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[Here is my contribution to Forest Fringe’s Paper StagesNow that Edinburgh is over I thought it would be nice to give those people who couldn’t get a copy a chance to read it.]

 

THE INCIDENTAL PLAYS

A series of plays to be performed in a city by an indeterminate number of people for an audience that does not quite realise it is an audience.

“I would like to talk to the capitalists about money, but they only want to tell love stories”

A figure stands half illuminated by streetlight
In paint
or chalk
or marker pen
they write on the wall
“I would like to talk to the capitalists about money, but they only want to tell love stories”

Coffee (for Nora Ephron)

A conversation over coffee
Or what appears at least to be coffee
Body language mirrored
And a discussion with an enormous amount of subtext
Someone writes a number into a mobile phone
A message is sent and there is a moment of quiet, intimidate awkwardness as together they wait for it to arrive

The silent suffocation of Frank Uwe Laysiepen by his most famous former lover

A man stands uncomfortably still in the middle of a busy public square
People continue to move around him
Eventually it starts to rain

Sister Lovers

A number of figures in identical outfits move casually through an overcrowded room
Occasionally
Almost imperceptibly
They catch each other’s eyes

HTTP 404 – File Not Found

People stood on opposite sides of a pelican crossing
Seemingly incapable of stepping out into the road
They gaze at each other longingly
Apologetically
As the lights turn from green to red
An indeterminate number of times

Dream Sequence

In the midst of a protest that is fast descending into a riot
They hold each other
Hands slipping inside layers of clothing
Cold fingers running across warm skin
Flares
Fireworks
Water cannons erupting like fountains
A chorus of police officers
Rhythmically banging their batons against their shields

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Famous

The remains of a half eaten fish supper
Scattered on the ground in front of a park bench
A can of Tennents lager
Unopened
A half-chewed polystyrene cup
Containing a number of small denomination coins

Kiss Chase

Two people aimlessly chasing each other through the streets of the city
They switch roles almost imperceptibly
Ducking between cars
Across parks
Down narrow alleyways
Weaving through packed crowds of people
Once they can run no more both collapse in exhaustion
Barely two metres from each other

Oh, baby do you know what that’s worth? Oh, Heaven is a place on Earth.

In a department store
Dressed in unbought clothes
Lying on beds
Nestling in armchairs
Curled in a ball in front of banks of televisions
Trying on hats and headphones and crash helmets
Moving through a corridor of light fittings
Switching them slowly on and off
Off and on

Realism

In the middle of the night
In high visibility jackets
Crisp packets
Chocolate bar wrappers
Coke cans
Crumpled flyers
Cigarette butts
Carrier bags
Used syringes
Lost books
Stray dogs
Dead pigeons
And soiled sleeping bags
Placed delicately
and precisely
Along a pedestrianised high street

Hello.

Here’s a brief round-up of interesting things that I’m involved with in the next few months. I hope you can make it along to some of them. If anyone manages everything, they win themselves a prize. An actual prize.

PAPER STAGES

I’ve curated a little project called Paper Stages for Forest Fringe, which means that I get to include myself in it. If only getting programmed were always this straightforward. My piece is called the Incidental Plays, and is a series of events to be performed by an indeterminate number of people for an audience that does not quite realise it is an audience.

You can get a copy of Paper Stages from the beautiful Hunt&Darton Cafe on St Mary’s Street just off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, until 26th August.

In Spirit

I’ve made a new piece for parents and children for the Natural History Museum. It’s called In Spirit and it involves blindfolds, describing, remembering and hundreds of creatures in jars of alcohol.

It’s part of the Hide&Seek event at the Natural History Museum on the 25-26 August from 12pm-6pm.

Motor Vehicle Sundown

Following its runs at Mayfest in Bristol and Caravan in Brighton, Motor Vehicle Sundown will appear at BAC in September and Colchester Arts Centre in November. It’s an audience adventure in a parked car for two people at a time. There’s a lovely review of the piece by Tom Wainwright here.

It will be at BAC from 6 – 15 September and you can book tickets here and Colchester on the 8 November.

For those of you a little further away, the piece is currently on in Toronto as part of the Live Art Series at Summerworks Festival. All the details are here.

