Nuketown villages #3: “Lemonhope”

[These blogs describe and document the villages made by audiences as part of my new project Nuketown.]

Name: “Lemonhope” (k, I forgot to ask them to name it this time, so the name is my own)

Made by: Audience at performance at Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter (14 people)

When: 21/09/2016

Buildings featured (from left to right): The Log Cabin, The Lemon Prison, The Water-Powered Eco-house, The Spiral Staircase, The Shrine, The Fire Station, The Yellow House, The Mighty Vehicle of the Future.

Themes discussed: Fun Palaces, Denmark, Cubes

Jack’s Thoughts: As a rule, we don’t encourage the use of fruit as a building tool. But I can’t fault the aesthetics.

Quote of the build: “We’re Making A Van!”

Nuketown Villages #2: “Not Nuketown”

[These blogs describe and document the villages made by audiences as part of my new project Nuketown.]

Name: “Not Nuketown”

Made by: Audience at performance at Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter (9 people)

When: 20/09/2016

Buildings featured (from left to right): The House, the Treehouse, the Surrealist Circular Structure, the Playground, the Space Station.

Themes discussed: Communality and common ownership,  houses that back onto the same garden, slides, science, green energy, play

Jack’s Thoughts: The playground fell on the floor and broke on the way to the platform, which led to a heartwarming moment where everyone clubbed together to reassemble it.

Quote of the build: “How can you put getting chips over playing with lego?”

Nuketown Villages #1: Arc-on-Sea

[These blogs describe and document the villages made by audiences as part of my new project Nuketown.]

Name: Arc-on-Sea

Made by: Audience at work-in-progress showing at ARC, Stockton, on (6 people)

When: 01/09/2016

Buildings featured (from left to right): the Hospital, the Floating Mobile pool, the Harbourmaster’s Hut, the Harbourmaster’s Other Hut, the Boat, the Treehouse, the Theatre.

Themes discussed: Connection to nature, proximity to water, mobility.

Jack’s Thoughts: It takes some stones to add a whole body of water as part of your planning process. And to name it after the place you work. I added the blue bricks to help denote where they roughly pictured the water being.

Quote of the build: “I think my treehouse came out better than the theatre!” – Annabel.

Utopia / Dystopia / Lego

The car is on fire, and there’s no-one at the wheel. 

The scale of a lego mini figure is 1 to 48. British homes are quite small, but the average one, if you were to faithfully represent it, would cover 2 square metres. People obviously don’t usually build these things to scale because a) it would take ages and b) a modest victorian terrace would fill half your living room.

The currencies are crashing like waves, soon there will be more blackouts.

I’ve been commissioned by a group of venues as a “mid-career” artist (read: not young or exciting but hasn’t given up yet) to make a new show. The brief was to do something bigger than ever before. I took this brief very literally.

People hurl racial slurs in the streets. Within the walled forts of social media, we don’t really know what other people are thinking.

I want to make a city. A city as an alternative to the £205 billion due to be spent on the Successor programme of nuclear submarines. I am using lego, because it is good for visualising things. But also, in practice, quite terrible. To make it fit within the studio spaces I am performing in, I have to constrain it to an area of 25 square metres – that’s 1.2 square kilometres. About the size of a medium-sized shopping centre. £205 billion in a shopping centre.

Lurid goblins emerge from their holes, filling the power vacuum with bile. The priests and prophets turn on each other for table scraps. The money lenders own the temple. The moon turns vermillion.

A brick from the Lego store costs 18p. Assuming 200 bricks to build our generic British house, and £100,000 as the construction costs, and assuming savings from parks, roads and economies of scale, this city needs at least 2 million bricks, costing £450,000 to buy. My set and materials budget is £1500. I have literally set myself up to fail. I held a work-in-progress showing last week where I did a long spiel about the potential of democratising town planning and the built environment, and then one of the participants built a series of rope-bridges leading to a pool with a shark in. He said it was a metaphor for life.

Nobody knows what is going to happen. Nobody knows what is going to happen. Nobody knows what is going to happen. Boris Johnson is Foreign Secretary.

Darren Anderson said -“A person who inhabits a utopia, even just mentally, is changed. Imagining the future changes the future”. Maybe the time when a series of impossible events has just happened is the perfect time to present another one? Maybe this is the time for all of us to stop, take a breath, and talk to each other about what we really want, instead of merely what we think is likely? Maybe a society that can create such wonderfully complicated death machines, can, in time, learn to also / instead house its people? Maybe, even if it can’t, visualising such a society has a certain strange power to it? Maybe I’m not wasting my life? My mum doesn’t think I am. So that’s something.

We Need To Turn Left On Copyright

[Pictured, Petey the Don’t Sue People Panda from  the TV show South Park]

Copyright has a strange and twisted history. In Britain it has its roots in the 1710 Statute of Queen Anne, set up to bust the monopoly of the Stationers’ Company, which had almost exclusive control of who got to publish what, like if Penguin Books was actually run by the Penguin from Batman. The law handed some publishing rights and legal protections back to individual authors, with the goal to encourage “learned men to compose and write useful books“.

So, three centuries passed, during which I am told some shit went down, and now a dead man has sued a washed-up R&B star over some drum sounds.

Wherever you stand on the controversy about Blurred Lines’ lyrics and video, in my opinion it is a great discredit to Pharrell, the composer who had nothing to do with either, a man who survived cancer while crafting some of the defining songs of our era and wearing some of its dopest hats,  to accuse him of “ripping off” Gaye with the beat.

