Macbethmachine – A Performance Experiment
December 21st 2010 Winter Solstice
Four couples performed for two couples and one singleton. Behind closed doors, in living room, dinning room, master bedroom and children’s bedroom. We saw Christmas extravaganza in the living room: utopian Eastenders, careful selection of gifts, detailed writing of Xmas cards. Dinning room saw counting of the money and dark private conversations between an ambitious couple made public. Master bedroom allowed audiences to view multimedia performance whilst lying down – sexy masks, love letters, naughty Father Xmas and a lonely woman. Children’s room: we played with balloons, we heard the story of the fall of the Berlin Wall – again and again, McDonalds burgers sang.
Liverpool Castle 13th Century
A performance experiment
A commission from The Institute for the Art and Practice of Dissent at Home to four heterosexual couples: Ben and Lorena, Dan and Penny, Tim and Britt, Lena and Gary
During the World Cup last summer, Gary and Lena wrote Macbethmachine (available in DOCUMENTS) after Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Heiner Muller’s Hamletmachine. In creating this performance text, we read ‘Macbeth’ closely, discussed it in depth, researched ‘Hamletmachine’ and Heiner Muller’s work, thought about recent European history and the fall of communism. When writing we followed the structure of ‘Hamletmachine’ and its 5 scenes. All of our creative and discursive sessions were held in 90 minute sessions, in line with the then ongoing World Cup matches. 45 minutes play, a break, 45 minutes play. Full Time!
Thematically we picked up on the failure of communism (in Muller’s work) which translated into the failure of capitalism and its promise of freedom (in our text). We were intrigued by the notions of violence and heteronormativity (in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Lady Macbeth) as well as family life/childlessness. Capitalism, ambition, failure/success were further broad themes that we addressed through the writing. ‘Macbethmachine’ builds on the work we did through the Institute’s project on Miss Julie in Utopia in 2008 (after August Strindberg’s Miss Julie). In ‘Miss Julie in Utopia’ we worked with Cathy Butterworth and Bryan Biggs and the performance took place during summer solstice 21 June 2008.
In the time period between autumn, 23rd September, and winter solstice, 21st December, 4 couples will be working towards a short performance loosely based on our performance text Macbethmachine. The 4 performances by 4 couples will take place at the Institute on 21 December 2010.
Strict Rules for the Commission:
* The performances must be developed through the medium of heterosexual couples (Ben and Lorena, Dan and Penny, Tim and Britt, Gary and Lena). We are interested to further explore the notion of violence as it exists through ‘coupling’.
* You must work on the premises of 7 Bright Street in one of these four rooms: living room, dinning room, master bedroom, children’s bedroom. You can express your preference for the room but must work in the one which will be allocated to you. When working/rehearsing in the room you must keep the door closed behind you.
* You can use text from Macbethmachine or Shakespeare’s Macbeth in any way/form/order you want. You should address the themes of failure of capitalism, [heteronormative] violence, illusion of freedom and ambition.
* You must work on this commission in 7 sessions, 6 of which would be 90 minutes long and the last, 7th one, would be a performance. The structure for 7 sessions and 90 minutes comes from 7 matches that the winner of the World Cup must play and win. We must agree on your working schedule for the first 6 sessions.
* The final performance will be performed in your couple in your room with the door closed. The performance will be viewed by other performers-couples and members of audience, also in couples. We are anticipating a scene of some 5-10 minutes, which will need to be repeated throughout your first 45 minutes of the session, but can also be durational for the whole 45 minutes period, if you wish.
* On this day you will have to see the other 3 performances by other couples as well.
* The remaining 45 minutes of your session will be spent in the Institute with all 8 performers creating something together – having just seen each other’s performances for the first time.
* You will be paid £62.26 each – this sum is derived from 10.5 hours work (7 x 90 minutes sessions) x £5.93 (minimum wage). Additionally you will get Xmas bonus of £30 each. This makes your total sum £93.26 each. You will receive this sum immediately after the performance on 21 December 2010.