Zilla!

Zilla! is back in all its unwieldy glory, this time in Nottingham thanks to Hatch. Zilla! is a three part disaster movie for the stage that happens over two nights in two separate locations, featuring the wonderful Ira Brand and Chris Bailey.

Part 1 will be on Friday October 26th and Part 2 on Friday November 9th. Both pieces can be seen totally separately but if you can make it to both parts 1 & 2, you get the bonus of part 3 – a card game that you take away with you to perform in the streets of your own neighbourhood.

Words are not your friend my friend
He said
Cigarette smoke
Carefully rehearsed mannerisms
And everything bluelit like the film
And then he pulled me close
By the collar
Everything crumpled
Everything white knuckled
Everything fraying around the edges
And he spat into my ear
I want words to give way beneath me like a bridge collapse
Like ice breaking
Like
Falling towers

I want the mirrored glass to melt into the grinning faces behind it
Breath like exhaust fumes
Flickering advertisements for shampoo and cigarettes
Feet swinging
Heads pressed uncomfortably together
A confusion of sweat and
Miscommunications
And from the next room
Ripples of music
Like a reminder
That there’s more to life than libraries.

Image

I got into a bit of a debate a little while back with a collection of people on twitter about You Me Bum Bum Train and the ethics of volunteering. You can still go and look at it. That’s what’s good about twitter. I won’t rehearse the same arguments I made back then for the following reasons:

a) I think I made my position pretty clear.

b) The people I was arguing with are all very nice people making very reasonable points and it is definitely more interesting to see what I think in the context of what they think.

c) A while ago I stopped being the kind of person that enjoyed having arguments on the internet.

Since then however the shadow of a bigger question has been moving through my head, prompted not only by how surprised I was by people’s aggressive response to You Me Bum Bum but also by my own hopes and anxieties for Forest Fringe; the things I’d like it to be and some of the things that people have accused us of being. I’m going to try and draw some chalk around what are still very unformed thoughts. This will out of necessity have to be brief and a bit messy. It’s not meant to be a definitive statement or an accusation of anything. If I’m being deliberately slightly evasive, it’s because I don’t totally know what I’m saying yet. But anyway.

I want to take a few minutes to think about what we call value and what we call being valued.

I want to take a few minutes to imagine a situation in which we can truly celebrate the potential complexities and contradictions in the different kinds of value that we might ascribe to what we do.

I want to imagine a situation in which we can acknowledge pluralities rather than seeing them as a weakness or a threat. A situation in which the different approaches that people have to what art is and how it should be made are accepted openly and generously, without the fear that our willingness to countenance such difference will be used by the powerful as a stick with which to beat us.

I don’t want to watch young, passionate and brilliant theatremakers screamed at on the internet like wayward children who need to shut up because they are going to get us in trouble.

I think I’d rather be accused of being a Tory stooge (as I have been more than once) than work in a culture that determines everything that we can and can’t talk about on the basis of how it might be perceived by our government.

I don’t want to believe in a solidarity that is predicated on all of us doing and saying exactly the same thing.

And then after that I would like to imagine something better than the present way we have of talking about the value of art.

I want to imagine how else we could think about what we do if we didn’t talk about it as an industry.

I want to have the opportunity to experiment with alternative ways of making and presenting art.

I want to begin to countenance the pretentious and beautiful possibility that art might be somewhere we can begin making a genuinely post-capitalist society.

I want to devalue art to the point where it has no economic value at all, just so we can see what it retains.

I want to devalue art like letting the air out of an overinflated balloon, so that we can see the other shapes that it might make, the other ways in which we might use it, the different directions it might be stretched. I want to do that so that we might realise that art needn’t be as fragile and precarious as we imagine it to be.

I want to think about reasons for doing what I do that have nothing to do with making a living. I want to think about desire, weakness, hope, instinct, faith, generosity, reciprocity and love. I want to think a lot about love.

I want to be able to say that, and do that, and I want you to trust me that I am doing it for the right reasons.

I want to be able to say that, and do that, without there being an assumption that I am deliberately or otherwise putting your job at risk.

