Who Wants to be a Hero Now?
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A theatre performance & networked installation exploring iconographies of heroism & our hopes to be better than we are.
A Performance and Installation project.
- London & Exeter
In 2005 the British media seemed to be full of Iraq war heroes and celebrity Big Brother… then the London bombings happened and Hurricane Katrina struck. Meanwhile the parents of activist Rachel Corrie had filed a law suit against the Israeli government. Their daughter had been ‘accidently’ killed by an Israel Defense Forces armed bulldozer in Rafa, whilst acting as a human shield.
We began by shooting video footage around London Bridge on Nokia phones and mini dv cams, exploring heroic tropes through everyday actions. We started reading the Baader Meinhof trial transcripts and wondered about Andreas Baader’s obsession with Easy Rider. We talked about what it takes for people to put themselves in extraordinary and dangerous circumstances for the sake of other people… or causes… or ideas… We thought about what prompts people living unremarkable lives to take action in extraordinary ways.
Who Wants to be a Hero Now? Began as a devised theatre making process and became a cross-media investigation into the kind defining decisions that change lives and how they are manipulated. Confronted with the ever present threat of the ‘car crash’ that lurks at the edges of our 21st Century thoughts; we tried to answer the questions ‘what would I do if it were me?’ ‘could I manage it?’ and ‘what would they say about me if I did it?’ The result was a performance event, a networked installation and an intensive studio exploration into performing with and through different aspects of mediation. A kind of animated scrapbook of cut-up images – definitions and propositions of what might constitute heroism. This was a carnival of footballers, politicians, explorers, space dogs and unwitting people in the wrong place at the right time or the wrong time in the right place. The varying perspectives of the work approached ideas about private and public versions of ourselves and how fragile notions of stability can be.
The live performance only ever took place once. The dialogues and performance fragments were then transformed into an installation that only ever happened once. It felt like our ambition for the work outstripped our technology budget and circumstances. Wireless cameras were extortionately expensive pre-smart phone launch in 2007, and our system for the live feed was made by a VJ in Cardiff and held together with electrical tape. The installation involved live streaming of crowd source videos gathered through an email call out, and installed on a PC in a gallery with a pre-wireless dial up speed internet connection – wireless technology would start to be rolled out that same year. Writing this with experience of the rapid development of digital connectivities and associated changes in understandings of what is ‘true’ or what is ‘right’, the question remains relevant Who Wants to be a Hero Now?
This 2006 networked installation for tEXt festival was an interactive thinking and performance space that asked questions about media driven iconographies of heroism. The materials in the room – questionnaires, maps, the daily papers, performance scripts – were offered for public interaction; manipulated both by the gallery visitors and during a number of timed performance interventions.
A webcam shooting black and white stills at 5 minute intervals offered visitors the opportunity to frame and mediate themselves as celebrity heros on the world wide web. Each image was fed into a web page where for the next 5 minutes it was displayed alongside short videos curated from a public call. Each image was also ‘floated’ into the exhibition space immediately after it was taken from a black and white printer set high in the gallery resulting in an accumulation both of action and missed opportunities.
Throughout the tEXt Festival, Blind Ditch offered a series of performance provocations in the space in which fragments of choreographic action and dialogue from the theatre work ‘Who Wants to be a Hero Now?’ were mixed with texts from the Baader Meinhof trials and distilled to form a series of close up loops that engaged with a visiting audience. The online stills performance combined with live feed videography and a series of poetic video and sound edits to translate, manipulate and comment on these actions. For 15 days, each moment of interaction created a trace of what happened – filling both the online and physical spaces with more and more questions, diatribes, musings, rantings. Exploring people’s decisions towards drastic action, and how the media manipulates and affects our understanding those actions.
Video used in the performance and installation.
Co-devised by Paula Crutchlow – writer/director, John Levack Drever – sound design, Daniel Harris – software manipulation, Henning Hegland- devising performer, Volkhardt Mueller – scenography/videography, Cat Radford – devising performer, Natalie McGrath – contributing writer, David Williams – devising performer.
Developed in residency at Goldsmiths University, London & Dartington College of Arts. Supported by Arts Council England, tEXt Festival and the HEFCE/DTI Business Fellow.