Arts and Activism at the Oval House – quotes

With Daniel Bye, Lucy EllinsonChris Garrard, Emma Frankland, Anna Galinka, and Aleks Sierz. Quotes are unattributed, out of context and possibly inaccurate. They’re here because I liked how they sounded. So, for the benefit of those who weren’t there, but mostly for those who were:

“crack people’s consciousness”

“asking people to speak about their personal manifestos”


“the real good art is happening and the real good art is trying to keep BP out”

“activism or protest is inherently performative”

“different manifestations of the conversation I’m trying to have with the world”

[on activist art] “the audience doesn’t know it’s going to be an audience”

“it’s definitely more effective than doing fucking nothing […] sums up my whole life […] this is the most depressing thing I’ve ever said”

“[placing] the importance of speaking out above her own comfort”


“I’m still chewing on that”

[on preaching to the choir] “sending the converted out into the world with the holy spirit in their hearts”

“mildly inflected by depression” [again, “inflected”]

children against global warming

radical renewable art and activism


Participatory Theatre: the Politics & Ethics (03/11/2015)

A talk with Zoe Svendsen at the Young Vic. As usual, I took quotes rather than synthetic notes. I should emphasize that this is not in any way an attempt to summarize or analyze what went on or what was said: the quotes are given here completely out of context, and I cannot guarantee that they are all 100% accurate (even as we transcribe what we hear, we are liable to unwittingly make alterations). I noted them down because I liked the way they sounded as they were spoken. This goes some way to explaining why I note down  quotes in general – it has to do with the pleasure of listening to people speaking well. I initially thought this might be of use to people who weren’t there, but it is really more like a gift to the people who were. Zoe Svendsen speaks well, and much, which explains why there are lots of quotes.

Political parameters

[on participation] A tool for expression, like video

spectrum of how the audience engage with theatre

theatrical arsenal

what does it mean to take part […] what does it mean to rehearse for something

British administrative life

Why is it not enough just to talk about it?

if we needed to practice for something what would it be and [in 2009] the answer was climate change

establishes the social relation and the aesthetic relation at the same time

audiences wanted to do the right thing

really clear and gently clear

play school style instruction of how to deal with nuclear war

the performer is also a conduit to another world

take the specific social dynamics out of the space

tried to make it look a bit Microsoft

a structured sense of time

when we didn’t have a moment of the computer thinking, people didn’t believe their voting was real

we wanted to conceive it as a practice

the virtuosity of the performance was denying the live-ness of the performance

a pleasure in effort

we over-managed the social dimension of the space

British people are very good at making that sort of small talk

a functional space

a hybrid set of experiences

a beautifully eclectic audience

[on other types of participative theatre] the subject matter is the social relations in the space that is created

the political potential of the world

frustration with binaries

that good will that people have

the seriousness with which the task of participation was addressed

enabling a platform from which the imagination can be unleashed

a slowing-down of the judgement of others in that situation

reward the effort but not the achievement within those values

precarity […] radically extended over the last few years

incursions of capitalist practice

service-culture relation to experience

consumer culture of “bespoke theatre for you”

telling a story rather than delivering a bespoke experience of their design

metaphors that are bound around game-playing

performance strategies rather than character as such

tacit forms of management

the thematic dynamic of the game

a territory

each piece of the project made the next bit

the lie of choice

a really small amount of text opens the imagination

playfully punitive

Estate: a Reverie + post-screening talk: an account

Last night, Sophie and I went to see Estate: a Reverie by Andrea Luka Zimmerman at Arts Admin. I would rather talk about it with people who have seen it than write about it – it is detailed and caring and meditative in a way that, to me, lends itself to conversation, or a poetic response (which I don’t feel up to writing right now) rather than the critical / analytical one which I would tend towards if I responded to it today.

However, I did note down some quotes (turns of phrase) from a post-screening talk with Andrea and Graeme Miller (for the sake of those who weren’t there, but mostly for those who were):


“a defiance of putting pictures on walls”

“different kinds of precariousness”

“elements that are very particular to jeopardy […] and that not being all bad because of its release of creativity”

“transformed by various degrees of incomers”

“the empty spaces started to become play spaces”

“ludic city”

“like a community torn together”

“spilling of sound and lives”

“the area, which had been declared a sterile zone”

“a machine came down and tore down the house – in about three grabs it was gone”

“I can’t help but refract around the film”

“the world came and found me and bit quite hard”

“a space that was completely porous”

“intense folding moments”

“the absolute paradise of social housing”

“ferociously loyal to the idea of social housing and the practice of it”



“in your face complexity”

“that thinness – those thin walls”

“lungs of the city”

“the rather harshly anti-sceptic flats that are going up”

“I have a dual passport”

“that garden’s been a big project, but I didn’t do that as an artist”

“that divide between being, say, an artist and a citizen”



“you know”


“really friendly and very open”

“a safe estate, which means that kids could come in if they were running away from gang violence”

“because I never had a home or something”

“bring a feeling of belonging to the place I am”

“making the physical place of where one lives a part of one’s work”

“I was interested in ageing criminals”

“Geoff – he hated the Krays”


“work that’s self-commissioned”

“I don’t want to memorialize it either”

“political indifference and callousness”

“I see one side of the street holding the either side of the street in place”

“that natural phenomenon of people in time”


“I don’t know if any of you know about Doreen Massey”

“also, we narrativize”

“narratives give us a sense of obsolescence”

“you’ve been replaced by another narrative”

[on Helen, a local hairdresser] “her youngest customer was in her seventies”

“contemporary-looking places”

“sue the government for neglect”

“what is contemporary, what is serving the new capitalist machine”

“how can cinema take part in a democratic way of looking […] I don’t mean a consensual way of looking”


“I absolutely adore Doreen Massey”

“events are moving very, very quickly”


“we did loads of different things, like dreams”

“a spoken-word kind of rap film”

“what happens to the people in the film”

“I refuse it so much that all my efforts go into counter-memoirs”