, his plate is brimming with the slender white curves of stripped bones. “I do believe I might have broken my record – perhaps the Queen will do me the honour of counting?” The Queen stiffens, clenching her jaw, and then after a long moment’s pause she slowly reaches out to the plate I have placed in front of her and begins, her lips moving silently. “Thirty eight.” - is all she says when she removes the last bone. King Ulfred strokes his grease slicked beard. “Thirty eight hey? Two more than last year. My compliments to your cooks.” He says. “And now, I have a gift for you.” “A gift?” I echo in trepidation. The King’s largesse is not to be trusted. The King roots through the packs that were brought with him, pulling out a small parcel wrapped in white muslin. I open it gingerly, and then stare like a fool at the tiny embroidered tunic contained within. “Fit for a Prince, no? And where is the little tyke?” “Your Majesty...” I begin and then quickly stop. “Come. You think I did not notice that the Queen was with child on my last visit?” King Ulfred waits until my head slowly dips in reluctant confirmation. “So you have a child – a joyous occasion, and one to be celebrated! A boy, I trust? Bring him to me.” The Queen makes as though to stand, but I squeeze her thigh under the table and she shrinks back into her chair. I call for the woodchopper. The wait seems eternal before he enters, gently shielding the infant. I stand, and take the smiling babe from his scarred arms. King Ulfred is at my side, and quickly takes my burden from me, holding the small bundle aloft. “A bonny child. And such beautiful eyes. His mothers, I believe?” There’s a quiet sob from the Queen, and then Ulfred hands the child back. “You’re a lucky man, Nathaniel. You have what God in his infinite wisdom has denied me – an heir. Three wives, all young, one distinctly comely, and not a single blessed child.” Ulfred reaches to his belt and pulls a dagger from its sheath, laying it down on the table next to his empty goblet. “For a while, I thought I might groom a successor anyway – some brilliant young man, plucked from obscurity, humbled by the unexpected honour, grateful for the opportunity. Not, it turns out, one of my brightest ideas.”
I stare down at my feet, until I feel his grip on my shoulder and I slowly raise my head to look into his impassive face. “As you know, Nathaniel, you owe me an eye. And I think it is time to collect, don’t you? But I am not an unreasonable man. I will let you keep your sight if you offer me another’s. Perhaps someone not yet tainted by your betrayal?” The screams have finally stopped; the child has exhausted itself, and sleeps fitfully. At long last the hall is silent, littered with the remains of the feast that none dare clean up. I do not know where the Queen is, she wasn’t to be seen when I returned from escorting Ulfred back to the lake. That was hours ago - hours of pacing the slowly darkening hall, rocking my son back and forth as I held his tiny grasping hands away from the blood stained bandage wrapped around his head. How much can you be punished for one stupid mistake? And what if the sacrifice is not yours? What if it continues, year, after year, after year? Sometimes the sacrifice cannot be borne, and I dread what I might find when I seek out my wife. Should I have wrestled the dagger from the King? Or allowed him to take my sight, rather than that of my infant son? But what then? When Ulfred next visits, shortly after the lambs are born, should I poison his meat in suicidal vengeance? I shake my head, blinking the tear away. These are not options open to me. I have a duty to perform, and though it rips my soul from me, it is not one I can shirk; I do not have the luxury of escape. My subjects, and my wife, and my son - if he survives that long; they can choose for themselves whether they live or die. But not I. For if I die, they all die too – unsighted, they cannot survive long without me. Thus am I destined to remain; the reluctant King in this, the land of the blind.
