Saturday, March 11, 2006

The CHARADE project, Birmingham

One fascinating project I'm involved with at the moment is CHARADE, a project commissioned jointly by the BBC and Arts Council England from international artist Simon Pope and managed by Capital Arts Project in Birmingham. It forms part of 'Private View', a programme to demonstrate "outstanding innovation and vision from visual artists experimenting with live techniques in the public realm" and involves participants in public performance, video diaries, MP3 recordings of their work, plus opportunities to meet other volunteers and share insights.

Basically, you each pick a piece of popular culture - our most cherished books, films, plays, music, TV and radio programmes - and 'become' that item by interiorising it. After participating in workshops and online communities and using other resources to aid the process of memorisation and identification, CHARADE volunteers will then perform their chosen piece in Birmingham city centre at the end of April, wandering about together in the open air in "a conscious re-creation of the final scenes of Truffaut's adaptation of Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451."

"Charade mirrors the key premise of Fahrenheit 451, that rather than providing stable conditions for the storage and retrieval of knowledge, our computer networks become troubled, precarious; the fear of data-corruption forces us to go beyond our electronic systems and we focus back towards the body, the possibility and ability of our memories."

My chosen item is King Lear. An ambitious choice, perhaps, especially since one of the other participants has picked a short definition from the Oxford English Dictionary as her chosen item! But I'm only memorising a few scenes which are of special interest to me.

One of them is Act II, Scene ii, a scene in which the disguised Kent - unjustly banished by Lear earlier in the play yet still doggedly loyal to his old master - encounters Oswald, the cowardly and sychophantic steward of Lear's treacherous daughter, Gonerill. They argue, Kent attempts to fight Oswald, and ends up being put in the stocks by the Duke of Cornwall as a trouble-maker.

This short scene appeals to me on several levels. Firstly, I admire Kent's integrity and the blunt but clear-sighted way he deals with even the most complex emotional situations. 'Let me still remain/ the true blank of thine eye,' he begs the king just before being sent into exile, and later continues to serve Lear in disguise. Secondly, the glorious riot of language in this scene appeals to my love of words. In this scene, Kent famously berates the bewildered Oswald in a long series of breathlessly imaginative insults - a cascade of Shakespearean invective - 'Thou whoreson zed, thou unnecessary letter!' being one of my personal favourites.

I'm still deciding which other scene from King Lear to memorise. I think a choice of two would be a good idea at this stage, perhaps deciding on the final one nearer the 28th April, which is our performance date for CHARADE. I think there's still time to register as a participant if you would like to get involved. You can email the producers at or call 08709 316 834.

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1 comment:

maurizio said...

"In a scenario where data, stored in peer-to-peer networked computer systems - under threat from hacks, crashes, viruses and legal constraint - takes flight back into the human body."

This looks like a stupid statemente to be used as a foundation of a project. Data has never been so much secure in human history. Movies, books and songs are NOT ONLY in theaters, libraries and tapes/vinyls/cds but are now ALSO stored in 1000000's of computers all around the world.

Do you think they all will crash, they all will be hacked? Do you think that legal constrain will stop p2p for real? And, even so, what then? Oh... we are scared... we will have movies ONLY on DVD and theaters, books ONLY on public or private libraries, songs only on tapes/cd/ipods.

Good job Simon Pope!