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That's Entertainment: a dialogue

Art Surgery (Andy Whall and Delpha Hudson) reflect and elaborate on 'That's Entertainment': part of Transition, Curators Edition, Newlyn Art Gallery, 6-10th Feb 08


DH. There was intentional irony in the working title, as it may or not have been the least entertaining.
Our intention our endgame was to create a performance for Saturday  9th, 7.00pm in the Upper Gallery space, one that was engaging in some way, possibly entertaining. One that was more than Debordian 'spectacle'.

AW. Did it work.? Well some of the people laughed, but not all of the people laughed all of the time.

DH. Transition is a platform for trying things out in the gallery, works in process. Andy & I had worked together curating other artists' work as Art Surgery, and worked individually as visual and performance artists. However, curating ourselves was entirely new, as was making theatrical collaborative work.

For 4 days we built an installation/set in collaboration with Neil Robinson , collaborated with our 'mentor' Mr B clown, (exploring clowning, comedy, breaking the fourth wall and techniques to draw in audiences), we improvised and devised (using a range of sources, fragments, narratives and texts, including the story of Walter Benjamin and his black briefcase, journeys, text as landscape, archives from our own work and the gallery's), examining tensions between live art and performance art, as well as between our 'curator' 
and 'artist' personas.

Visitors to the gallery's were welcome to watch, engage, ask questions, make suggestions, intervene, extrapolate, and stop disputes if necessary.

The whole process was documented by film maker Alban Roinard, and it was decided that if we couldn't make a show in 4 days and the whole process was a fiasco, we could show the film instead.

AW. As part of our presentation at the Symposium, I had a go at evaluating our project/performance in terms of meeting our criteria, aims, ticking boxes, jumping through hoops. I had done this throughout the week, as a kind of anchor to remind myself as to what we were trying to do, to see if we were on course.

DH. But I was interested in fiasco and failure. I like Tim Etchells' (Forced Entertainment) ideas about failure: not the Brechtian model where you fail, fail again and get better….failure as an interesting place to be. In fact, the place you want to get to.

We set up the impossible, we were going to fail. We were flirting with danger (but not in a Chris Burden way, 'shoot me and witness me shooting myself', more a gentle invitation to come and witness failure).

The process thus becomes something else; the futility of knowing you can't succeed, but having a stab at it. We broke with Cartesian functionality, the contemporary paradigmatic optimism that things always get better. Generally they got worse. But that was the nature of the beast.

AW. I didn’t have as distanced a perspective during the project as this. Maybe its due to the fact that in conventional terms my performance work has often failed. Duration work tends towards being 
spectacularly un-entertaining.

DH. We twisted, stretched, inverted and perverted ourselves and our artistic practices. We not only removed ourselves from comfort zones, and pushed to breaking point, we explored 'limits of self'.

AW. These limits can be observed in the ‘making of that’s entertainment’ DVD as passages of silence, when one or other of us appears to be gazing into space, the chin scratch, the rubbing of eyes. I have one such moment that lasts so long the DVD appears to have frozen.

DH. Playing with role-playing, we set up was of how many people you can be: artist/curator/performer/character/clown. We played with the interplay between the expectation of professionalism, the doing what you do well, and the contemporary artists' question: 'what happens if….'

How far you can push? It was edgy and discomforting, to know that whatever the clown tried to teach us about being welcoming, liking being on stage, making people at ease, we could not comfortably do it.

There were some problematic interfaces with the public (we didn't always have time to talk for long) but some interesting conversations about art and theatre, about repeatability.

We don't know where we are going go from here. Things don't snap back into place. The experience has been a biographical punctum, an unrepeatable, excessive event that is chronicled, and exists through 

What was it about…..?

Meeting and greeting people.
Inviting them into different space
Sharing ideas and narratives
Stories, music, histories that never get to the end
That never get to a conclusion,
Its about meaning meaning.

Its about media and mishmash,
Its about Walter Benjamin and his lost briefcase,
Its about Lisa Fit and her story about Benjamin and his lost 
briefcase, and his lost life.
Benjamin didn't make it over the Pyrenees.

AW. He did make it over the Pyrenees but not for long

DH. He was not free so he took his own life. Its about writing it the way it was, but whose voice is it?

Its about being a woman and a man
Its about being neither,
It's about being all the people we are, have been, will be
Its about being an artist and a curator
Its about performance and entertaining and audiences
Its about their say, their mark, their histories,
Its about your say, your mark, your histories,
Underrepresented, un-representable, bent, twisted, misused

AW. The freedom that Benjamin represented is the the freedom that gives us the liberty to make arses of ourselves today.

DH. Its about him and her, Venus and Mars, Belle and Sebastian, Laurel and Hardy, the two Ronnie's, Morecambe and Wise.

Its about standing your own ground, fighting battles but saying 'yes' in the end
Its about agreeing on the detail not just the big things
Or not agreeing at all,
It is about everything….nothing, what stands between us and failure

It's about reflexivity, making the audience see and think actively, supplementing the stories we tell

On stage I thought:
'Don't be smug because you are there and I am here - don't expect too much because you are there and I am here….
We are not setting ourselves up to be 'here,' We're just trying out a few things, experimenting, playing,
We have no idea and no claim to anything in particular…..
Yep, you're thinking "why on earth would Andy & Delpha do this?"
Well, we thought we would curate ourselves then we can be nice and treat ourselves well, promote ourselves and thank ourselves, SOMETHING ARTISTS DON'T ALWAYS DO IF YOU ARE JUST THE CURATOR. So lets change 
the story, lets be all the main characters we can be, at once, 

AW. Our next project is That's marketing




See exhibitions for a short review of 'Thats Entertainment'