I want to be able to say that, and do that, without it being consumed by the insipid, morally bankrupt rhetoric of Big Society volunteering.

I want to be able to say that, and do that, without you conflating it with the insipid, morally bankrupt rhetoric of Big Society volunteering.

I want to do that without it being assumed that I am implicitly undermining the whole of the present system for making and funding art in this country.

I want to do that without it being assumed that I am therefore a massive fucking hypocrite if I ever accept any money or work from that very same system.

I want to find a way of acknowledging the privilege that allows me the space in which to make these claims and explore these ideas, and that perhaps that privilege is also a responsibility.

Perhaps more than anything, I want this to be a conversation. I promise.

And then finally for now, I want people to understand that the things that I and some others make (be they shows, or theatre companies, or festivals) are like fragments of a different kind of conversation. Which is to say, they are meant to be tentative and curious and open. They are often meant to have a question mark at the end.

I want you to understand that everything Forest Fringe has ever done should probably have had a question mark at the end.

I want you to imagine that this short document also has a question mark at the end.

[Image of Tim Etchell’s Lisabon Fight City for Forest Fringe, by Ira Brand]

A little exercise. A series of haiku produced entirely using the names or subjects of emails in my spam folder. 

Your best friend
Vacancy – Apply Online
Thalita

The Garage
I’m young again and full
unbelievable wellness

Web traffic
Mettez du coeur dans votre communication
I hope to help

Richardsfuture
Just go and buy the medicine
Unlimited hits

Nexus informatica
Career opportunity inside
!!!

Verify your activity
search
engine

[Image via Navy Blue Stripes on Flickr]

 

[The text of a talk I gave at the Next Wave festival in Melbourne on the subject of art and poverty]

I walked here this morning
And as I walked
I wondered what I might say
I was trying to think about art
and poverty
and I wasn’t getting very far
I was trying to consider what we do to poverty
when we make art about it
But the only thing I could think of
was a picture that a friend of mine posted
on Facebook
from backstage at Les Miserables
at the Palace Theatre in Manchester
In the picture
a piece of dirty looking hessian cloth
Hangs on a black hook
And next to it is a carefully laminated sign
that simply reads
‘Rag’

I walked
and I wondered
and I thought about the rag
and the sign that said rag
And I was so lost in this thought
that I almost didn’t notice
the man asking me if I had any change

The man was about my age
he had matted hair
and a straggly apologetic beard
and the lines around his eyes were filled with the dust of cars and pavements
He asked me again if I had any change
and I found a dollar
and I gave it to him
and then I said
Look
Sorry if this is a strange question
but I’m just about to go and do a talk
for the Next Wave Festival
about how art might
represent poverty
And I was just wondering if you had any thoughts

He looked at me for a moment
and he blinked slowly
and then he said

Fuck you.

He said
I’ve seen you a thousand times
you and people like you
People who want to tell my story
He said
I’m tired of being talked about
He said
I’m tired of being consumed
He said
You’re destroying me
You’re suffocating me with my own borrowed words

I told him I was sorry and that
I think we just want to help
We want to make things better

Fuck help
he said
How is this helping?

I said that thought perhaps it was about raising awareness
About telling stories people haven’t heard

People are already aware.
he said
Look at the sleeping bags in doorways and on benches
Look at the man asking you for change
Open the newspaper
Switch on the television
every second programme is a celebrity chef or a football star visiting Africa and asking for money
every time Bono clicks his fingers a child dies
We are surrounded by poverty
We are choking on it
Like smoke from a fire in the next room
that we are all pretending isn’t there
we can feel the heat
and we can hear the crackling
And we can see the glow from under the door
awareness has never been the problem
he said
I don’t need anyone to tell me what’s burning
I need someone to find a way to put the fire out

That’s great I said.
That’s what I’ll tell them.

And he said
No you won’t.
You don’t have permission.
I don’t give you the permission.
You don’t have the right to take my words.

Please.
I said.

