A Machine of Loving Grace

Machine of Loving GraceWho’s looking at you, kid?

UPDATE: APR 2014 We hit a few integration speed bumps on the way to making our lovely Grace, which meant that she wasn’t available for the City Fictions event at the splendid FuturEverything this year. She is still very much in development and will be viciously moping in a corner at an event near you sometime soon.

As a contribution to  The Tools for Unknown Futures strand of FutureEverything this year, I’m working in collaboration with long time friend and art-engineer Spencer Marsden to make a CCTV camera that talks back.

A playful collision between maker culture, NSA-fueled surveillance fear and Big Data mining. A Machine of Loving Grace spends as little time profiling its targets as your average social media pal. It constructs ill-thought-out judgements, posts them online and never, ever looks back (unless you return for more). An unemployed CCTV camera, down-at-heel and lost in the early 21st Century, it plugs itself into the wash of information and tries to make connections.

Surveillance and tracking is now the default position: with 90% of the world’s data generated in the past two years, perhaps our most significant contribution is our data. When we’re not having our data intercepted by the optic nerve of spooks, we’re complicit in its creation. Forget our governmental spy-eyes, we’re responsible for a full throttled gush of information via social media, our anti-social phones phoning home and the mass of tracking data we blissfully sign up to supply in return for the promise of loyalty card points we rarely use.

Looking to the near future, it’s time to re-imagine how we want to live together. No longer heads down, our thumbs self-declaring our intentions and failures, successes and whereabouts. Taking the first tentative steps into a grown up connected world, what do we want to find there?

Follow and contribute to the robot’s exploits using the hashtag #futrmlg

I’ll Show You Mine – A Storify insertion.

Graphic showing the exposure of the #illshowyoumine hashtag on Twitter over the past week.

Exposure of the #illshowyoumine hashtag on Twitter over the past week.
The ‘tag has appeared around 500,000 times in Twitter streams

Twitter was briefly set aflame last week after delicate wallflower Bryony Kimmings decided enough was enough, and posted a blog concerning itself with the perceived value of touring performance, what such things cost and perhaps the unfairness and lack of transparency in all of the financial decisions made by all parties. It was posted to Twitter with the hashtag #illshowyoumine.

Many folk who are pretty damn good at making that there theatre carried on the discussion on Twitter, so I’ve just put together a Storify to try and stick some of those great words into a single page – like a butterfly impaled on a pin. There’s much more to talk about, and many tweets missed – but this might give a bit of background and does link to some fantastic thoughts on other blogs.

UPDATE 29/11: Arts Admin did a roundup, here.

UPDATE 4/12: Daniel Bye gives a wider context here.

(for the record, whilst I’m fully funded in my PhD I’m in the red when it comes to art)

Discussions on Twitter prompted by Bryony Kimming’s passionate blog. It’s all about the Money.

Does my Glass look big in this? (yes)

On Sunday (10 Nov), at TEDxSalford 3.0, I was lucky enough to get a seat at Thad Starner‘s Google Glass lunchtime breakout event. The tickets for this particular session had been in high demand, helping to crash the ticketing system some days earlier – so it was pure serendipity that I had chanced upon the invite and clicked through to the Eventbrite sometime during the 11 minutes the system was actually up and running.

The breakout room at the Lowry felt heavily corporate and somewhat beige; a long way from the almost celebratory vibe in the Lyric theatre – where the main TEDx was happening. Once in the room the very first thing we were told, utterly without apparent irony, was that no recording or photography of any kind was to be allowed. This was secret stuff.

After a brief introduction with the obligatory Glass video which shows the sky diving, skiing, rollercoasting explorers we’ve all come to expect. Starner got into it with a far more exciting and game-changing vision of how it might work in practice (and this is a guy with the wearables experience to back up the vision).

Search the web for thoughts about Glass and inevitably opinions about security, privacy and distancing effects rise to the surface – that or the implication that it’s demographic is wealthy nerds. (Thad – and by extension Glass – doesn’t search the web, naturally they Google it). These aren’t so much shrugged off as implicitly dismissed as shallow. The wearers interaction with Glass is built from the ground up with social cues and a sense of engagement-with rather than distance-from your fellow humans.