‘As an intellectual you belong at last to the middle class; as soon as you even make the beginnings of a career, as you have some success, you belong to the establishment you fight against. You get into the establishment by fighting it; as a writer of literature, for instance, there is no other way to join it, I believe. But then you’re ‘in’ and live in the dilemma that you belong, yet don’t like it. [don’t like it, don’t like it – in Sid’s voice]. And it’s quite typical here that once very good authors have written a bestseller, their tragedy of success begins; people are ground down by success.’ Heiner Muller
Bed-In CUT PIECE
part of Bed-In at the Bluecoat
On 28 Oct 2010 and on 9 Dec 2010 The Institute for the Art and Practice of Dissent at Home re-enacted Yoko Ono’s ‘Cut Piece’, with a contemporary twist. It’s time for cuts! This was a critique of Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) which was delivered by the Chancellor George Osborne on 20 th October. The public sector is being slashed and burnt before our very eyes. Mother and the children were hid underneath the large white sheet, whilst the father addressed the audience of students and visitors to the Bluecoat from the baby step. The father screamed and shouted about the austerity of cuts. He announced many many public sector cuts and encouraged students, one by one, to come and cut the white sheet underneath which mother and the children hid. The mother intervened into his speeches a few times and talked about the pensions and the French, the multi billion tax dodgers Arcadia Group and Vodafone, the invisible labour of mothers and housewives, and finally the free labour of the artists. The piece was a comment on our own situation as both artists and a family with three children. In Oct Father finally called all the students to arms, to the Demo-lition march Fund Our Future which was taking place on 10 th November in London. In Dec the Institute acknowledged the ongoing vote at the Parliament about tuition fees and vowed to continue the fight.
They say CUT BACK we say FIGHT BACK.
The Institute for the Art and Practice of Dissent wishes to disclose that the Bluecoat makes artists work for free. We performed the Bed-In for free. We got some tea/coffee and lunch. We asked the organizers to provide us with two white sheets for cutting and two pairs of scissors. The organizers told us they could not provide the sheets, but can provide scissors. We ended up covering the cost of the sheets ourselves. £12. In December we received a sheet for our performance.
It is time to END FREE ARTIST LABOUR! Join the struggle – demand a wage!
Art Activism, Climate Justice and COP15
In December 2009 we went to Copenhagen to protest at COP15. We used the £2000 artist fee from C Words: Carbon, Climate Capital Culture to fund our activism. We stayed with Ulla and her two children, attended some demonstrations, and thought and thought and thought about what it means for artists to be part of a social movement, in this case for climate justice. The breakdown of our expenditure (as well as accumulation of rubbish along the way) and The Institute – Dealing with Distractions at COP15 video film are available in DOCUMENTS.
Lena did an artist talk entitled Art as Protest: With our £2000 artist fee we are going to COP15. This event was a joint presentation by the Cultures of Climate Change Group and the English Faculty Drama Seminar at the University of Cambridge on 2 Feb. The paper and power point presentation are available in DOCUMENTS.
Gary talked about the Institute at Politicized Practice Research Group at Loughborough University at the Radical Aesthetics Radical Art symposium which took place on 17 Feb. Gary argued that the maxim in English Law – qui tacet consentire – (‘silence gives consent’) is a useful way of thinking through our positions as artists. Gary argued that, for example, if we are silent about stuff we don’t like (from international politics to domestic issues in the home) the law construes that we are in agreement with that thing. Speaking out becomes a necessity especially when staying neutral was never even an option to begin with.
photo by The Gluts at Cafe Carbon
We participated at What Difference Does it Make roundtable discussion at the Stanley Picker Gallery in Kingston-Upon-Thames. The discussion was a part of Louder Than Bombs: Art, Action and Activism series of residencies and events. We sent the vacuum cleaner a package by way of a contribution to a debate about climate change and COP15. The package contained a letter to read and a parcel full of the rubbish we had collected from our own trip to Copenhagen in December 2009. It also included the last of the £2000 artist fee for C Words Carbon Climate Capital Culture: £191.08. The vacuum cleaner passed the money on to Transition Heathrow. The transcript of the letter is stored in the DOCUMENTS.
