Blog entry with an audience member’s comments…
Something interesting happened to me the other day.
I was trapped in a room, with a pregnant woman. Baby clothes hung on a low washing line; a toy doll lay neglected on the floor. The radio chymed something I didn’t recognise, but it reminded me of the the womb. Across the floor were little shotglasses of salted milk which one by one, rhythmically and unceremoniously, she began to drink. As she looked up, she caught me in her penetrating stare. Her steely eyes made bluer by her 1970s eye shadow. I made every effort not to fidget. It was quite mesmerising. In the far corner, on top of a stake was a large, pig’s head. It’s nose dripped almost in time with the mechanical background noises.
I’ve never seen any performance art before, but the pig’s head didn’t bother me much. Some of the others didn’t like the sight of it.
The lady, without saying a word, emptied some ginger bread men on to a tray, and picking her way across the shot glasses, offered them to her guests. Cautiously, we each accepted one, not knowing whether we were required to eat it.
The radio continued to crackle.
It’s funny, performance art, because much of the time you haven’t a fuck what’s going on.
It’s not as awkard as panto, where you must publicly humiliate yourself, but at times you do interact, so as not to ruin it for the other people watching.
You find yourself working quite hard to interpret, to fill in the blanks. In theory, the dynamic is not dissimilar to a consumer watching an ad. ‘What do you want me to do? Buy this chocolate? Ok!’
The difference is, a consumer will never take the extra second to decipher an ad. It must be spelt out, sung out even, like a nice loud bell.
Suddenly she dropped the tray with a clatter.
(Oh Christ. What now? A ripple of alarm spread through all watching.)
Then she returned to her milk, working her way repetitiously across the room.
I wasn’t allowed to leave, and for a while I didn’t want to. Then she started being sick. Just every so often. Instead of drink drink drink, it became drink…drink…..SICK. She didn’t break eye contact though.
I glanced nervously at my blue suede trainers.
It became clear that she was doomed to drink every last drop. We were trapped in her grim and solitary mission. The smell of the sick didn’t hit at once, but when it did I began to feel quite claustrophobic; caught up in this nauseous, dystopian parody of motherhood.
I hoped she wouldn’t be sick on my shoes.
About an hour and a half later, (after having shaved the pigs face, might I add) she showed everyone the door.
It all felt incredibly real, surreal of course, but I felt a huge sense of empathy with this woman. Fuck men! fuck pregnancy! fuck being a 1970s housewife!
It provoked me think about the golden rule we’re often told when making campaigns; ‘never show a mirror up to the audience’. Take it further. Make it aspirational, or make it terrifying.
I’m going to inject a little bit of pigs blood and puked up milk into all of my work from now on.
(Catch Julieann O’Malley’s Salty Milk Violation of Expectation if you can)
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