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.


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