No
he replied
Don’t talk about me.
I don’t want you to talk about me.
To use me as a cheap rhetorical device
A way of making your own thoughts somehow more authentic
To wrap them in hard-won, worldly wisdom
to conceal the fact that you who has never been poor and desperate
will be sat in a room full of people
who have never been poor and desperate
talking about poverty and desperation
And eating pastries
Don’t be ashamed of who you are
He said
And don’t use me to make yourself look better
That’s cheap
It’s beneath you

Ok
I said
then you go

What?
He said

You go
Go instead of me and you talk to them

So he did
Cleaned up and without the beard he looked remarkably like me
And he managed an almost passable English accent
He stood at this table
Holding this microphone
And he talked about his poverty
And he used the analogy about the fire
And he finished by saying

That the value of art
Is not in the stories we tell
Or things we choose to talk about
It’s in how we choose to talk about them
And with whom

Art
Is just the name we give
To a certain way of trying to change the world

And when he was done
He put the microphone down
He finished his glass of water
And then he opened the door
And stepped out into the
cold morning air.

[This is the text of a talk I delivered for the Next Wave Festival in Melbourne, on the subject of cities, protest and the occupy movement.]

Occupy
1. Take control of (a place, especially a country) by military conquest or settlement.
To enter and stay in (a building) without authority and often forcibly, especially as a form of protest.

In the souvenir photograph
You stand in the middle of a street of three quarter scale plasterboard skyscrapers
Cracks spider across the painted windows
And gas-controlled fires blaze from the skeletons of cars
There is smoke
And the glow of sirens

From the photograph you can see that the camera has been positioned low and at an angle
To mimic the look of a shot taken quickly on a mobile phone

You are in the centre of the picture surrounded by a number of other visitors
You are all in flip flops
t-shirts
and sunglasses
Cameras are hung around your necks
In the distance a line of riot officers
are walking towards you
banging their shields
You can’t see their faces
fireworks fizz behind them
You are all smiling
You are chanting
Whose streets
Our streets
Whose streets
You strike poses
Arms out like wings
head raised
mouth open
Someone holds a sugar glass beer bottle flung way back over one shoulder
like the beginning of a tennis serve
Someone has taken their t-shirt off and tied it over their nose and mouth
You are all laughing

The riot officers are coming closer
This is the part just before the part where you get arrested
You could have kept running
Tried to lose them on a neighbouring street
But you had advanced booked tickets to a matinee of Les Miserables
And that was way on the other side of the park
It really was the best day ever

Only a few weeks after the photograph was taken
the attraction was shut down
A few tourists
Maybe a little the better or worse for alcohol
and pumped up by the carefully mixed soundtrack
of alarms and shouts and explosions
broke free of the attraction’s scaled down streets
and started to smash windows and set fire
to fast foods restaurants and gift shops
in nearby areas of the resort
The tourists were quickly apprehended
and dealt with severely
But after an internal inquiry
It was decided that it was probably safer to shut down the attraction altogether

Occupy
2. To fill or take up (a space

or time)

The second photograph is a photograph of a city
and though I don’t have time to describe to you
the exact details of what the photograph contains
I’m sure you can imagine
There are probably skyscrapers
and many-floored apartment blocks
rising like waves out of a sea of smaller buildings
There might be parks and train stations
city squares, football fields, theatres, libraries,
old warehouses occupied by artists and people
who like to think of themselves as artists
churches with spires
a town hall with pillars
Starbucks
A bank
several banks
traffic lights
satellite dishes
concrete
steel
glass

This is not an image of the city that we have taken
This is an image of the city that we are being sold

An image that conforms to old ideas of what makes a city
ideas like property
and ownership
and power
And consequently It is an image that assumes a certain way of fighting
A certain form of resistance

None of the spaces in this photograph are really public any more
If they ever were
These spaces are purchased and commodified
They are privatised
Policed by CCTV cameras and people in uniforms or lanyards
It is a panopticonic theme park city
made of buildings and the space between buildings

In truth
The only real public space left in the city is the one space
you definitely can’t see in this photograph
And that is the space it occupies in time

Occupy
3. To fill or preoccupy (the mind)

You turn both the photographs over
and on the back of them
you start to write
and what you write
is this

We have become very good
at thinking of art
as something that occupies time as well
or maybe rather than
space

And thanks to the likes of
John Cage
Robert Morris
and many others
We have developed a vocabulary
To think and talk
about how art occupies time
And how else it might occupy time
How it might occupy us

Can we now do the same for protest?