Andrew Selby, Gore Vidal (2012)
Captive Photography Michael Bader Fashion Arkadius Giesek
All clothes by Rayan Odyll Set Design Heidi Franke, Kathrin Rutschmann, Michael Bader and Simon Mellnich Hair & Make-up Sabrina Holtmann Model Tugs at Izaio Photography Assistant Michael Lammler
‘When I get through with you, you’ll look like a tree’: fashion photography and contesting captivity in Funny Face. Paul Jobling
Stanley Donen’s film Funny Face (1957), starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire, is generally regarded as a benchmark in the Hollywood musical for its exuberant use of colour and songs, a pleasurable feast for the eyes and ears. Alexander Walker, (1999:13), for example, called it ‘an amorous photo session of the utmost elegance’. But, in the way that it deals with the intertextual nexus between fashion/photography and film, it is not only a cinematic locus for the mediation of fashionable identities but one that deals with their mediatization as well, dwelling on a new style of photographic representation, which came to be known as the ‘New American Vision’. Accordingly, in examining how the theme of captivity is elaborated in Funny Face, I want to analyse the way it depicts the performative dynamic between the fashion editor, photographer and model. Specifically, I shall take into account the dialectic of looking, gazing and power it involves between them in creating a physical (and metaphysical) space for fashionable female identities. Essentially, Funny Face is a latter day version of the Pygmalion story in which Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn), a gauche bookstore assistant in New York’s Greenwich Village, is turned into a top model by Maggie Prescott, the dictatorial fashion editor of Quality (Kay Thompson), and debonair photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire). As such, it deals principally with fashion publishing rather than fashion design and, from the outset, its plot overlaps with Roland Barthes’ idea that the representation of fashion is the reality of fashion and that it is the magazine that is ‘a machine for making Fashion’ (Barthes, 1981:51). There are, of course, catwalk displays in the film and even in the extended photo-shoot sequence, the idea of the traditional catwalk is connoted by the fact that in the final tableau Hepburn models a wedding gown. But, in any case, from the opening title sequences to the final photo-shoot, the film foregrounds the idea of fashion as an idealised image rather than as a social reality, and something that is constructed by a cultural elite. Fashion publishing began to be transformed when Thomas Condé Nast took over the running of Vogue in partnership with its first editor Edna Woolman in 1909. The title was founded in 1892 in America, originally as a society magazine that was aimed at the top 400 families whose names were recorded in the Social Register in New York. A British edition followed in 1916, and French and Italian versions in 1920 and 1950 respectively. When Nast purchased the American edition, the circulation of the magazine was modest - approximately 14,000 copies per month. His aim, however, was not to increase Vogue’s readership and he deliberately continued to emphasize the magazine’s social exclusivity during the 1920s and
1930s. What was of more importance to him was to revitalize its aesthetic form and content in keeping with the prevailing aesthetic values of modernism. To achieve this he employed a successive range of inventive layout artists, editors and photographers between 1909-39, including the photographers Edward Steichen, George Hoyningen-Huene and Horst, and the graphic designer Mehemed Fehmy, all of whom emulated the avant-garde art movements of New Objectivity and Surrealism in their stylistic tendencies. Equally, Harper’s Bazaar, founded in 1867, was acquired by the Hearst Corporation in 1912 and under its editor in chief, Carmel Snow, and fashion editor, Diana Vreeland, it was visually transformed, featuring Surrealist-inspired photographs by Man Ray between 1934-36. What was of significance in this respect was the way that fashion photography during the early-twentieth century became more important than the fashions themselves by playing on fetishised fantasies of desirability and beauty that could be achieved through a manipulative use of lighting, tone and scale; Horst’s image of a Mainbocher corset for French and American Vogue (13 September 1939) is one of the most seminal and iconic forms of this type of representation. As Elizabeth Wilson (1985:157) has appositely argued: ‘It was above all the camera that created a new way of seeing and a new style of beauty for women in the twentieth century. The love affair of black and white photography with fashion is the modernist sensibility’. The camera’s love affair with fashion was both compounded and transformed after the Second World War by a new style of more wired, spontaneous fashion photography, known as the ‘New American Vision’ and pioneered by the likes of Richard Avedon, who became a staff photographer for Harper’s in 1944. Many of his images from the late-1940s and 1950s put fashion into a situational context and he exploited informality, drama and playfulness to choreograph a sense of the ‘ambiguity of the real’ and the collision between the ordinary and the extraordinary, as in his 1955 photograph of Dovima with elephants. In fact, Avedon acted as visual consultant for Funny Face and was responsible for the photographic stills in the opening credits and photo-shoot sequence, and his status is replicated in the movie by Astaire’s character. Paradoxically, however, while the new street style of photography enabled America to take over pole position from France in fashion publishing by the late-1940s, in the film the ‘New American Vision’ is enacted on location in Paris. Thus the city is represented as the locus of both pleasure and artistic inspiration, something that is crystallised in the ‘Bonjour Paris’ sequence, which is virtually a love affair to the city as spectacle.
