I was approached through a friend by Hilary Powell to act as Ozymandias/Dorothy/Wizard at UCL Urban Lab as part of an installation Stratford City & The New Oz – an installation and exploration of the nebulous idea of legacy in relation to the London 2012 Olympics.
“This installation arises from the issues and contents of the book ‘The Art of Dissent: Adventures In London’s Olympic State’ edited by Hilary Powell and Isaac Marrero and including the work of 60 artists, writers, photographers, film makers, poets and academics.”
As you can perhaps see from the photo I am lying apparently dead across a ‘Yellow Brick Road’, and I had to keep this pose for 40 minutes or so… Now I don’t know if you have ever tried to remain entirely motionless for an extended period of time (I had not previously – and I must have had a hangover the day we did the extended ‘lying prone apparently dead’ workshop at college, and missed it), but trust me it is not as easy as one might at first think. Perhaps it is easier if you are not lying on a hard surface, breathing incredibly shallowly, so (hopefully) no-one will be aware that you are actually alive and not an incredibly good latex model of a human being. I should state for the record that at no point did Hilary ask me to (nor hint that I should) put myself through any sort of physical ordeal for the sake of the installation. She simply asked me to lay still, as if dead. It was my own ego that ensured that I did everything I could to appear as dead as possible no matter what discomfort I had to endure (and by the end there was quite a lot of discomfort, all over my body, and nothing to focus on but it). I could hear people talking, and some of their comments were very gratifying – “No it’s a dummy”, “I can’t see him breathing” (bless them for that). However (and this is directed at a single individual) was it really necessary for you to kick me (you know who you are, even if I don’t) to double-check whether I was real or not?
A little advice to any aspiring ‘corpse players’: you should ensure that you have a pre-arranged signal (a particular word or phrase to be whispered in your ear perhaps perhaps) that whoever is running the event can deliver to you when it is time to end your ordeal. I sadly had made no such arrangement with Hilary, and suffered not a little mental anguish wondering whether she was telling me that I could get up now, or was it just one more attendee talking to her companion.
Hilary was pleased, and the event itself went well (though obviously I could not judge, being dead throughout). All in all I’d have to say that I enjoyed the experience (certainly the beer I was given instantly upon my resurrection), and I loved the red shoes I got to wear (sadly you can’t see them in the image above, you’ll just have to trust me on this one – they were fabulous). Actors eh… they do like dressing up…
The photograph is by David Roberts