Examples:

  • Glass is built to live above eye level, out of the way of eye contact.
  • Many of the wearer’s interactions with Glass are built around gestures that very quickly become obvious to other parties.
  • Both the user and anyone around them can see when Glass is active – the display is transparent (and thus, so is its use).
  • Glass is designed to be there when you want it and to get out of your way when you don’t.

Rewind Thad’s talk to the beginning: (this is what I remember, some nouns may be inaccurate)

Who in the room owns a watch? Who owns a cell phone?”
“Look up the time, and put your hand in the air when you’ve got it”

He later notices there’s a clock in the room, chuckles – but it doesn’t matter, the point is made when everyone puts their hands up in the air pretty much simultaneously.

Now, what’s the refractive index of Acrylic glass?”

Thad’s hand goes up almost instantly, people in the room don’t even bother to try. We know we’re going to be defeated by the power of Google and Glass. One guy perseveres and comes up with an answer minutes later, and too late to win the quiz. Now this seems like trivial stuff, but the point is illustrative. It takes maybe 20 seconds to get out your phone and then to the functionality you need to even start looking up stuff.

What if we could remove these barriers? These barriers between intention and action?

This is the point from which the head Googlers, Larry Page and Sergi Brin, begin. Starner points to history, referencing Vannever Bush’s article As We May Think (1945):

The difficulty seems to be, not so much that we publish unduly in view of the extent and variety of present day interests, but rather that publication has been extended far beyond our present ability to make real use of the record. The summation of human experience is being expanded at a prodigious rate, and the means we use for threading through the consequent maze to the momentarily important item is the same as was used in the days of square-rigged ships.

There’s much more in there, prophetic and heady stuff, and it makes the Glass roadmap crystal clear. This isn’t some Science Fiction from search giants restless, wanting to find more ways to blind us with AdWords. This builds on the works of Engelbart Augmenting Human Intellect (1962), Upton’s work on cued speech* (1968) and Sutherland’s Sword of Damocles – in point of fact the history of wearables is pretty darn long (especially if you count the first use of eyeglasses, back in the 13th century).

Glass isn’t the supervillan’s surveillance dream toy, certainly not when the default battery life is 50m of video or 20m of Google Hangouts style streaming. It’s there to take a family video when you’d otherwise not even bother to get out your camera, it’s there to get you from A to B yet still allowing you to see in front of you.

Glass is a rear view mirror pointing forwards.

Pretty exciting, eh? Now, Thad asks us, imagine you’re blind … imagine if you’re blind, its the middle of the night and you can’t quite work out if the bumps you feel on your daughter’s head are a rash or not. Or you want to make soup, but you don’t know what’s in the can you’ve picked up from the cupboard. Now take a picture or a short video, upload it to Mechanical Turk with a request and wait for the crowd to work out your answer. Combine Glass with Vizwiz or develop with WearScript and we’re starting to see a much more interesting ecology. There are success stories of micro lessons, bite sized learning modules, tailored to your free time and built on interactive mechanisms that improve retention: In particular lessons which teach parents of deaf children sign language in a way that doesn’t involve a 1hr round trip to the local sign school, a trip that in many cases falls off the schedule – dramatically stifling a childs development.

So Glass is a paradigm shift, and something that really might take us somewhere brighter, better and way smarter. I came into the talk expecting to love the tech but retain my cool cynicism – I walked out a convert.

 

* Upton, H. W. (1968). Wearable eyeglass speechreading aid. American Annals of the Deaf, 113, 222-229.

TEDxSalford (3.0) A Storify Insertion … with video!

Video link to all of the talks and a #TEDxSalford Storify sidebar …

VIDEO HERE

A view from @twitter

A view from @twitter

I, Crouch

It’s impossible for me to easily remember the time I noticed I wasn’t the only Crouch in the theatre.

It was certainly before the time that every call centre caller started to ask if I was related to the footballer Peter Crouch, and whether I could do the robot. (Although there is another story here, one that concerns my teenage self, a Butlins or possibly another generic brand of holiday camp, a dancing competition and my utter failure to get off with the girl as a result, perhaps a direct result, of the robot). I don’t seem to be as regularly asked about Peter Crouch any more, although I don’t know if that’s because of some decline in his career, or the general outsourcing of the call centre.