Adam Gopnik (1994: 110,111) has stated: ‘Avedon’s early fashion photographs use the models to attack a false mystique of femininity… The pictures are about the fun and pain and absurdity and tedium of presenting a perfect image to the world … Femininity, style, is something constructed - worked for, tweezed and modelled and highlighted into being’. Certainly, in Avedon’s images it as if the models double up as actors. Yet, ultimately it is the photographer who calls the shots and this is amplified in Funny Face by Dick when, on location in the Gare du Nord, he barks at Jo, ‘You’re not only a model, you’re an actress!’ Hence, the idea of female identity as something en procès, or under construction, is much in evidence in the film’s narrative in the way that gawky Jo is transformed into an elegant swan by Dick and Maggie (the latter a thinly veiled impersonation of the redoubtable Vreeland, who had taken over the editorship of Harper’s Bazaar from Snow in 1957). Fashion photography, therefore, has traditionally been a maledominated profession through which the female body is objectified by the producer both for his own pleasure and that of the (male) spectator. Jean Patchett commented, for instance, how Avedon ‘jumped around too much’ and made her ‘feel inadequate’ (Gross, 1995:79). Similarly, the first time we witness Dick in the studio, we see he has complete control over the archetypal, vacuous fashion model Marion (a cameo played by Dovima), who can’t give him the ‘long look’ he demands and concentrates instead on reading her book Minute Men from Mars. Such a dynamic of power and control in film acting and spectatorship was pinpointed by Laura Mulvey in her seminal essay of 1975, ‘Visual Pleasure and the Narrative Cinema’, where she maintains (1989: 19): In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its fantasy onto the female figure which is stylised accordingly. In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed ... Woman displayed as sexual object is the leitmotif of erotic spectacle. To a certain degree, Jo is represented as the object of the photographer’s gaze on this basis. In Dick’s darkroom, for example, she bewails the fact that she is too unconventional and plain to be a fashion model, whereas he freeze frames her in the glare of his spotlight and avows, ‘When I get through with you, you’ll look like a tree’. But there are also telling moments in the film when she resists being pinned down, by either his or Maggie’s desire to transform her into a fashion icon. While Dick regards his job as ‘beautiful dresses on beautiful women’, Jo insists it’s more a matter of ‘silly dresses on silly women’. Crucially, the tension between the passive object/active subject is performatively deconstructed in the prolonged photo-shoot sequence, which acts as a showcase for Hubert de Givenchy’s eight stunning outfits for Jo but coterminously complements the narrative thrust of Funny Face. At this stage in the film, having been plucked from obscurity as a gamine bookseller by Dick and Maggie to model outfits in Paris, she fledges into a confident young woman, while also beginning to fall in love with Dick. In an earlier catwalk scene, wearing a sack-back style dress by Givenchy she
In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female
remarks, ‘It doesn’t feel like me’, after the fashion designer Paul Duval calls her a ‘bird of paradise’, whereas in the fashion shoot she progressively realises and asserts her independence. At the start of the sequence, photographed in front of the Arc du Carrousel in the Tuileries Gardens Jo is still the awkward ingénue, learning how to strike the right pose in her black New Look day dress as she clutches on to a set of balloons. Dick entreats her to run as fast as she can but she exclaims, ‘I don’t know which way to go. I’m sorry, I’m terribly nervous, I’ve never done anything like this before’. In the penultimate shot, however, she subverts the normative power dynamic of the male gaze. Spontaneously marching down the steps of the Louvre in a stunning red New Look evening gown, therefore, she raises her arms and pashmina to mimic the pose of the ‘Victory of Samothrace’ behind her and enjoins Dick three times to ‘Take the picture!’ Hepburn had modelled Givenchy’s clothing in 1953 in Holland and afterwards he fashioned the outfits she wore in Sabrina (1954) and Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), as well as Funny Face. Otherwise costumer Edith Head masterminded the overall look of the clothes for Jo, Dick and Maggie. The employment of two different types of designer on Funny Face is instructive insofar as their distinctive roles and styles symbolise the transformations in Jo, who is lost and found through both clothing and her burgeoning love for Dick. Indeed, clothing enables her performatively to be either in control or out of control of who she thinks she is, and in this sense her identity crisis echoes Judith Butler’s argument (1990: 140) that, while gender is created and ostensibly sedimented through performativity in the reiteration of certain speech and body acts, the final outcome can only be that they ‘constitute the illusion of an abiding self’. Two further key instances in the film of this idea of ‘doing’ identity without permanently stabilising it are the song and dance sequence in the bookstore and the boho-inspired dance in the left bank cabaret. In the first, Dick kisses Jo and awakens a sense of desire in her that she enacts in the song ‘How long has this been going on?’ Donning the extravagant yellow and orange hat left behind by the model Marion, she laments her sober, grey-stocking garb and sings, ‘My philosophic search has left me in the lurch’. By contrast, in the second, wearing a black Beatnik outfit designed by Head, she performs a song and dance routine about female emancipation with a troupe of male dancers. Here, Jo seems to be at ease and her most natural, garbed in black turtleneck, pedal pushers and penny loafers, and with her hair in a ponytail. In turn, the bohemian cabaret scene evinces the ambivalent position that America held on French culture after the Second World War, captive and indebted to it as a source of inspiration yet simultaneously aiming to surpass European supremacy in art and design. Many of the Abstract Expressionists, for instance, had been introduced to the left-bank philosophy of existentialism through the magazine Partisan Review, which had published work by Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre in the late1940s. The espousal of existentialism is symbolised in Funny Face by Jo’s desire to discuss empathecalism with Professor Flostre, which fuels her initial interest in accepting the invitation to model clothes in Paris. But by 1950 Sartre was also denounced as a communist in
