22.6.10

CONFESSION
This is a confession. Me and Hannah are guilty of a serious charge. The subliminal indoctrination of our tutors, peers, and the general public through a series of successful interventions and carefully planned assaults. Unit 14 was been more than just a simple university project: we created an art movement called Body Formalism in reference to our obsessive retooling of the human form as a performance vehicle. We investigated how we could affect society with our art movement. Body Formalism has consumed our lives and directed how we have behaved, spoken, acted and created. This project has been born out of our determination to convince people of our artistic ability, our employability, the merits of the PDP course, and to prove the accessibility of theatre, performance and art to a general public. In order to get recognition you need to become unavoidable. At the start of the project our tutor, Peter Bond, asked us what sort of performance we liked. We found it difficult to quantify in words what we enjoy so we spent the initial six weeks of the investigation re-creating what we liked through an intense period of live video experimentation, literally waking on the first morning of the project and performing to Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’.
This first experiment set a precedent for how we were to work for the duration of our investigation: mining popular culture for imagery, music, sound effects and materials which we could emulate or take inspiration from using very little budget, in a studio crammed with fellow students battling for performance spaces. These obstacles forced us to make our experiments quick, simple and cheap using limited equipment and any objects or props we found. This bought a disposable and recyclable quality to the work, which was easy to transport, never restricting us to one location. This methodology is what we have followed ever since. It was during the reviewing process of the recorded footage, where we intensely scrutinised our performance ability that we began to communicate with one another in words and terminology we coined in reference to how our bodies would look on screen. This is how we created our lexicon: The Aerial, Beetle and Cross forms were derived from moments in an Allen Jones inspired performance, experiments to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and a dance routine to Holst’s The Planets, whilst the Psycho routine has become our accompanying motif and is on the verge of becoming synonymous with Hannah and I after our incessant use of it. We began our indoctrination through a simple poster campaign after we’d extracted our lexicon. This was initially a form of self promotion, but it quickly became more interesting when fellow students would recreate the forms on the posters when the words were brought up in conversation. We took an iconoclastic approach to promoting our lexicon amongst the public. By locating ourselves alongside famous landmarks such as St. Pauls and Big Ben, we cemented our lexicon in the public’s self consciousness, and fast tracked its iconic status. Our lexicon is a vital tool for us to be recognised. This can be compared to advertising stunts that have been deployed TV series like Big Brother, The Guardian Newspaper, and the 2012 Olympics as well as guerrilla artists like Banksy. The spontaneity of these ideas, whilst not giving away any details, is a growing tactic in subliminally influencing the public.
We took the opportunity to work with fellow students Dee, Ria and Chloe under the pretence that we were helping them with their work. When they discovered that we were actually furthering our own cause they reacted violently, holding a protest against us. We devised a workshop plan which we executed with PDP students. We sent a barrage of emails inviting them to our workshop with links to our online blogs. The Workshop gave us the opportunity to test the integrity of our methodology, and indoctrinate our peers.
We’ve now packaged this workshop and have began networking with community centres in Hackney where we’ve arranged to do them with over 55s luncheon group. We’ve also organised a workshop session with Shunt, and at the London Alternative Fringe Festival. Our workshop package includes a press release, our Body Formalist manifesto, and the documentary we filmed.It’s questionably ridiculous to ask someone to behave like a Beetle, yet when they were called upon to do it, the workshop participants did it without question. This was either testament to my abilities to lead the workshop and the trust they placed in me, or because of the successful subliminal indoctrination of the posters, or because they thought it was the polite thing to do in order to maintain the group solidarity. There was an immense amount of satisfaction to be had when the group obeyed my instructions. When our lexicon was performed in unison, we felt powerful and threatening.
Our work has proliferated into our everyday lives, affecting not only how we think, and observe but also how we move.
We’ve taken Body Formalism to the outside world, away from the bubble of the arts and the associated community to our friends, family and the unsuspecting public. The research we conducted showed how different demographics have been conditioned to think in certain ways. Members of the public had totally different definitions for performance art to those given from people off the PDP course.
Whilst trying to remember his name, Michael mimicked the catchphrases of Kenny Everett – one aspect from his television routines which must have stayed in his mind. The theme of people copying others and of subliminal brainwashing crops up again and again in our work.
Michael hadn’t performed since he was 12 years old – and yet there he was performing what we command of him in his kitchen. Similarly, Teresa critically evaluated her own Beetle with total conviction and sincerity. The ease with which we got them to do it made the whole moment so much more enticing. We admit that what we did to them is cruel and exploitative but sums up entirely what we think this project is now about. Does having a degree in PDP from St Martins really make us an authority on performance art? We have after all been making performance from domestic objects. Michael and Teresa don’t know any differently, so maybe they think this is what performance art is.
We took one of our interviewees and turned her into our test subject: Test Miriam. This represents the entire investigation summed up in one experiment. Miriam is the average working girl, with a 9-5 job and no artistic background. We introduced her to our work, gave her a tour of the university and the Cochrane and convinced her to perform our lexicon at the Cochrane event.
When we interviewed Miriam after the event, we asked her what her role was in the show, she was unable to answer. She didn’t understand what she was doing there, and yet she did as she was told believing that she became a ‘performance artist’. Miriam went from not ever performing, to obeying our commands over three hours to an audience of up to 60 people, such was the power and her belief in the integrity in what we were doing. We wondered how far we could we have gone with what we made her copy. We exploited her trust in us, but this also explored the human ability to follow blindly what is expected of them. Crucially, she enjoyed the experience, adding that she included her own improvisations to the routine and that she would like to be involved with and see more performance at the Cochrane. In a sense, she was enlightened by the experience. Is free will an illusion?
We investigated other means of indoctrination by enlisting the help of the media. We gate crashed other people’s protests, trespassed into shots of live news items for the BBC, and ruined numerous tourists photographs thereby spreading our lexicon worldwide. This has now become an investigation on a global scale. Arguably, we have behaved in an immoral and selfish fashion, but as you see, our lexicon has a definite resonance within society. Ultimately, what we came up with was a collection of connected outcomes, including video experimentation, the Cochrane event, and a complete workshop package, with a documentary clearly showing our manifesto in action: and all of this is a product of our Body Formalist movement.
By locating our ideas in the recognisable and easily accessible world of contemporary life, work, the media and spectacle we hoped to reach as wide an audience as possible with our work. We wanted to bring performance back to the individual, by subscribing to a DIY ethic with an emphasis on participation and the use of everyday objects, which we hope engages an audience with relatable visual imagery. Our approach to theatre attempts to promote the contemporary arts whilst encouraging people to take a closer look at performance by way of intellectual exchange through a programme of workshops, short films and conversation. We wanted the work we would produce from Unit 14 to have an integrity, playing a vital part in our development as artists, whilst honing skills which we would be able to transfer to jobs post university.
Public taste is formed by the media, including the arts and the articles of daily use. Responsible for shaping these tastes are the art directors in ‘the industry’, advertisers and stylists. These people acts as censors who level down the designs of artists to their own conception of what we, the public, should like. This process of abstraction contributes to the psychology of style. We become discriminatory, deciding what we like, we don’t like and what we should add or take away based on their judgement.
We have been committed to our methodology and have been constantly producing original work. We hope to retain this work ethic outside of university where we will continue to work with one another.

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