These are rough notes from talking with Nick Tandavanitj about their 1998 pieceÂ Kidnap. As I’ve found from talking with all three of them,Â Kidnap was a seminal work for Blast Theory. It marks a major conceptual, and also importantly, production departure from previous works and helped set them on their current road.
- Their starting point for previous work was that it revolved around, and would feel like, going out for the night, i.e. in the theme, the narrative and that it is completely participatory. (fell like or fit into other liminoid activities)
- The piece is about the rise of the internet
- It is based in real life. Not a performance, not an installation, not virtual, not imaginary.
- It was a truly pervasive art work. (not in the technological sense, but in the true sense of the word)
- It involved conceptual participation (an idea that seems to resonate with the talk of other pervasive game designers, a pyramid of engagement, from the final two, to semi-finalists, through those who entered the competition and out to a wider audience through the media)
- To ensure this they spent a lot of time, effort and money on a PR company
- Very much a progression from Atomic and Safehouse
- A lot of care and attention was paid to details, such as the sign up forms, the marketing and the kidnap blipvert (the details of the process were carefully considered, this seems to come through from the installations Atomic and Safehouse)
- The piece was very much about surveillance. The final 10 semi-finalists were tailed for 2 days and sent a spy film like surveillance photo. The kidnap was filmed and the entire experience was streamed live for the two days.
- The final two participants reasons for taking part were radically different. They had significantly different life narratives and expectations of how this experience would fit in to their own lives.
- Debra was Australian and new to the UK. She wanted to meet people and just hang out with everyone to make friends.
- Russel was bored with his life and wanted excitement. To him this would be a mythic spy/crime/film experience.
- The kidnaped were locked in a box for 2 days. Lots of boredom and silence. Stretches of boredom wedged between two moments of high excitement with the odd bit ofÂ excitementÂ and interactivity inbetween. (sounds similar to Turner’s use of Dewey and Dilthey in Anthropology of Experience)
- Finishes up with a press conference at the ICA (An interesting reintroduction into the structures of society, the way those who have been through extreme liminal experiences come back as heroes and their status has been elevated.)
Nick reckons there was no camaraderie, no communitas, between the kidnap victims. Though this has been heavily debated since, perhaps although they didn’t discuss deep and meaningful topics they may have still developed a bond. Apparently they also kept in touch for some time afterwards. In the video documentation there is a veryÂ poignantÂ image of them both in hoods holding hands, but memories are hazy and that might have been faked for the cameras on the way to the press conference.