America because his philosophy went against the grain of individual freedom that the establishment wanted to promote under the ideology of ‘People’s Capitalism’. Likewise, Funny Face follows suit in both embracing and unmasking the intellectual posturing of existentialism/empathecalism. After meeting Flostre, for example, Jo is disillusioned to discover that he has sexual desires just like other men and sees her as fair game, much as Sartre’s support for Simone De Beauvoir’s feminism and his love for her were underpinned by their mutual belief that seduction and writing emanated from the same intellectual base. In no sense, then, is Jo represented as emancipated a figure as De Beauvoir, willing to enter into the free love and ‘contingent love affairs’ that the latter agreed to in her relationship with Sartre. The sense of liberation connoted by the Beatnik cabaret is compromised, for instance, by the film’s dénouement, which is sufficiently open-ended for us to speculate that Jo ends up married to Dick, something that has already been adumbrated by the romantic wedding dress scene in the location shoot. Accordingly, we could conclude the way fashion is deployed in Funny Face as a means of transmogrifying one’s identity also seems to suggest that such transformations are superficial and that meaningful existence happens outside the world of fashion. And yet, because Jo is not merely a clotheshorse and has the intelligence and foresight that mark her out from the other models in the film, she deconstructs the sexist binary between brains and beauty. If, as she comes to realise, the sexual desires of intellectuals such as Flostre are not necessarily any different to those of other men - in this instance photographers such as Dick - then why shouldn’t an independent young woman like herself combine marriage, glamour and intellect? Hepburn herself was gamine, offbeat and exotically European, and, aged 22 when she starred in the film, she offered a new youthful and unconventional femininity that was the antithesis of the buxom Hollywood archetype. Consequently, although Funny Face is a visual feast to watch it also transcends the usual portrayal of the fashion system as entirely vacuous and troubles the idea that the female model is merely the male photographer’s captive muse. Something that two cult, and more earnest, films released in 1966 - quondam fashion photographer William Klein’s Qui Etes-Vous, Polly Magoo?, starring his favourite American model Dorothy McGowan, and Antonioni’s Blow-Up, whose male protagonist is based on the likes of chauvinist photographers Terence Donovan and David Bailey - do not even begin to portend in their one-sided objectification of women as passive fashion victims.
By 1950 Sartre was denounced as a communist in America because his philosophy went against the grain of individual freedom
References: Barthes, Roland (1981). The Fashion System, trans. by M. Ward and R. Howard. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Butler, Judith (1990). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. London and New York: Routledge. Funny Face (Paramount, 1957; dir. Stanley Donen). Gopnik, Adam (1994). â€˜The Light Writerâ€™, Richard Avedon, Evidence 1944-1994. London: National Portrait Gallery. Gross, Michael (1995). Model. London: Bantam Press. Mulvey, Laura (1989). Visual and Other Pleasures. Basingstoke: Macmillan. Walker, Alexander (1999). Hot Tickets, 19-25 November: 13. Wilson, Elizabeth (1985). Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity. London: Virago.
Text and Images by Gordon Oâ€™Connor-Read
Buildings are often captives of man’s past. Bonded indefinitely to the era in which they were erected, their legacy is often not their own. Sometimes met with ridicule, loathing or even indifference, these are artefacts of our history. As such, they’re a source of remembrance more important than a snap-photograph simply because of the space they occupy and the memories they hold. One such spectacle is North London’s Alexandra Palace, a counterpart to South London’s Crystal Palace, a lost icon and seminal home of the world renowned Great Exhibition of 1851. Affectionately referred to as ‘Ally Pally’, the once grand and imposing Alexandra Palace is now a reminder of a bygone era in televised broadcasting history and the Victorian age in which the venue was originally forged. Built against a backdrop of exponential industrial growth, the subsequent political vigour of Romanticism and the social-philanthropy that prevailed in 18th and 19th-century Britain, which have now ebbed away leaving us with an edifice to mourn over. Its deteriorating shell remains perched aloft the hills of Haringey, and with its great vantage over the rest of London; the Palace has become a billboard for Victorian pseudoantiquity. The Palace was intended as an emporium of civic architecture, bringing about recreation and entertainment to the public, whilst experiencing both setbacks and successes in equal measure. The first worldwide-broadcast was televised from the Palace’s BBC studios in 1936, but a mere two years after its completion in 1873 a severe fire meant entire reconstruction. Over a century later, a second fire in the grand hall crippled much of the structure and accelerated its dilapidation we observe today. Plinths are naked without their statues, broken skirting disrupts the facade and security hoardings smother many of the windows and doors. It is left to these smaller epoch narratives to describe to us an overall portrait of ‘the People’s Palace’ by profiling its fall from grace. Walking across its raised boulevard you can appreciate the unfolding of the city below, but feel pity for the brooding hulk beside you. Restoration has taken place in recent years, but little can be done to subdue a giant in decline or replace the saloon of theatre productions, art galleries and even a museum that were hallmarks of its early success. Now home to niche exhibits, the occasional concert and an ice-rink, it is an ensemble without a sole purpose. Only skin-deep it reminds us of a time when the words ‘public’
and ‘architecture’ could happily co-exist. Bricks and mortar don’t make a society, but do have the uncanny ability of synthesising what we value and reflecting that back upon us with startling effect. The Palace’s current state of malaise is testament not only to the inflexibility of many buildings labelled as heritage sites, but also the longevity of the ideas that originally gave birth to them. Located upon the fringes of what was then outer London suburbia, the crowds that once flocked to the Palace fell out of love with the idea of Garden Cities and their social cohesion. Greater London grew dramatically during the entwining years, but the neighbouring communities devised by architects and planners right up to the 1950’s were soon outdated even before they were complete, as houses in the suburbs became investments not homes. No longer content with what the Palace had to offer, the very transport system intended to bring urban dwellers to Alexandra, allowed local inhabitants to venture further afield. These shifting demographics and the advent of social mobility slowly rendered the once large attendance at the venue obsolete. It is often easier to cosmetically repair those left idle, but far harder to repair our relationship with that very building.
