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Events Day

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

Friday, yesterday, was Events Day at Middlesex University - normally a day of artistic interventions by art students around the university campus. I joined one of my colleagues on Instagram as she led a walk through Hampstead Garden Suburb and later watched as she printed from objects found on the walk. I boosted my creativity attending a workshop applying Zentagle to make a drawing. There were some great fine art and dance films and the day ended with the spectacular Jill Sandwich made of toast live performance. My contribution to the day was a reconfiguration of a previous participatory piece which involved participants responding to random instructions from a disembodied voice.

The idea for this originally came from another work I had created which was listening to live Twitter (using some code I had written) for the words from a couple of songs. One of these songs had the statement you better in it and I was amazed at the number of times this came up - far more than any other word or phrase I was searching for. Also the recording I'd made of the person speaking those words had an understated belligerence that made the phrase particularly noticeable. Also, at the time, I was reading James Bridle, A New Dark Age, where one chapter describes how Amazon warehouses are organised algorithmically to optimise product picking by workers, but the logic of this is so non-intuitive to the workers that they can only do their job by following the detailed computer instructions - effectively becoming meat robots.

This, in conjunction with the language of compulsion that was so prevalent on social media, led to the fist version of the piece which I decided should be played on a board game grid - a set of lines, paths or shapes that appeared to have logic, but which were largely ignored by the instructions the players received. The instructions were generally whole body movements such as step back, move forward and dance around. In my new version for Events Day, it was going to have to be done on Zoom with the assumption that the participants would generally be visible as head and shoulders only. I listed just over 40 hand, head, face and shoulder actions, including spoken and shouted sounds, that could be turned into commands and used these.

I'd previously used my own voice for all commands except you better, but I particularly did not want the work to use my voice - it had to be at least one step removed from me, so I recorded a friend speaking each of the phrases. I had also written an Event Score (Fluxus style) for the original version which I updated for Zoom. I could not work out how to display the score through Zoom without it taking the whole of everyone screen as shared content, so I just suspended the score in front of the laptop camera.

I had scheduled the work to run for two hours during Events Day with the thought that people would drop in for a few minutes over the course of the day. However, in retrospect, it would have been better to just schedule 10-15 minutes in the main event Zoom as that would have assured almost a whole screen of participants. As it was, the most I had at any one time was 4 including myself as an attendee rather than the bot me. I'm very grateful to Tansy our MA programme leader for sticking with the piece for so long and participating enthusiastically.

It will be good to get some feedback to establish whether or not the work has the scope to be developed further and perhaps get some ideas on how to exhibit / present the work in an environment with a higher level of participation. One thing that I should have taken the opportunity to do was to intervene with some tweets containing a few of the less commonplace commands, e.g. wave your hands in the air . I like the idea of the apparently random being hacked to demonstrate that there is a controlling hand in the game.

I realise how difficult it has been for the small committee to organise the events day and while I do not want to become embroiled in too many activities outside my course, and I am not a natural organiser of things, it would be good to offer and extra pair of hands more often.

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Events Day 2022

Every year Middlesex University art students stage Events Day, an opportunity to display, perform, or engage people in experimental arts practice. Last year's Events Day was conducted entirely online,


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