Can we find a new way of thinking and speaking about resistance?
A way of thinking that is not constrained by space.
That is not limited to squares and libraries and theatres.
To acts of physical occupation.
Can we instead imagine what a kind of protest that might occupy time rather than space?
A vocabulary of everyday resistance.
and habitual practices.
Acts of defiance that embed themselves in the rituals and routines of day to day life.
An occupation of our quotidian occupations.

I want to believe in a new kind of protest that exists in the only spaces that are still authentically free.
A new kind of protest for a city that is not made of streets and buildings
But made up of all the things that we might be doing at any given moment.
This is what I want to believe in.

And after you’ve written this
You fold up the photograph
And conceal it like a magician’s playing card
in the palm of your hand
ready to be slipped ever so delicately
into the bag
or the pocket
of the person sitting next to you.

Image

Here’s a very brief update on what I have coming up over the next couple of months, for those that are interested. I hope you can make it along to one of these things, whoever you are I’m sure it’d be lovely to see you there.


Zilla! in Cambridge, as part of the Junction’s Sampled Festival (5 & 6 May)

ZILLA! is a wildly unwieldy three-part project I created last year; part stage-show, part slide-show, part-installation, part street game. It’s an exploration of cities and a celebration of Hollywood disaster movies, featuring the brilliant Ira Brand of Tinned Fingers and Christopher Bailey (recently seen in Made in China’s We Hope That You’re Happy (Why Would We Lie?)). We’ll be presenting all three parts over the course of the weekend; Part I will be on Saturday night, Part II on Sunday night and you get your own personal copy of Part III to take home with you if you manage to make it to both. This is the first time that the whole finished piece will be presented over the course of a single weekend.

There’s a bit more information about the project here, and more information about the Sampled Festival over here, where in addition to Zilla! you can see people as variously brilliant as Action Hero, Bryony Kimmings, Ross Sutherland and Melanie Wilson.

‘Field is a brilliant observer; precise but poetic too. As the narrative unfolds, one gets the impression of a wide-eyed and open-hearted soul, drinking in and describing every little detail.’ (Miriam Gillinson, Notes on Theatre)

Motor Vehicle Sundown (after George Brecht) in Brighton (13 – 15 May) and Bristol (18 – 24 May)

Motor Vehicle Sundown is a sound piece for two people at a time, taking place in a car on the top level on the top level of a multi-storey car park. It is an imagined journey through the history of the car and the history of America. The audience listen and play along, imagining themselves on quiet highways, and drive-in movie theatres or caught in traffic in the middle of the city.

This is a piece that was originally commissioned by the Arches in Glasgow for their Off-site season in 2009 and is being remade this year for the Caravan Showcase at the Brighton Festival and then travelling on to the brilliant Mayfest in Bristol. A bit more information about the show can be found over here.

Secrets and Lies in Contemporary Art at Fierce Festival in Birmingham (3pm, Friday 6 April)

This is a panel discussion I’ll be chairing for Fierce Festival, exploring the way in which artists across disciplines incorporate the untrue and the unannounced into their practice. We are here to tell you about some lies, and maybe to tell you some lies. To reveal some secrets and allude to others. We will be discussing clandestine gigs and concealed venues, artists that don’t really exist and things that never actually happened. We will be asking what the value of such activity is, how it challenges both our expectations of art and the way in which we look at the world. We will be considering the transgressive potential of these strategies in contemporary art and imagining news ways in which to use them.

The panel will be made up of artist James Webb and Iannis Iannou, curator at New Art Gallery Walsall. The discussion is free and will be at Fierce’s festival hub at Vivid Gallery. Everyone is welcome.