Captive and Captivated by Blast Theoryâ€™s Kidnap
Left: Debra in the van with the kidnappers Above: Russell in the van with the kidnappers
In the late spring/early summer of 1998 an attractive opportunity presented itself to cinemagoers in the UK. A forty five second Blipvert advertised your chance to be kidnapped. It gave a free phone number - 0800 174336 - while an anonymous, dislocated male voice (Matt Adams) asked: “have you ever wanted to be on your own for a while? Ever wanted to let someone else take control? […] You will have the chance to be kidnapped. Pay a small registration fee and you are instantly added to the hit list. A lucky winner will be snatched in broad daylight. Held for a short period of time. You will be released unharmed. This is not a game. This is not a joke”. Application forms sprung up in supermarkets, DSS offices and waiting rooms, offering you the chance to be a lucky winner, offering the chance to be held for some time and released unharmed, offering the chance to be part of something, a fantasy played out for ‘real’ and offering you the chance to be held captive by total strangers. For the small registration fee of £10 to enter this lottery, “the prize was simple: Your chance to be put under surveillance, to be kidnapped and taken to a secret location for 48 hours” Kidnap, 1998. [DVD] Blast Theory, UK. Over a hundred people applied for this once in a lifetime opportunity, to be taken from their lives, relinquished of any responsibility, removed from their daily existence and held captive, by consent, for forty eight hours. Ten were chosen at random and put under surveillance by various surveillance teams around the country, armed only with cameras and notebooks. Two finalists were then randomly selected and within days, captured by Blast Theory. In mid summer of 1998 I helped kidnap the two winners of that lottery. The first was Debra, a 27-year-old Australian looking for “someone else to take control for a while”. And the second, who played hard to get, was Russell, a 19-year-old who thought he might evade being caught and was in it for the thrill. They were captured on separate occasions. Debra was snatched from the toilet of a pub and taken to the ‘safe-house’ where she waited for over ten hours while the kidnappers went after Russell. However, Russell had plans of his own. After trying to tease him out of the ‘self inflicted’ captivity of his own house, he was eventually captured from the front seat of his friend’s car. The kidnap of Debra was relatively straight forward, although, in truth, I’d never kidnapped
anyone before; my reference points were mostly from films, where you might see the planning, the rehearsing, the timings and the possible plan B if anything went wrong. Thanks to a tip off from a colleague of Debra’s we knew she was going to meet a friend at The Rat and Parrot on Gloucester Road in South Kensington, London. We drew up maps and waited; my fellow kidnappers, Jamie and Matt, a photographer and a driver (who was still waiting in the van parked at the back of the pub) and a camera operator, all trying to blend in, incognito. Of course we did a ‘recce’ of the pub first, talked to the landlord and explained the project. He was more than happy to comply and surreptitiously became part of this performance, playing the role of landlord perfectly, thus helping to blur the boundaries between life and art, reality and fiction. The subject was spotted around 9 PM, sitting at a small table with a Caucasian female of medium build. Blending into the crowd in the pub were members of Blast Theory - positioned by the doors, by the bar, sitting at a table, covering the back fire escape - and the landlord doing ‘landlord things’, all with a vantage point, a ‘visible’ on the subject with her bag and coat over the seat. All we had to do was wait for Debra to go to the toilet and she would become one of the protagonists of Kidnap. 1. The subject is on the move. 2. Niki follow subject to toilet. 3. Jamie wait outside toilet. 4. Matt, by fire escape, open doors and give signal to driver. 5. Gregorio, John, Nick document, be alert and ready for backup if needed. 6. Driver start engine. 7. Niki wash hands while subject in cubical. Follow her out when she leaves. 8. Jamie block subject at steps on way back into pub, say ‘Debra Burgess you are being kidnapped by Blast Theory’. 9. Say it again, a little more forcefully, if she doesn’t comprehend, ‘Debra Burgess you are being kidnapped by Blast Theory’. 10. Kidnappers hold subject by arms, lead through open fire exit, get in to van, put pillowcase over subject’s head – gently. Place subject on floor of van and remove shoes. 12. All pile in van. 11. Matt, give signal to landlord to close fire exit doors.
