\ what if everything we know is wrong?

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no matter how many people believe in it

no matter how many people believe in it

Here are a handful of photographs taken during our performance of What if everything we know is wrong? within a cleared out floor of Alhóndiga in Bilbao last weekend.

This latest manifestation of the work was commissioned by Azkuna Zentroa as part of their final 3, 2, 1 programme – and was again retitled specifically for the occasion, in this case as A fantasy is still a fantasy, no matter how many people believe in it. The title taken from a statement by the science fiction writer Algis Budrys – and published in Playboy Magazine in 1963 – within an article entitled 1984 and beyond, which transcribed a speculative conversation about the future between twelve notable science fiction writers of the period, including Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clark, Ray Bradbury…

In Bilbao we introduced a verbatim recorded reading of that transcript into the room of the work, once we had built it. As part of a reflection on our understandings and imaginings of the future. And more specifically, as a record of how others have previously envisioned our present in the past…

 

What if everything we know is wrong? [performance still]

 

What if everything we know is wrong? [performance still]

 

What if everything we know is wrong? [performance still]

 

What if everything we know is wrong? [performance still]

 

What if everything we know is wrong? [performance still]

 

What if everything we know is wrong? [performance still]

 

Photos: Eva Zubero, for Espacio Azkuna Zentroa

 

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hindsight

hindsight

what if everything we know is wrong?

 

The last still and silent trace of ‘what if everything we know is wrong? – as we performed it tonight, here in this cleared and appropriated Madrid studio – after we, our sounds, and the gathered crowd, have all left…

 

Image: Mike Brookes

 

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bits of somewhere far away

bits of somewhere far away

While considering possible futures for our ongoing What if everything we know is wrong? project, Rosa Casado and I have been sorting through the remnants of its recent past – here are just a handful of scanned polaroids, selected from the fragments we generated across its last phase…

 

Polaroid #3

Polaroid #5

Polaroid #7

Polaroid #9

 

sky #3, #5, #7 and #9 [polaroid series #2] : polaroid photographs, Mike Brookes 2012.

 

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Houston, we’ve had a problem

Houston, we’ve had a problem

Yesterday saw the latest version of our initial work from What if everything we know is wrong? – performed under soft early evening sunlight, within one of the large empty shower rooms of this former pit head bath house, amongst the vast Zollverein colliery site here in Essen.

This time we subtitled the event Houston, we’ve had a problem – a quote from the American astronaut James Lovell. And after building what we had hoped to meet here, again using only those few fragments and tools that we had chosen to carry in to the room with us, we left everyone following the crackling audio from a contemporary documentary record of the almost fatal Apollo 13 space flight of 1970.

 

chair drawing

 

And that is where we leave the work for now. And shift our focus to other projects for the rest of the summer. Giving the meetings of this month’s interventions a little time and distance to mature and settle. Confident, at least, that there is something tangible to pick up again, when we next decide to return to this conversation.

 

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what if everything we know is wrong?

what if everything we know is wrong?

Last weekend, commissioned to perform the initial work from our developing What if everything we know is wrong? project, Rosa Casado and I stepped into a large clear room in Artium – Vitoria’s ten year old contemporary art gallery – carrying a bag of pocket dictaphones, a small roll of tape, a black marker pen, and four polaroid photographs. This time we subtitled the event Nosotros pusimos los muertos y ellos disfrutan del cuadro – a quote taken from the writings of painter Antonio Saura (which translates roughly as: We provided the dead and they enjoy the painting). Ultimately using the place built by the work as a context to introduce a recorded reading of Saura’s polemic text Contra el Guernica (Against the Guernica), written in response to the arrival of Picasso’s Guernica in Spain in 1981. Our contribution to the gallery’s current celebrations of the painting’s 75th anniversary.

 

Polaroid #16

Polaroid #15

 

Turning our attention back to this work, after laying the foundations for it last summer, feels quietly positive and timely. And as we have often found in recent years – especially with our most direct interventions – the piece has matured since our last meeting with it, simply by having become a reality in our subsequent thinking.

So now we have gathered up our dictophones and moved the next phase of the project to Essen, where we have taken up residency in PACT Zollverein – another ten year old cultural centre, but this one housed within the former shower facilities of the largest colliery in the Ruhr – part of the vast Zollverien colliery and coking plant complex, closed in the late 1980’s, and now listed as a UNESCO world cultural heritage site.

We will be here for the rest of the month. Three weeks to focus and develop our thoughts within the tangible calm and support of this venue, and the impressively pragmatic and expansive industrial architecture that hosts it. An opportunity to revisit everything we already know about this intimate work, acknowledge what is wrong with it, and find useful ways to live with it.

 

Polaroid #17

Polaroid #18

 

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can everyone see me if I stand on this chair?

can everyone see me if I stand on this chair?

chair #1

 

Last night Rosa Casado and I performed the first public work from our What if everything we know wrong? project, under the chandeliers and crystal wall lights of Brown’s Alumnae Hall, where we tried to reconstruct somewhere else – somewhere specific that we know, and have been trying to unpick.

From a bag containing thirty pocket dictaphones, three polaroids and a piece of chalk, we built a meeting place under the title Natural is how you found things when you checked-in – a line taken from a lecture by the late Buckinster Fuller – for a crowd gathered within the otherwise cleared room.

The polaroids imperfectly detailed two chairs and a radio. The chalk simply allowed me to locate those objects at scale. The dictaphones carried fragments and details of captured sound, and one archive recording from Buckminster Fuller’s epic forty-two hour lecture – recorded over two weeks of January 1975 – which he called Everything I know.

 

dictaphone #2

 

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unnecessary activity in a room

unnecessary activity in a room

Over this past week it has become increasingly clear that the work we are trying to propose here is simply a visible public attempt to construct one place, from collected fragments and details, within another place, where it wouldn’t otherwise be present – and the use of that attempt to allow the possible meeting place that then becomes at least apparent in that act. There are other things that we enjoy doing at the same time, and other things that we would like to be able to do there – but in reality, none of them are helpful.

The more I explore drawing to locate those otherwise absent details, for example, the more minimal the ‘pictorial’ elements of the place I am trying construct demand to be – however engaging the hastily drawn forms and the act of their drawing might be.

 

flower #2

dictophone #1

 

So I am focusing on what I can directly construct from a bag full of fragments of captured sound. And limiting the pictures simply to a few objects that are useful for us to have with us, but which aren’t present. In this instance, what I can build directly with placed sound is both more tangible and more complex. And retains enough of the ambivalence and indifference – and reality – of both places.

If that is where this work sits, that is where we will work with it.

 

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an act of representation

an act of representation

Today I am packing for a month long residency in the States – an invitation split between New York and Rhode Island, culminating in an event at Brown University. The invitation, and our intention, is to find form for a new performance project we are calling What if everything we know is wrong?.

Creatively, all I am packing is twenty pocket dictaphones (each containing a separate fragment of ambient sound), a handful of Polaroids (partial reminders of a selection of visual details), and some chalk.

At the heart of What if everything we know is wrong?  there was always going to be a direct act of representation. Overt representation, devoid of metaphor. I find myself increasingly irritated by assumptions of metaphor. There was always going to be an open public space, in which we might try to reveal where we are through our attempts to construct a tangible representation of somewhere else – and hopefully realise a meeting place in the process.

I have decided to build that place using only drawing, fragments of captured sound, and a handful of blurred snapshots for reference…

 

Polaroid #1

Polaroid #2

Polaroid #4

Polaroid #6

 

…what that act of construction might propose and enable is yet to be seen.