Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Performative interlude with Neither Am I, Live at The Apollo, 19 June

the sign on my t-shirt........

matches the expression ;) dressed as for work

ok... this event, which was part of Live At the Apollo, a derelict video shop in Herne Hill, SE24, was during a month long residency of art, film, crazy golf, exhibits and much more. It is a project which has been really engaging with the community of the local shops and passers by, as well as bringing in the more usual art audience. great venture on your doorstep rather than having to venture up to central or east london.

My piece was a collaboration with Neither Am I, a spoken work collective who perform their material anonymously, in balaclavas and darkness, lit only by their laptop screens from which they read their filthy, dark, and very funny material. My performative interlude was due to happen before Neither Am I came on stage, while people were drinking, and milling around, a kind of scene setter, that worked with the site and what was to follow. In the end, it actually continued after. As soon as Neither Am I had disappeared, someone had slapped their vid on the counter to rent, so i was back to work......

I wanted to embrace the ideas of redundant shop, redundant technology, and your worst nightmare of an assistant to have to deal with, the extreme attention to detail, and deadpan seriousness, relating to Neither Am I's style. the rough score for action was thus below...i played around with this a little. brash, rudeness to max. i found it strangely fine to keep focused, not flinching at all into a smile. drew very much on stand up/ Neither Am I dark ideas of non-sensical world's colliding, overly bureaucratic attention to precision, questions on the membership form starting normal, then getting more absurd. text taken from Neither Am I's book and others also written by them, eg, Are you that bloke I met in Corfu, Are you for real? Are you down with the kids? Do you work in insurance? I did feel myself possibly getting too Catherine Tate though (Am I bothered?) and reverted a bit to when I was the wicked step mother in cinderella when i was much younger (get to be rude and shout. a lot.) i liked overly pausing when carrying out menial tasks, being frustratingly annoying, taking my time chewing gum, drinking dr pepper very ceremoniously, etc. reminded me when i worked for safeway on the checkouts and how pleased i was when i was told by a manager someone had phoned up to complain about me for drumming my fingers annoying when they were finding their purse and packing their carrier bag........was this revenge?

i think this was, perhaps, a new direction for me, drawing on elements of the The Space in Between Project, but, for the first time...drum roll.....NOT using photography. It wasn't needed here: the act was enough to make the point, it wasn't a lament for the old technology, as in a lot of my work, more a thank god its gone, wrapped up with every worse nightmare of a shop assistant you would hope not to have to rent a video from.

the best bit was smashing the vids. making others do it, and then taking over. the story of their actual video choice became incidental- death to it all. titanic was still in its cellophane wrapper inside, which made it feel even more strange to be smashing it, it also being now a literal smash hit.boom boom.

the audiences responses were very funny, i enjoyed playing with them. repeating the questions back, extending the boxes on the form to add further ridicule, checking all the semi colons in the right place. some people visibly flinched from across the counter, and there was a steady queue for customers.nice. i liked segregating my end of the counter from the bar end, the relaxed from the stressed.

the performing a character was very interesting for me, i just fell into it somehow, and developed as the time progressed and in response to the 'customers.' how much am i interested in this work, is this a one off or is it a new direction to run with alongside my other, natural self work, is this becoming too overtly theatrical, a direction i may not want to go?? (someone mentioned Punchdrunk in connection to this piece.) i think the thing here is how i played with the occupied site whereas much of my work has been conversations in the private site. here i was bringing to life the ghosts that served videos, matching the narrative mood of the event to take place afterwards.

it was also interesting to allow these photos to be taken, people had publicly chosen to 'rent' a video, and so it was ok to document this, it was not a private encounter like my other work, and the work wasn't about the demise of photography.



The videos are stored out the back, the boxes in the display rack near the front door. H maybe chewing gum.

• Person queues to enter the shop, and arrives at the table in the entrance.

• They are given a NAI programme and asked if they would like to select a video and take it to the assistant at the counter. ‘There may be a delay, apologies, staff sickness.’

• They arrive at the counter and H asks them for their membership card.

• When they say they don’t have it, H produces a clipboard, opens it, and then proceeds to complete the form with H leading the questions and form filling. H checks all details are correct, and asks person to sign form.

• H asks person to step into the backroom with her to get the video. H gestures to the person to sit down with her on the floor.

• H puts on gloves and eye protectors, opens a tool box and H ‘does the deed as quickly as possible,’ ie take out the hammer and smashes it completely. Offers person the chance to assist.The smashed VHS tape is neatly swept up and put into the VHS box.

• H then folds the two copies of the membership form very neatly, and quickly shreds their membership form.

• H picks up the VHS box, takes the person outside and back to the counter.

• H gets out a temporary membership card from under the counter, asks them to sign the card.

• H puts the card on top of the box, and hands it to the person, saying ‘enjoy your film, if you are returning it, please post it through the drop box.’

• ……..or if person bails out at any point, H asks them to politely bugger off and return the video to the shelf. Membership form shredded out the back.


the temporary membership card that became the business card to take away with the video.on the back was mine and Neither am I's web address.

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