The pub, the crowd, the unfinished drink, the captive’s bag and coat are left behind, along with the captive’s friend and their unfinished conversation The pub, the crowd, the unfinished drink, the captive’s bag and coat are left behind, along with the captive’s friend and their unfinished conversation. As the fire doors closed on that reality and we drove away in a white van with newspaper covering the windows, I remember my heart pounding. Not quite like the heart flutterings before you go on stage to perform in a show in front of a live audience, bigger than that, much bigger than that. Who was the audience now and did it matter if I had my back to them? The breakdown of reality here was beginning to alter my sense of space, place and time; traditional relationships of audience and performer were being re-molded into something else: captive and captor? This experience intensified once back at the ‘safe-house’ where an online audience waited in the wings for their part to begin in this complex, three-dimensional web of performative captivity and captivation. The safe-house was an 8ft by 8ft chipboard box constructed especially for this project and housed in an undisclosed location. It had one strip light only the kidnappers could control, air holes in the roof, a drinking straw sticking through a hole in the wall leading to a bottle of water taped to the other side, two foam mattresses, two sleeping bags, a tin plate to act as a washing bowl filled with a little cold water and a sponge. The three loud and unsettling knocks on the door and the turn of the key meant the captives should don their pillowcase hoods. Food would be brought by the kidnappers who would proceed to feed the captives whilst they were blindfolded. The safe-house also contained a night cam and a web cam for the benefit of the various spectators of Kidnap. Blast Theory create work for and with technologies exploring how “…technology […] create[s] new cultural spaces in which the work is customised and personalised for each participant” (Blast Theory, 1998)
This is certainly true of Kidnap where the online audience also attempt to assert some control. They can follow every move and catch snippets of conversation, they can control the web cam by clicking the mouse or moving the arrow keys to watch Debra, and then pan to Russell, back to Debra and so their selection becomes personal. At times the online spectators become directors, finding themselves frustrated with the lack of ‘action’ or ‘activity’ or finding themselves asking ‘where is the drama’? Their frustrations don’t go unanswered. There is an online live chat room where on many occasions they ask for “something to happen […] make him kiss her”. Kidnappers find themselves caught between two polarities, on one hand they are entering into dialogue with online spectators, ‘would-be-directors’, trying to fire the questions back to them about why they feel the need for “something to happen”. We explain that the subjects are not ‘performing monkeys’ for their entertainment; this was not some interactive pornography site. On the other hand the kidnappers became increasingly conscious of this ‘nothing’, of the banality of chitchat that went back and forth between Russell and Debra, and of the silences, some awkward, some from sheer exhaustion. Hours of endless conversation and hours of silence, mixed in with some sleeping, some pacing the room, some conscious behaviour for the camera. For our performercaptives, their ‘fifteen megabytes of fame’ (Dixon, 2007) turned into over sixty hours for Debra and about forty eight hours for Russell. In the Kidnap headquarters, in the next room to the safe-house, there were a variety of kidnappers, artists, technologists, a psychologist present throughout. Watching the monitors and waiting for something to happen, they became captives themselves. As Helen Kirlew (former Blast Theory administrator) said, “wouldn’t it be lovely if they fell in love [...] I keep watching just in case” (The Independent, 18th July 1998). We all kept on watching, waiting for something to happen, or maybe just afraid we’d miss something. Russell’s pacing and his growing exhaustion captivated us. We became captivated and almost hypnotized by Debra picking hair from her jumper. Debra was caught in the live web streaming washing her legs and under her arms. Russell was caught sticking two fingers up. At us? At the other remote audience who were spectating and trying to direct from a distance? Surely he couldn’t be putting two fingers up at
Above: Debra caught sleeping on the monitor Right: Russell marched to the safehouse
his kidnappers … at me? I talked to his answer machine trying to tease him out of his house. I’ve touched him; we removed the money from his pockets and the shoes from his feet. I’ve held his hand and I’ve taken him to the toilet. We brought him donuts and I danced for him. Russell’s rebellious act represents one of several moments where the relationship of captive and captor shifts for all the participants involved in Kidnap – directly or indirectly. The online spectator communicates to the kidnappers via live chat as they remotely watch the kidnapped, willing them to do something, begging us to make it happen. They are intrigued but don’t seem to have any emotional connection. They are captivated by the technology and the control they have over the camera, some are captivated by their own imagined power to bend the kidnapped to their will. Maybe this is why they stay to watch, despite the boredom, the monotony of the non-action. For the kidnappers this captivation is immediate and intimate. I can monitor them on the screen and I can and hear their mumbled conversation through the chipboard and I can walk into the next room. I experience them on a physical level; I begin to care for them. I notice when Debra is hot in her woolen polo neck and find a way to get my t-shirt to her. I watch Russell carefully and notice that he is not all bravado after all, as the hours slowly consume him. I still play my role. The kidnappers are in the centre, they communicate with both captives and online spectators, but they are not central. The captives are central, being looked at from both directions. In this constructed kidnap by digital arts group Blast Theory, the theme of captivity relates not only to the kidnap itself but also to the complex and shifting game of desire at play in this event. The desire of the online spectators and the various ways in which they are captivated - or not – and in the frustrated absence of such captivation, desire to intervene or to demand the kidnappers intervene and ‘make something happen’. Then there’s our desire to play our roles as kidnappers convincingly and yet to protect our captives for whose physical and psychological well being we are now responsible; and the desire of the ‘suspecting’ kidnapped who had willingly relinquished their own liberty for these long hours in captivity. Something had appealed to them both about the ad, like many others something had caught their eye. Something in that seductive Blipvert