Other than this footballer, there are at least two Crouches of repute that immediately come to mind. The splendid Julian Crouch who’s work with Improbable and others is a continuous thread of wonder. (I particularly remember the astonishing Sticky at Platt Fields, and the incredibly intimate Spirit performed at Contact).

Then there is Tim Crouch.

If Tim’s Twitter nom de tweet is to be believed he’s a child of the sixties, much like me, although older by a few years. From what I can tell his hair has also male patterned much like mine. (I think the sly old subconscious is trying to draw parallels where there aren’t any). Suffice to say that I’ve heard many a good thing about Mr Crouch, in this an industry built on gossip, spit and blood. It’s only this year that I’ve finally gotten to see his work. At Forest Fringe up in Leith during the chaos that is Edinburgh, I chanced upon the nostalgic, gracious and spiteful what happens to the hope at the end of the evening made with Andy Smith. (Amongst the many things that show impressed upon its audience was – especially in us older selves – the difficulty of taking off and putting on ones shoes in the theatre, something that, in buffoonery, is returned to for a tiny comedic bit in I, Malvolio – but I get ahead of myself).

hope was gently enthralling – and I particularly wondered if in form it was so very suited to those of us in our mid-life that few outside that age group could empathise easily. Isn’t it until you’ve lived a life or two that you can truly come upon old friends who are at once loved and so very very distant? I, Malvolio in contrast is aimed squarely at children, teens and tweens – although its bouffant energy is thoroughly mesmerising for any age.

An image of Tim Crouch in the Turkey Cock costume for I, Malvolio

Tim Crouch’s I, Malvolio

So, today, at the ever increasingly interesting Z-Arts, I saw a matinee of this incredible beast: I, Malvolio (review! review!). Mr Crouch’s most recent third person Shakespeare, which takes the eponymous Malvolio‘s side of the story to marvellous extremes. In the past I’ve only taken the most sidelong of sidelong glances at Twelfth Night, although now it seems I know the whole story of the Countess, the Lord, the boy / man / boy / man / boy and the wackiness that ensues in the presence of twins. (Do all twins live a life of confusion and farce? It seems only right).

“Is this the kind of thing you like? This chaos? This—theatre?”

Quite rightly, this Malvolio spends much of the show deriding us bohemian audience for inappropriate attire, beverages and attitudes – constantly looking down his nose at us the mass embodiment of Sir Toby Belch (amongst other lower folk worthy of his distain). Brilliantly layered, a performance that oscillates between Victor Meldrew, Windsor Davis, the splend Mark Heap‘s Alan Statham and any archetypical stern headmaster – whilst imbued with the gravitas of a somber Beckett laden with meaning and hefty weight.

“You are idle, shallow things. I am not of your element.”

It’s a clown show with a Kick Me sign stapled to its back, it’s a history lesson, a masterclass and a theatrical show-and-tell. Moments will leave you laughing til your jaw aches, whilst others prise your eyes wide with horror and anticipation. He’ll have his revenge on the whole pack of us – so he repeats throughout.

And his revenge? It’s said revenge is best served cold: Malvolio’s is served before you even realise it, in a slow coagulation of the guts.

“I went to the theatre today”

“Oh did you, what was it like?”

“There was a man who tore apart all of our assumptions, berated and chided us for bullying behaviour he himself was guilty of, and was very, very funny doing it. It was fabulous”

 

 

 

Punchdrunk // The Drowned Man (2013)

The Drowned Man (programme)

It seems so often stated that Punchdrunk have defined Immersive theatre that it’s probably impossible to separate the two words from each other. Certainly many companies in the past few decades have constructed intricately detailed worlds and placed the audience or participant in amongst performers, set and debris. Although none with such bright focus on the end user as You Me Bum Bum Train (which I won’t say any more about here as I haven’t yet had a chance to experience it and because their website tells me not to – “For the maximum effect, we seriously recommend that you do NOT research anything into the show.“) Indeed, the very nature of any live performance is in itself an act of immersion, viz:

Yet none have done more to monetize and popularise this Disneyworld meets performance genre: Sleep No More opened in NYC on March 7, 2011 and is still running now (12th August 2013). Their reviewers embrace hyperbole (“Thrilling, mind-bending! Unlike anything you’ve ever seen.” – New York Post) and we participants tend to clutch at words to describe the experience – maybe spending hours in a feverish one-to-one brain dump session with a friend trying to get across the intricacy and epic scope or simply dismissing description with a sigh of “you had to be there“.