(Image by Ludovic Des Cognets)

[Part of a short talk I gave for Blast Theory in Portslade, as part of their Act Otherwise symposium]

I
Innovation
is a word that hangs around
the kind of work we’ve been discussing
like a seagull
at a seaside funfair
picking at the scraps
Or maybe like Colleridge’s Albatross
once uttered
and then forever slung around our necks
distracting people from what
we’re actually saying
In an entirely unscientific survey
A google search for
Blast Theory Innovation
produced
2,510,000 results
Whereas a google search for
Blast Theory political
produced
77,900 Results
Despite the fact I’d say the latter
is an equally
if not more important
feature of
Blast Theory’s work
Additionally
a search for
Blast Theory and Golf supplies
Produced
5,570 Results
What does this tell us?
Probably not very much
But at least its innovative in its approach
It’s approach to what
You may ask
precisely
said the seagull

II
I have become
wary
and weary
of innovation
I think
And I’m sure many
Others do to
That it is unhelpful
That the rhetoric
Of innovation
Binds us
uncomfortably closely
To the insatiable
logic
of late Capitalism
I believe it was
Karl Marx
That took
one look
at the queue
forming outside Apple’s
Flagship regent street store
and declared
that in a godless
society
innovation
Is the opium
of comfortably
off

III
I have become interested
not in what we’re doing
Or might be doing
that’s new
But in what we’re doing
or might be doing
that is the same
In how old ideas
might reoccur
I’ve become interested
in the past
in asking
how I can better
consider my own practice
and city-based
locative media
not as innovative new frontiers
but as part of
a continuous cycle
of urban strategies
and ways of operating in the city
what Michel De Certeau
describes as
‘a strategic discourse of the people’

IV
This is not nostalgia
Not a longing
For something
lost
Not a fondness
for dead images
But a desire
To reimagine
and remake
everything that was
frightening
and radical
and alive
about the past
within the present
The Band
Of Montreal
described the past
as a grotesque animal
which it might be
In which case
I don’t want to see
that animal stuffed
Or preserved
To be admired
Or studied
I want it rampaging
through the streets of our cities
Like the dinosaur
at the end of Jurassic Park II
I want it to cause trouble

V
This is what I’ve been up to recently
finding ways of recreating the past
not as images
or representations
but as processes
and actions
and ways of moving in
and moving through
the city
Specifically I have been looking at
various groups of artists
in New York
in the 1960s and 1970s
and how what they were doing then
relates to what I am doing now
And identifying in their work
tactics and mechanisms
which might continue
to resonate
today

[Where my parents live in a little village just north of Cambridge, and where as I travel around so much I am still registered to vote, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is our local MP. Here is a letter I wrote to him this morning.]

Dear Mr Lansley,

I’ve never met you myself but you opened the new pavilion on our village recreation ground and you were, by all accounts, thoughtful and engaged and, according to my parents at least, ‘a very nice man’. I am willing to believe that you think you are doing the right thing as regards the National Health Service. I’m sure there are very good reasons why the NHS needs some measure of reform, though on the numerous occasions when I have needed to make use of it I have always found it to be remarkable. The NHS has saved my life on at least one occasion. I think there is little point at this stage rehearsing the strong opposition that has been made to your bill, but for reference this article from the British Medical Journal is a useful demonstration of the argument that what you are doing is making things that are now free, no longer free; as such you are fundamentally dismantling the core principal of the NHS.

When he went to war in Iraq, Tony Blair too had absolute conviction that he was doing the right thing. What condemned him in the end (and a decade on from that decision we can already see the degree to which it will be his damning legacy) was not that conviction but his decision that it justified the subversion of the democratic process.

Your actions throughout this process have demonstrated a similar contempt for the democratic process. This bill, despite public opinion, has been carried through without a mandate by a fragile coalition that did not mention any great reforms of the NHS in either of its manifestos. Your excuses for failing to publish the risk register are facile. Creating an emergency summit on the bill and only inviting those medical organisations that support you is embarrassingly pathetic. Your stage-managed wanders around public hospitals in recent months have become so ridiculous I would be laughing if I wasn’t so angry.

This behaviour will be your legacy, just as the ‘dodgy dossier’ is Tony Blair’s, and both those who believe as fervently as I do in the NHS and the minority who might have supported your reforms will remember the way in which you have gone about forcing this much-derided bill through parliament. That, however, will be little comfort for those many, many people less wealthy than yourself and your cabinet colleagues whose health is being put at risk by your flawed ideological experiment.

Yours,
Andy Field