“It is the ultimate expression of the kidnapping fantasy. A man so obsessively in love with you he will go to any lengths to win you” had captivated their imagination or something in the application form they’d picked up along the way fascinated them about the idea of being kidnapped, being held hostage. For Debra the allure of being kidnapped was her fascination of the kidnap in the Almodovar film, Tie Me Up Tie Me Down. Debra says on her application form, “It is the ultimate expression of the kidnapping fantasy. A man so obsessively in love with you he will go to any lengths to win you”. Debra then goes on to say, “For this adventure I’d be happy to be flirted with and have a couple of days of interesting conversation and a fantastic tale to tell the folks back home”. Any fantasy with flirtation could only come between her and Russell in the first instance (and he’d only opted for a rather simple kidnap, including some donuts and the song – Nowhere to Run by Martha and the Vandellas) or secondly from the online viewers, but little did Debra know the desires they had expressed. And there was never going to be any romance between the kidnappers and kidnapped in this ‘film’. The only moment of possible flirtation came towards the end, when the kidnappers danced for Russell’s requested song. We lined up the tape on an old analogue player; wearing black balaclavas to conceal our identity we entered Russell’s ‘cell’ and danced a mock 60’s shimmy, in accompaniment to his requested track. And as we danced Russell averted his eyes and stared blankly at the chipboard floor, mentally if not physically removed from this space. Russell had fully immersed himself into the fiction of this event from the start, allowing illusion and seduction of the idea of kidnap to capture him. He was quick to catch on to the surveillance team; he goaded them and later tried to evade his kidnap. He crawled around his front garden playing us at our own game, taking photographs and running back into his house, all the time contributing to a narrative that slipped in and out of art and life. And now nearly forty eight hours later after lack of sleep, dirty and
sweaty, having been fed pizza, five or six donuts and then having had digestive problems in the night, his captivation with the fantasy ebbed away as the real began to slowly creep in. His demise had come. I have no memory of Debra, what she was doing, where she was, I felt bad for Russell; this was clearly not what he was expecting and the incongruity between the ‘dance act’ and his psychological state was just too real, too great. The song played out and a dreadful, painful silence kicked in. A moment of ‘dead time’ plays out on air as we stand around not quite knowing what to do. Who’s holding who captive now? And I couldn’t help wondering, while I looked from Russell to the web cam, is this what they wanted? The online spectators, the audience, did something finally happen?
References Dixon, S., 2007. Digital Performance: A History of New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art and Installation. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. Links: Blast Theory. 1998. www.blasttheory.co.uk/bt/index. php (home page) hwww.blasttheory.co.uk/bt/work_kidnap.html (kidnap web link) hwww.blasttheory.co.uk/bt/mov/mov_kidnap.html (kidnap movie)
This Pulpy Thing: the captivating body Ross T. Smith
We are captives of our own body. This pulpy thing, held together by mysterious threads, is the carnal being of our mortality. French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, famous for his investigations of phenomenology and the body asks of himself, and us, what is flesh; what is this ‘shadow packed with organs’ in which we find our self? This is not only a question of the physical object-thing our mind drags around; not only the pulp held together by its tactile integument of smooth, rough, hairy, thick, thin, wrinkly, red, pallid, exposed, hidden skin; but of the fragile cellular separation, that is, the contact we have with the world. The touching hand is our connection to all that is the world, all that we come in contact with. Yet the existential question is: how is it that we be? ‘We never get away from our life,’ says Merleau-Ponty (2007: 84) - and I would add; we never get away from our self. We live in a carnal world, a world of pressing materiality. Our fleshy substance roams the Earth as the object of our existence. By way of extending an Husserlian view, null-punkt, or still-point, the ground is the central axis to Man’s beingon-the-world. He alone, then, is the point of all orientation of his world and the objective and intersubjective nature of it. Spiritual buildings, therefore, are a consolidation of that notion; of the need for Man to create a pivot-point between Gods and Mortals, the Sky and the Earth. German philosopher Martin Heidegger (2001 : 45) said: ‘Earth is that which comes forth and shelters. … Upon the earth and in it,
Pet채j채vesi Church, Finland. 2009