When I talked to my mum about it, she said in her day that would be called the haunted house or maybe a ghost train. (Of course she’s right. Just writ larger and marginally less scary). The innate complexity of this kind of work means it has to fuse together a whole bunch of performative elements, set design, lighting, sound, fx and crazy logistics. A challenging exercise in collaboration and communication. It also needs the complicity of its audience. Whether we’re forced into silence and anonymised with masks, or cleverly manipulated to move here, follow that and not to touch this. This is an area where Punchdrunk simply excel.

We make choices to race after individual performers to follow their story (such that it is), or explore the unbelievably detailed world we/they inhabit, or simply wander, dumbstruck, as this world evolves around us.

Punchdrunk’s trailer will either intrigue or appal, avoiding the irritating tendency to try and show the work itself, it sniggers with a come-hither grin.

The follow-up is far more beguiling and fascinating!

As with all Good Art the beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and some have found that once they’ve inhabited one Punchdrunk world, the next doesn’t quite sate – mind already blown, any similar experience is just morphine.

Five years ago I know it would’ve changed my life but I’ve already had my life changed by It Felt Like A Kiss so that box has been ticked thanks very much Punchdrunk. 

I wouldn’t (couldn’t) say that, but it’s intriguing what a different a mask makes.

At the TaPRA conference this year a paper was presented by Anna Wilson titled – Inside Out: postmodern democratization within Punchdrunk’s ‘Masque of the Red Death’, which seemed to suggest that by rendering audience as masked and anonymous gives us unusual degrees of freedom. Yet in the case of The Drowned Man being given a mask and instructed not to talk homogenised the audience somewhat. Indeed, the experiential immersion and incredible collaboration of audience discovered in It Felt Like A Kiss, where we audience were unmasked and free to engage with whomsoever we pleased, was in many ways the peak of its genius.

Tired of overuse, I can’t stop saying It’s a must-see. With three Punchdrunk shows notched into my psyche I can’t wait for the next.

 

Quizoola! – swimming against the stream

An Image of the performers of Quizoola! Photograph:  Hugo Glendinning

Photograph: Hugo Glendinning

I’ve just returned from a half week away from home. This may not sound like much but it consisted of a lot of to-ing and fro-ing around the country in order to attend a bunch of things that all seemed to want to happen at the same time. I got to see and experience pretty much everything I wanted to, and will write up those things in other posts here. The trip was filled with time compromises mainly based on the two to three hours it seems to take to get from one major city to another. A conference in Cardiff and a festival in London, back and forth. The only train I wish I’d missed was the one taking me away from London, in particular away from the 24 hour performance of Forced Entertainment‘s Quizoola! hosted at the Barbican as part of Spill Festival.

Performance

I’ve been reading about the show after experiencing it by clicking links on the #Quizoola24 Twitter feed leading to fragments by Tim Etchells here and here – and the programme notes; a great article by Jonathan Kalb, and this blog by Matt Truemann (and another here, by William Drew). This is in much the same way I obsessively read episode guides and Wikipedia articles on tv shows and films I like immediately after seeing them. As if I want them to carry on after they’ve finished, or I’m worried that I’ve missed something important.

“Is inspiration floating about in this room?”

“Not at the moment”

I like things that sound important or significant. I think it might be a hang-over from reading too many things into song lyrics when I was younger. One of the particular joys I get from Forced Ents more heavily text based pieces is how much meaning, emotional value or simply ‘story’ I can get from the smallest thing. The play text from Speak Bitterness (a version of which is found at the end of Certain Fragments) consists of hundreds of confessional statements – reading each one ignites a history which quickly collapses as the next is read, (confession: I’ve never seen the piece, but  now I’m hoping for a 24 hour version at the Barbican soon).

