We recently did our second Freak Show. As with the previous year, some of us, myself especially wanted to use it as place to test out some ideas. We wanted to create an atmosphere centered on the theme of a circus freak show, featuring a variety of art works and performances. We tried to create a confrontational environment to shock and disturb people and to further test out fine art practice in an unconventional and unpredictable environment.

I provided one of then main performances. In it I was the devil; one which I based on Peter Cook’s performance in the 1967 film Bedazzled. The idea was to welcome the audience as if they were attending a kind of business conference and do a ‘yes men’ style PowerPoint presentation which would be like a kind of sales pitch in which I would try and convince them to sign a contract giving me ownership of their soul. I wanted to make this performance a part of the Freak Show so as to present in a fun and entertaining manner the kind of clearly immoral way things are sold to people by men in suits while also dealing with the interesting notion of the soul as a commodity because even if the audience don’t believe in the soul, they may be remiss to give it away. I wanted to confront what I see as the commonplace agnosticism prevalent in British society.

I made a very short presentation, in it I tried to convince the audience that evil was a part of their everyday lives and that the soul was a pretense and that by giving it up, they would be able to live their lives and see the world with a new found perspective.

I convinced 13 people to sign away their souls. The rewarding part for me was how seriously so many people took the decision. One or two refused to sign on actual religious grounds, whereas a lot of people said although they don’t believe in ‘anything’ they didn’t want to risk giving away their soul. I think that was the best part for me; to create a scenario that challenged people to think seriously about their position on religion or the metaphysics of something like a soul.

As I said in my last post; I created these posters for our Freak Show event. I silk-screen printed 22 posters. I didn’t try very hard to line up all of the layers while printing and they’re all on cheap newsprint paper. I made them this way because I wanted them to look like they were cheaply produced on mass.

Jack and I put them up around all of the Fine Art studios to promote Freak Show. I had purposefully not included much information on them. I wanted to interest people with an attractive and mysterious poster and make them curious to ask around about them. In particular, I wanted to encourage the first years to start asking around and use the freak show as a way of introducing ourselves to them. It seemed to work to a certain extent, a lot of people who knew I was the one who printed them were just asking why I hadn’t put the date and address on them but it still meant I could have that conversation with them about freak show and what we were doing. I wasn’t aware before hand that the first years were having crits that week, so they didn’t really have much affect of them. Something that came up in conversations I had with people, which in hindsight is strange that it didn’t occur to me is the ethical questions surrounding the use of disturbing imagery and the use of the word freak.

I was asked by a few people if they could have one to keep which seems quite normal except for the fact that they’re my work and in the studios, students don’t normally ask other students outright if they can just have a piece of their work. I think because of the context in which I used them, people didn’t really think of them as my uni work or even as something of much intrinsic value; they are just prints after all and because I put them everywhere in the studios I was disowning them in a way or at least giving the impression that I didn’t mind what happened to them. Which for the majority of them I didn’t mind if they were damaged or stolen but there was one poster I had chosen to leave up after we’d taken back all the others to use at Freak Show. I had left behind one poster in the area of the studio where I work and it was stolen. I was a little annoyed but it made think a lot more about their worth and whether I should be annoyed at all.
We used the posters as a part of the decoration of the Freak Show and a few of them were stolen but it was especially confusing that someone chose to steal a poster which was pasted with glue to the column holding up the peak of the circus tent. There were plenty of posters that were just pinned to walls.

I think in general it was a successful little project. I wanted to generate some interesting discussions between people and making these posters seems to have done that.
It was also an experiment in making a piece of artwork in serves a purpose as a part of a larger work which was about bringing people together and building an environment and a group.