The Institute featured in In Time
“In Time is a collection of ten case studies, designed to represent some of the innovative and pioneering ways in which Live Art has both posed and responded to many of the exciting cultural challenges of our times.” (taken from the Live Art Development Agency website)
The Institute participated at the Informal Gathering at LADA discussing performances in domestic spaces. The event was co-organised by Carole Luby of 25SG.
The Politics and Aesthetics Reading Group 2010
The Institute has joined forces with Lorena Rivero de Beer in starting up an Politics and Aesthetics Reading Group.
The Politics and Aesthetics Reading Group responds to a desire to create a space that supports our effort to read philosophical/political theory outside academic environments and develop our critical thinking. The group is directed to people interested in exploring the complex relationship between art/aesthetics and politics.
Our first session took place on Tuesday 19th January – The Distribution of the Sensible, Jacques Ranciere… trying to be as ‘cool’ as the art world.
For our second session we stayed with the French and tackled The Coming Insurrection by the Invisible Committee. This resulted in a trip to… Lincoln. Being inspired by Tarnac 9 we formed the Liverpool 13. The Institute were commissioned by the Lincoln Art Programme to do something in Lincoln. The Institute passed the commission on to the reading group: the Liverpool 13. As a group, after reading the Coming Insurrection we decided to respond to the Lincoln commission to see what we could muster. Here are some photos from our weekend away.
A Piece of Lincoln to Call Our Very Own
A rectangle of Lincoln – grass and soil – arrived at the Institute’s doorstep along with a DVD and a map of its original location. We were delighted to receive such a thoughtful gift from the people of Lincoln and we are currently devising an appropriate response.
The third reading session took place at the Institute on 23rd March. We all read Reclaim the Game: Boom or Bust by John Reid. LFC has not done too well this season. Maybe they deserve it. Oh well. Dan (Man City fan) persuaded us all to become shareholders of Ebbsfleet United. Come on you Ebbs!!!
From footy we moved back to continental philosophy: Rosi Braidotti and Postsecularism. A (video)text that asked what we should do with the moral outrage we feel about the current imperialist war waged by the USA and its mainly European allies on the rest of the world.
For May’s general election the reading group staged a day of reading and actions. This included Lena’s re-reading of an Emmeline Pankhurst speech to her USA sisters almost 100 years ago as well as Ben’s intervention in the local polling station supported by a banner that read ‘If voting changed anything it would be illegal’.
For June we read the ‘Erasing Iraq’ chapter from Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine.
July was Freee Manifesto For a Counter-Hegemonic Art as well as the conversation between Jacques Derrida and Elisabeth Roudinesco ‘In Praise of Psychoanalysis’ from For What Tomorrow book.
September saw us at The Nerve Centre looking at Sentences on Littoral Art by Bruce Barber. This was a public event.
In October we took part in The Cooperative’s event at the Liverpool Biennial. Here we generated an hour’s performance that asked questions about participation in an event run for the Biennial and sponsored by Diesel.
In November the Institute welcomed Maresa MacKeith with Ange Taggart and Caroline MacKeith and discussed some of Maresa’s writings on Inclusion and Vulnerability together with Ernst Bloch’s writing on The True Architect in The Principle of Hope, Volume 3. The encounter was recorded on a temporary pirate radio station as a part of Homeland a series of transmissions organised by Charlotte Morgan and No Fixed Abode. More information and recordings are available through Disrupt Dominant Frequencies.
In December we read Pierre Bourdieu’s introduction from Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste.
This concludes the Politics and Aesthetics Reading Group activities for the year 2009.
By the way, Lincoln is thriving….