Tim Etchells tweeted about Edouard Levé’s Autoportrait which looked interesting enough to buy unseen. It’s described so “In this brilliant and sobering self-portrait, Edouard Levé hides nothing from his readers, setting out his entire life, more or less at random, in a string of declarative sentences.” I dip into it. It’s hard going, requiring a significant effort despite its simple form. The ‘simple declarative sentences’ motif appears in Sight is the Sense that Dying People Tend to Lose First, and reads like a riff. Quizoola! turns this into question and answer dialog – adding danger, failure and tension – yet somehow keeping significance.

Watching it is addictive, it’s a page-turner on stage. A stage-turner. I keep wanting to shout out answers, whilst simultaneously feeling prematurely mortified as if I already had. It is utterly, utterly clown, albeit with more words than usual. It lives entirely in the present.

“Can you name six lies which are commonly told to children?”

“If you don’t go to sleep you won’t grow. Go to school, you’ll like it. Nobody thinks you look funny in those trousers. Carrots are good for you. Of course you’re clever …”

Streaming

It’s a brilliant and compelling piece of performance, a Simple Idea wonderfully executed. Of course it helps that the people doing it are very good at being Forced Entertainment – they’ve had their 10,000 hours practice (sometimes 6-hours at a time). There’s something else special in this instalment though; not only have questions been solicited from the audience and the wider world – submitted by email or twitter from days or months before and even during the performance – but the whole 24-hours is live streamed.

I always feel a certain sense of trepidation about Live Streamed Performance. Video of performance rarely seems to capture what was going on in the space – they’re a subtle, shallow mis-representation of a live event. I have DVDs and tapes of shows, but when I watch them back they function more as an aide-memoir – helping me to relocate how they made me feel and think at the time. I’ve helped stream performances before. With equipment stuck together with string and tape, and trying to emulate the way its done by the National – all swooping cameras on dollies and armatures, multiple jump-cut images from close-up to carefully framed wides. Our cameras don’t move much, but the cinematic aesthetic seemed to be the right way to do it. (We have a better setup now – blackmagic and HD – which I’m hoping will make a difference).

“When are you going to do the good material?”

Quizoola!24 was framed with one HD camera which alternated between a relatively close-up shot of the two performers, and a relatively wide shot showing the red neon QUIZOOLA! sign and a smattering of audience figures. On occasion one shot would gently change to another. Simple. And yet watching this stream was every bit as engrossing as the live performance. That’s not to say they’re the same thing: in the room there’s breath and sweat, the 3d sounds of the other audience members – laughter, a cough, some shuffling in the chairs. A strong feeling of being with others. Witnessing the q&a become one minute interrogation, the next pub chat.

The live stream is a flat 16:9 framing of the action, the sound picks up the performers voices, some of the louder audience noise and an ambiant hum of something electronic. And it’s addictive. I leave the show, pick up my bags from the hotel and head to Euston to catch my train home – and when I get to the station and wait, I tune into the Quizoola! live-stream. I watch and listen to it for most of the rest of the night. When the 3G coverage fails to sustain the stream, I read and write tweets about it. Even when I walk from the station to my home, I stick the phone in my pocket and listen to the audio.

“Do you think Danny Boyle should direct Margaret Thatchers closing down ceremony?”

“I think he could do the evening event”

Social

In the Barbican Pit my clever phone had no coverage at all – a neat inversion between the digital/social streaming experience and the live/present audience experience. Once outside the room, there was plenty of Twitter fun to be had – some of which is blogged about by Megan Vaughan here. I’m sure there was a spike in Twitter following activity, too (certainly there was on my part), as water-cooler chats around a shared adventure led like-minded folk to each other. Arty speed-dating.

Tom Langford ‏@bonniethetech 13 Apr Am I the only one of my Theatre friends who's not watching Quizoola? I did catch some in bed this morning which was quite surreal.

simon stephens ‏@StephensSimon 13 Apr I think I may well spend the next six hours as it pisses down outside watching #quizoola24  It is the only thing that makes sense any more.

