Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Trespassing Totnes


At the end of the summer, 2006, I moved to Devon to study and it's here that the project takes root in my mind and is formed into the current practice. Thinking back over the activities described below, the unwitting performativity that ties them all together, all of a sudden this is enough. The need to invite an audience to some neglected spot, to perform a series of planned actions, to be equipped with props, all vanish. I am left with the act of trespass alone and it is this which is interesting. Once this breakthrough is made, decisions come quickly - they seem obvious.

1) No domestic property (just too garden-hopping), in fact...
2) No private property.
3) No government or military installations (the work may be akin to activism but I am no saboteur)

That doesn't leave much.

I decide to focus entirely on transitional space, the three Ds: dereliction, demolition and development. Living in Totnes my options for a test run are limited (although if it were today then the abandoned Dairy Crest factory would be the perfect location). I settle on the industrial estate, specifically an aluminium fabrication plant, it is the most urban location in a small rural town. Of course I will immediately be breaking the second rule as I am sure it is privately owned but immediate self-contradiction suits my thoughts on artistic integrity these days: no dogmas, few principles.

I set off, armed with digital camera and portable tripod. It's Sunday, the industrial estate is deserted so I squeeze between the fence (being a skinny runt will continually prove a great asset to this project) and clamber around the site, a big kid refusing to leave the climbing frame. It all goes swimmingly until I make it onto the roof of the warehouse and am immediately spotted by a couple of elderly Sunday strollers from the adjacent car park. They stand and stare. I stop my clamberings and try to photograph my unexpected audience but the adrenalin kicks in too quickly and I forget to change the self-timer settings. The picture comes out a grey-green blur and I am gone pronto before they manage to tell anyone.

I am pleased with the images I get from this test-run, and buoyed up by the overall success of the trip. Getting spotted won't be such a problem in London - people just aren't nosy and if they do see me most wouldn't risk a confrontation, and anyway I won't be trespassing in daylight. Plus I am thrilled by this new perfomer/viewer relationship: the accidental audience, an incidental performance. A performance practice which is desperate to avoid attention.


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