BT Residency, playing with reality

Ju Row Farr on Ulrike and Eamon Compliant

Final one of the day. I promise. I find Ulrike and Eamon Compliant fascinating because it is a more political and personal work. Also a lot is achieved with an automated call system and a very linear set of procedures to the experience. It is low key, but contains the same elements that make the other works successful. It is mixing fact/fiction/imaginary/real with a very simple set of technologies.

Ulrike and Eamon Compliant is an ambulatory work commissioned by the De La Warr Pavilion for the Venice Biennale.
For the first time since Desert Rain (1999), this project is based on real world events and is an explicit engagement with political questions. Participants are invited to assume the role of Ulrike or Eamon and make a walk through the city while receiving phone calls. The experience culminates with an interview in a hidden room.

Ulrike and Eamon Compliant from Blast Theory on Vimeo.

  • Venice is a place to be seen and not seen at the same time. It is a city built on, or in the sea. It is entirely a walking city, with no cars. There are hordes of tourist, but the locals know/recognise each other very well. [Venice is very liminal in many ways and the video highlights some of the use of the boundary between city and water. It was for many hundreds of years the trading gateway between Europe and the east. The touristic nature of the entire place now because it is steeped in history and is a giant doorway to the past.]
  • You can’t be other people but you can blur this through the work. The identity of the walker and the character are blurred. [Taking on a character, and archetype or a myth. Losing one’s own identity to the liminal experience.]
  • The piece asks the question about why people do, or can, make the sorts of decisions that Eamon Collins and Ulrike Meinhof made. [Terrorists are outsider figures, and outsider figures are common archetypes in games, play and ritual.]
  • They aren’t much different but have followed a path which ultimately they can’t back out of. But there is a point where they could make different decisions and back out. [What makes you an outsider? Where is the edge of that?]
  • “What is the moment that flips someone? What is the threshold moment when you can’t go back?”
  • The main point of drama, the asking of the question about whether you would go somewhere and answer questions about what you would fight for happens about 2/3 of the way through. [This fits with my idea that the climax event of pervasive experiences should happen at the end of the liminal phase and then followed by reintegration]
  • They had originally intended to have an extensive make up process to physically alter people to look like the characters but decided against this. They did add/keep the sunglasses. [Very much like a fake moustache making a big difference in street games, or festivals for that matter. The removal and replacement of identity. An archetype to play up to or play as.]
  • Factual
  • Engaging with the current debate about terrorism, but consciously selecting conflicts from the past.
  • Purposefully thrilling
  • It all ends with a short interview with the artists where they ask the participants about what they would fight for and the questions themselves seem to bring it home in a personal and everyday way. This is followed by allowing them to watch (via one-way mirror) the beginning of the next interview. Then they return to the start. [This feels very much like an integration process.]