Soft Apocalypse

Rehearsing how we change the world

Documentary image of rehearsal at Space Clarence Mews 2023.

This ongoing project is an artwork event, developed as an immersive, participatory, and interactive picture, a textile installation in the field of fine art and protest. Designed to be installed and performed in a physical space, and simultaneously live streamed. The performance lasts 35 mins.

Made in opposition to the arms economy and permanent war, as many states modernize their nuclear arsenals.  The work explores the fine line between oppressor and oppressed, and the pact we make with the state. In the hope it will keep us safe, we exchange our freedoms and are complicit in human rights abuses.

Mixing history, current affairs, fact, fiction, and personal biography. It begins with the character struggling with the past, wearing an oversize arctic duffle coat. My father was in the Arctic Convoys in WWII. A sailor becomes an atomic beach babe, in a 1940s style bikini, think Bikini Atoll, South Pacific nuclear test sites. Who becomes a worker cleaning up after a nuclear bomb, remembering a grampa who swept up at Hiroshima. Thinking about the role of women in war and everyday domestic support of atrocity. The character encounters a fairy tale dress symbolic of monarchy, State, and cultural capital. For working hard and supporting the system, she acquires the dress, believing she will be better able to operate in its society. Wearing the dress, she becomes an unlikeable female protagonist, a monarch, an arms dealer, whose freedom is only possible by the oppression of others. The audience travel through class struggle, riot, revolt, civil war, overthrow. What must happen to make the woman realise her error? With some singing and dancing. If we are to change the world, or at least our ideas, we must do what we are afraid of – and act.

In 2016 I started manufacturing and selling arms that can’t hurt anyone. M4 tanks and AK47. Recently I added a landmine shaped handbag, 20m of barbed wire, a B21 stealth bomber, capitalist ruins: Doric columns and capitols, the torso of a classical sculpture that doubles as a dead body, a fairy tale dress symbolic of monarchy, the State and cultural capital, a reusable body bag, a 1940s style bikini, banners, and revolutionary flag.

Building on research for my 2020 MA Royal College of Art dissertation (WTF) Crisis, Structural Forensics, Agency Art, thinking about new ways of telling and imaging history, I am working to contemporise the outmoded and problematic genre of history painting for the multimedia era, as civic space, using the internet as the people’s art space, in meaningful and intimate ways.

In 2022 on a residency for performance makers at Space Clarence Mews, London with choreographer Caroline Salem, I added to the collection, making more costumes and props, developing the work into a live performance. I have made the physical artwork, developed the story, built the framework on which to hang a digital version. The question now is how they can complement and interact with each other?

Can technology that holds us in a tight, help set us free? What simply interactivity can take place online that uses technology to appeal to the good in artistic action, and the network community good and bad, I believe capable of working together to make positive change? Can online audiences be encouraged to interact and complete an activity offline in their real life, that rehearses positive action?

Staged in the round on the floor, with several objects hanging and bright floor-based lighting. The audience sitting or standing in a circle 360.

From colonial empire to financial empire, an offshore island, capitalist ruins and bankers’ architecture: Doric columns and capitols. Everything is hand sewn canvas. The trappings of power given the duality of being a toy. The canvas is important, impotent, disarmed, for its origins in sail cloth and the artist’s canvas. Left blank, accepting the projection of the audience’s imagination and own experience. It is an uncanny domestic environment, in contrast to our increasingly technologically mediated and violent relationships. Freed from the confines of the domestic setting often associated with lowly craft and elevated to the highest genre.

There is no spoken language. Only body language, dramaturgy and choreography that is universally understood. Much of the narrative is provided by the soundscape, an original composition designed by Joseph Day. At the performance end, providing duty of care, the audience is given a healing gong bath.

Live Participation is gentle. A beach ball is passed backwards and forwards to each audience member. Remember that Tony Blair selfie – the audience is encouraged to take selfies using their smart phones. Sharing online helps make the work:  hashtag #softapocalypse. A variety of performances will be made, including permitting the audience to play with the art.

Entering the performance each person is given a random number. At the end their number is called, and they find out whether they have survived the encounter.

Audience Participation Summer Sharing at Space Clarence Mews 2022
Audience Participation Summer Sharing at Space Clarence Mews 2022
Rehearsals 2022-23.
Rehearsals 2022-23.