Eve Nicol created a Twitter word-cloud which has my name almost as big as Simon Stephens’ which made me feel pretty good.

Jenna Omeltschenko ‏@JenChenko 13 Apr I want to live in #Quizoola24 land forever. I want this to happen all the time.

“When’s it going to end?”

“Tomorrow”

“When is it going to be finally over?”

“Tonight”

The End Bit

There always seems to be a gap between the expectations of a live-stream and the pay-off. A gap between how something works in-the-flesh and how something works on-screen. With Quizoola!24 Forced Entertainment have created something that people want to take part in wherever they are – sitting in front of a couple of clowns, sat in the pub or the park on a smart phone or a smart TV. I’ve not experienced this much social in my social media before, and it makes the future a little more comforting.

“Do you want to stop now?”

NO.

 

The Salon Project (pictures)

Group of people listening to a speaker at the Salon Project.

 

Wonderfully Unique experience as part of SPILL FESTIVAL

[From Salon Project, posted by Jason Crouch on 12/4/2013]

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2


The Salon Project (words)

 

The Salon

Photograph of the group of Salon attendees, speakers and organisers for the evening of the 11th April 2013

The Salon Project was presented as part of Spill festival in London this year (2013). Created by Untitled Projects, the idea for the Salon came from artistic director Stewart Laing’s appreciation of the transformational experience of costume. Something that few outside the performing arts ever get to enjoy. The element of ‘dressing up’ is combined with a series of entertainments – tableax, music and inspiring speakers of today – inside a just-so set constructed from MDF, mirrors and glitter. There is a great sense of the theatrical here – this is quite definitely not the Great Hall of some manor house – but in your peripheral vision it could just be.

Your journey to the Salon starts some weeks before. Soon after buying a ticket contact is made (by email) requesting your body’s specific statistics – this is so a costume can be particularly tailored for your use and in some ephemeral way seems to begin to elevate this from a dressing up game to an event when costume is mandatory – a wedding, a formal dance, a military parade. Naturally us menfolk drew the shorter end of the stick for glory – white tie, military man or some kind of dandy fop being the only real options on offer. The ladies on the other hand became parts of a beautiful floral display of diversity and colour.

The performance/installation is self described so:

The Salon Project Revisited recreates the exclusive meetings at the heart of what was French society’s golden age – an era of change, excess and inquiry. Your evening begins with a transformation into full period costume by a coterie of dressers and make-up artists, before you emerge into a mirrored impression of a 19th-century Parisian salon. As you mingle with guests, pioneers in their fields will provoke discussion, speaking on subjects at the vanguard of 21st-century thought on science, politics, technology and the arts. Revel in the Salon’s splendour, contrast it with the present and imagine what the future will hold in this beautifully crafted night of fashion and conversation.

This is more elegantly spun press release than actuality. Many of the elements are as stated, but the piece lacks the cohesion the text suggests. The speakers were engaging and eloquent and the music varied (John Shea‘s beautifully subdued Satie and Glass underscored the event perfectly, whilst the wind-up-gramophone DJs created a strange chaos of farmland sounds and scratches). The entertainment and the simple joy of the costume, the make-up and the brilliantly flamboyant hair all added up to an almost childlike wonder. There were some gorgeously deliberate dissonent elements too – the iPad as pianist’s sheet music, a large (50″?) lcd screen displaying the previous Salon’s group photo as a old master, and the wireless radio headset on a fully costumed stage manager. We primped and dandified audience were also encouraged to take part in this process, and many a smartphone, camera and digital watch could be seen to disturb the continuity.

All of the folk staffing the event maintained a courtier charm throughout, and it truly is a joy to see so many people working in concert to build such a still elegance. Glancing down the credits page of the program bears witness to the iceberg masses required to create this kind of work (also wonderful to see Theo Clinkard on the list – his work with Antonia Grove on the delectable Magpie was lovely to watch for dance fans and newbies alike. Also this).