historical man grounds his dwelling in the world.’ We can consider architecture as the world made still – a still-point – from which the body can orient itself, as an extension of the earth itself. A building therefore becomes a raising up of the earth in order that the stillness of the Earth may be inhabited. It becomes a remodelling of the Earth’s material for construction, and in this way of thinking, architecture is a concept and the building is the captivating result of that idea. Petäjävesi Old Church (Petäjäveden vanha kirkko) is one of these notable buildings having stood in silence for centuries with remarkable durability and perseverance. It is located in central Finland, is a timber building constructed during 1763-64, and was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 partly because of its strong Nordic handcraft tradition and original detailing. The church was built by hand and is a horizontal log style which is representative of northern cold climates. This method of building is particular to peasant populations where trees are taken from readily available conifer forests from which all construction work can be done on-site using manual labour and simple tools. The sixteen family community of Petäjävesi did not want to wait for building consent to be reissued by the then ruling Swedish government so took it into their own hands, literally, and built the church. Four master craftsmen were each given the task to build one arm of the cruciform plan church. The underlying purpose being that the competitiveness of the building process insured the church would be constructed swiftly and in good humour. By the time the answer had returned from Stockholm the church was finished and the congregation installed. The good people of Petäjävesi, through self-assertion, determined the outcome of their community’s spiritual future. Our hands are the tools with which we make, create, devise, and destroy; they are our means of survival in a hostile world. The touching hand is our connection to all that is the world, all that we come in contact with. When we touch the world, it touches us back. Through lived movement our body is able to gain the haptic knowledge of action and it is only through ‘doing’ that the body comes to know how. The hand becomes the primary contact in the construction of objects. In the building process it is the hand that brings elements of a building together: swinging the axe to fell the tree; chiselling the beams to fit the joints; hammering the nail to secure the
Our body negotiates and affirms our life as the site of our perception and receiver of phenomena
timber. Our body negotiates and affirms our life as the site of our perception and receiver of phenomena and it is only because of our body, and the way in which we use it, that we create the things around us so that we may advance into our existence. Merleau-Ponty (Parmenter 2008: 81) said: ‘It is our ability to extend motor tasks out into the world that is the basis of our understanding the world.’ This puts our body in living tension with the world, yet we have become so elaborate in our ‘extensions’ (tools) that often we forget that our humanness is rooted in our animal nature. The hand is the tactile mediator between the contacted (material world) and the perceived (symbolic thought); in that we create concepts to direct our hands in order to achieve the craftsmanship we seek. The construction of buildings is mostly a structural practice, however the initial design process involves establishing a connection to the site in order to assess the building’s possible relation to sun paths, weather conditions, wind, landscape qualities, and views both near and far. These aspects require a strong sense relationship in order to design for the body to inhabit the final dwelling with comfort, delight, and a deep sense of satisfaction. A building is designed for the body, whether it be domestic or commercial, a chapel or an airport, the body is the primary consideration in architecture. Henry David Thoreau (1854: 73) wrote: ‘I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.’ The world is not a mental construct but an experience we live through – it is a place of considerations and communications. It is through our sensuous body that we perceive the phenomena presented to us; we become captivated by the onslaught of sensations of which we have to comprehend and
interpret. There can be nothing other than pure veracity of the body as a sensing being; it never lies even though we may not like what we ‘feel’, or try to interpret it otherwise in our intellectualised mind; there is no escaping the fact that our body is reality. Our body does not exist in a parallel universe, in our imagination, or in the virtual realm; it exists because of us. Death was an influencing factor in the siting of Petäjävesi church which is situated on a small outcrop of land at the encounter of Lakes Jämsä and Petäjävesi. The site was chosen so the congregation would be able to access the church by boat in summer or over the ice during winter which was the usual mode of transport in remote inland regions of Finland. However, another reason for building the church and graveyard was so the bodies of the dead would not have to be transported to a cemetery nine miles away, particularly in the summer months. Even in death the hand is required to perform its duties: to prepare the body for burial; to craft a timber coffin; dig a hole in the ground; and finally fill that hole in again. A reason for building things of permanence such as architecture, tombs, landscapes of memory, or in domesticating place is that things which last beyond our death act as a remembrance of one’s life. In this way the making of objects and the building of structures with our hands is work which leaves something enduring that has been generated from our bodily effort. Death, therefore, is a condition of removal and addition; a mound of fresh earth left as a reminder of our fragility, and ultimately, our mortal captivity.
References: Merleau-Ponty, M. 2007. ‘Cezanne’s Doubt.’ The Merleau-Ponty Reader, Evanston, Northwestern University Press. Heidegger, M. 2001 . Poetry, Language, Thought, New York, Perennial. Parmenter, M. 2008. Hand to Hand: intentionality in phenomenology and contemporary dance. Master’s Thesis in Creative and Performing Arts, University of Auckland, New Zealand. Thoreau, H.D.  Walden, or Life in the Woods, New York, Thames and Hudson.
Photography Rudolph Jrazo
Andrea Incontri www.aiunderscore.it Artisanal by Fabrizio Talia www.esartisanal.com Costume National www.costumenational.com Covher Lab covherlab.blogspot.com Dark Leval www.dark-level.com Delphine Murat www.delphinemurat.fr Fantasy www.fantasyshoe.com Giuliano Fujiwara www.giulianofujiwara.com Givenchy www.givenchy.com H&M www.hm.com Il Sistema Degli Oggetti www.ilsistemadeglioggetti.it Paolo Errico www.paoloerrico.com Prada www.prada.com Rayan Odyll www.odyll.com
next issue. . . omen . . summer 2012 .. . . www.stimulusrespond.com
The Captive issue of Stmulus Respond, spring 2012. Cover by Hien Le,