As a huge fan of Marvin, and of the alleged subject of ripoffery Got To Give It Up in particular, I would hate to see someone trading on his musical legacy without proper acknowledgement. But this isn’t the case here, as, as the article linked above states “they’re pretty openly spoken about being inspired by Gaye on that track.”

An important distinction should be made between sampling the actual Gaye record, which they didn’t do, and creating something taking inspiration from it, which they did. This is where the bizarre legal process of copyright law (the American strand in particular) kicks in. Surely they used some kind of mechanical or objective measure to measure the sameyness of the two songs right? Nope: the verdict was decided entirely by the opinions of a panel of “musicologists”.

Any other trial where no hard evidence could be brought against a suspect would be thrown out of court, but in Copyrightland you can win a whole case without it. The point isn’t that their opinions aren’t informed, which I am in no place to dispute. The point is that they’re just opinions. And I don’t know if you’ve met people in the 21st century at all, but their opinions on music aren’t aways unanimous. Applied to the world of law, this leads to bizarre inconsistencies. For example, had they openly made a parody song in the “Wierd” Al Yankovic vein, there’s a good chance they would’ve been protected under fair use. More shockingly, when struggling (and alive) songwriter Rebecca Francescatti sued Lady Gaga for apparently quite blatant use of her music without permission, a similar group of opining experts ruled in favour of meat-dress-lady, who is now launching a counterattack to reclaim 1.4 million dollars in legal costs. When copyright goes unenforced, such as with the legendary drum break in “Amen Brother” by the Winstons that forms the backbone of Jungle music, opportunistically litigious music makers can leap in and try to copyright it for themselves in a tedious version of Finders Keepers.

Can we see a pattern here of who might be winning in all these situations? Yep, lawyers. I don’t blame them: they’re no more going to fail to exploit shaky, byzantine and morally dubious laws than my dog is going to cruise past a 16oz ribeye on the kitchen floor.

To find a solution to this, we need to ask big and difficult questions about intellectual property, and indeed private property in general. From a left-wing perspective, does an artist’s family have the exclusive right to earnings from their work? Gaye was no Russian Oligarch, but doesn’t this lead to the further cementing of privelege much like the inheritance of any substantial unit of wealth? And surely even from a capitalist perspective, doesn’t this hoarding of Intellectual Property constitute a tax on innovation and creativity that is the lifeblood of free trade?  Furthermore, where do we draw the line? Should we dig up the skeletons of Bach and Vivaldi and make them duke it out over the former’s borrowing of melodies from the latter in his Concerto for Four Keyboards?

Queen Anne could not have envisioned a world so overwhelmingly saturated with cultural content, from Catcher In The Rye to Gay Knights and Horny Heroes. Samples, remixes and covers shift about at a mesmerising rate. I once met a girl who thought Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” was written by Michael Buble. It was harrowing, but not suprising in the modern age.

If we are to build a society based on sharing instead of greed, then I would hope the world of art, which brings great joy and unity and mostly now costs nothing to reproduce, should be the place we can start. Lots of people are already operating in this way, such as those using Lawrence Lessig’s brilliant Creative Commons scheme. I’m not qualified to speculate too much on the values of a dead soul legend, but I don’t believe that, if he came back to life and re-recorded What’s Going On, he would follow the lyric “only love can conquer hate” with “except for that hat guy who made that Happy song, fuck him”.

Music is the universal language, and the answer to who really owns an artistic idea is off dancing somewhere with some angels on the head of a pin. I’m very conscious of how many musicians from Gaye’s era were exploited, but from an artist’s point of view, if not an estate or a record label’s, the short-term gain of a cash injection from a pop star is not worth it for a world where ideas can’t be freely exchanged. A world where “learned men” can “compose useful books” without litigation skulking over their shoulder. A world where, as Kyle from South Park says in the “Free Hat” episode:

“When an artist creates, whatever they create belongs to society.”

For a whole raft of uncleared samples and degenerate musical theft, check out my bandcamp.

Rejected Show Ideas

Theatres seem to have a pervasive neophilia these days. You can’t walk two yards for someone wanting to help you develop Innovative And Daring New Work That Interrogates The Performative Act.  I have no problem playing along with this, but sometimes the cycle of pitching and rejections makes me a bit worn out. Or maybe that’s playing Red Alert 3 past midnight. Either way, in a bid to make light out of darkness like a blogging Prometheus, and cut this process down a bit, here is a roundup of the growing menu of Performance Projects  with  plenty of risk and possibly little to no merit that I have thought up in my head. If you’re a commissioning body / wacky philanthropist with a sack of money, just pick one off the list and I’ll bash it out for you.

34: A rural tour in which I poach, steal and forage all my food, then hold any audience members hostage to raise money for my next tour.

35: I take you through a version of Crystal Maze, but each room is just a reenactment of your greatest personal disappointments. The money shower at the end is just receipts you haven’t filed.

36: TED Baker talks.

37: an epic 6-month installation where I sit in your house, eat your food and watch Adventure Time reruns.

38 War Pig. I work with @handspringcc to tell the true story of flaming pigs Rome used in battle 

39: Fifty Shades of Cent

40. I crowdfund to make a show about crowd funding. Sponsored by BP.

42. I get a spot at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park and just agree with people.

42. A walking performance in which you walk my dog for me and reevaluate modern society’s relationship with waste while picking up her poop.