It took ages before I actually did the intervention because I wanted to film it and I needed my then flatmate Lily to lend me her camera and help me cut the result. A couple of months passed between the first moment I mentioned this to her until the evening in which we both had the time to do it.
Seeing my colleagues’ presentations, I was a bit skeptical about the way most of them elaborated on the reactions of by-standers. It seemed to me that mostly there would be a couple of people randomly turning up and doing or saying something about the interventions, and the students would then conclude that “the people” reacted in this or that way and draw consequences about their work’s success (or, rarely, failure). What I find questionable about this is that the very limited sample of “people” could in no way be representative of the general public (whatever that means), and that the reading of these people’s reactions didn’t consider any differences among them (such as gender, cultural or personal backgrounds, age, race etc.), which led to the construction of an undifferentiated concept of “people” that has no correspondent in reality. In my opinion, the interpretation of the reactions to the interventions mirrored more the views and expectations of the students-authors than those of their “audience”. I would even go to the extent of saying that the audience’s reactions are completely irrelevant to the success of the projects, in this context. In the rather tiny framework of such a uni-project there is no real way to assess the impact of an intervention on the space it happens into, and I found it at times on the border to mystification that students would draw allegedly solid conclusions from the interpretation of such weak reactions. I’m not saying that anyone did this in a malevolent way, but I was stunned at the naiveté with which my colleagues let this happen.
I actually wanted to try out to what length I could push this and I decided to completely falsify the documentation of my project.
So one evening I grabbed some friends and flatmates and went with them to the south side of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. Before we started shooting I explained what the project was about and what was going to happen, and figured out with my actors what everyone of them was going to say or do. Then we realised that between me and Lily we both thought that the other would take the camera. After a first moment of despair we figured out that a few of us had mobile phones and photo cameras, all of them with hardly any battery left or some other minor problem.
Meet the cast:
(from left to right Lily, Tom, El, Aonghus and Chris. behind the camera in this shot is Val. Tom and El both completed their BA in Design at Goldsmiths last year, Val did an MA in curating at Goldsmiths as well.)
The only true and authentic reaction to my work comes from this guy who randomly cycled into our shot while we were doing something else and said “I like these signs”.
(unfortunately there’s no single frame in which you can recognise any of his features)
All in all, I wanted the resulting film to be extreme in a way that people would question its truthfulness, but surprisingly, no one did. I wonder how I am to make sense of that.
(if we want to discuss public reactions, I went to the tunnel the next day to shoot some additional footage and found that all signs but two had been removed. a few weeks later one of them was still there, and now they’re all gone. I had expected some cleaner or guard to make all the signs disappear quite quickly, but the fact that some of them stayed there makes me hope that they were swiftly stolen by people who appreciated my work!)