Interestingly, the most commonly held concern for the evening was expressed as a need for the participants to be given a chance to engage with a character of themselves. In some way, in this setting and dressed like this, trivial small-talk seemed even smaller. Who wants to talk about their new curtains, or how many Gs their new smartphone has in all this glory. It’s possibly a bit pointless to criticise  something for what it is not, however, and certainly I felt the most was gleaned from the experience by simply existing in it, falling slowly into the water and simply floating.

Speakers notes for 11th April:

Rose English – Measurements

Rose English has been writing, directing and performing her own work for over thirty five years in venues as various as Tate Britain; Royal Court; Queen Elizabeth Hall; the Adelaide Festival and Lincoln Center, New York. Her productions feature a diversity of coperformers including musicians, dancers, circus performers, magicians and horses

Sophie Scott – The Future of Hearing

I completed a PhD in speech perception in 1993 and have been researching in cognitive neuroscience since then. My work addresses how human brains deal with human vocal communication – from speech through to laughter – and how this can go wrong, as well as how we can adapt to change. I am also interested in vocal expertise, from acting to beatboxing. 

Video here:

THE SALON PROJECT – UNTITLED PROJECTS (UK) from Pacitti Company on Vimeo.

Some Bitterness

About six years ago I started seriously mucking about with text.

After a particularly long bitching and a moaning session with a close friend who I often found myself bitching and moaning with, there was a suggestion that perhaps there should be less of the bitching and moaning and more of the doing. I enrolled on a performance writing course and started to bash out bits of scripts, started thinking about what a performance text was, started to jigsaw together the things I liked words to do.

Fell to reading Certain Fragments. Love the way that Tim and the gang make stories out of almost nothing at all. One night I did some Speaking Bitterness of my own. I didn’t know the rules (and I don’t think I’ve read them yet).

It looked like this:

 

We left the tops off all the permanent markers.
We drove the wrong way down a one-way street and mooned the pedestrians who we passed.
We desecrated a church, and lit a candle to lift our spirits.
We bought airline tickets to somewhere that doesn’t exist.
We stole DVDs from the record shop and swapped them for copies of the Big Issue.
We cut out every last page of library books.
We unscrewed the caps of all the ketchup bottles in the supermarket.
We shouted “fire!” in the cinema.
We swore at children and ran.

We broke the sound barrier in free fall.
We called for pizza and gave the wrong address.
We broke open film canisters, exposed the film then put them back on the shelves.
We learned a foreign language then refused to speak it.

We offered to walk a dog then left it in the park.
We glued piano lids shut in music shops.

We believed when nobody else would.

We left the lights on, left all our electrical goods on standby and sprayed deodorant in the air on the off chance that it might get warmer.

We let down the tyres of cars stuck in traffic.
We said “I love you” and didn’t mean it.
We took the money and opened the box.
We stuck pound coins on the pavement with superglue.

We used our newfound telepathic powers to structurally weaken the legs on the tables and chairs in McDonalds restaurants, just before peak time.

We smoked cigarettes in hospitals, and put them out on corpses in the morgue.
We reported crimes that never happened and gave descriptions of our friends.
We stole shopping vouchers and gave them as gifts only after they’d expired.
We held open doors and slammed them shut just as people approached.
We set the radio alarm clocks in the department store to go off all at once just after we had left.
We posted heavy packages to people we didn’t know and didn’t put on stamps.
We planted fast growing flowers in patterns that spell out obscenities on suburban lawns.
We stuck false timetables on bus stops and consoled commuters.

We toasted the birthdays of serial killers.

We invented an everlasting light bulb then hid the plans and schematics in a safety deposit box, throwing the key in the deepest well somewhere off the map.

We reprogrammed satellites to deliberately fool your sat-nav.
We cut crop circles in the shapes of human and animal genitalia.
We huffed and we puffed and we blew your house down.
We raided a government database found the addresses of everyone who was afraid of the dark then cut their power at midnight.

We wrote a suicide note and placed it in the hands of a madman.
We spent our children’s trust fund on crisps and beer.
We recorded TV repeats over the videotapes of all your memories.
We took the batteries out of your remote controls.
We stole identities and sold them to Russian gangsters.
We sent letters of regret to successful job applicants.

We drew on tables in public places, wrote fairy tales and didn’t change the names to protect the innocent.