Imagine answering an ad for casual work, and finding yourself on stage in front of an audience.
Ordinary people with no prior performing experience, no rehearsal and limited direction take centre stage in a major new work by Branch Nebula.
ARTWORK is a highly charged and risky artistic experiment that puts real people who are looking for work on stage in front of an audience for the first time. For this ambitious new work, Branch Nebula each night invites onto the stage untrained and unprepared new workers from vastly different walks of life, ages and cultural backgrounds.
Created by the always boundary-pushing Branch Nebula, ARTWORK explores what is real, what is performance, and what it means to watch.
Put simply, the production employs people who are looking for work. The workers are sourced through online classifieds. Every single performance of ARTWORK employs a new group of paid workers. There is no rehearsal and the first time Branch Nebula meets the workers is on the evening of the performance.
The results are unpredictable and the only certainty is risk. The workers are asked to undertake a series of tasks, including interviews, physical tasks, and other routines abstracted from typical workplace activities. Live sound and video are used throughout the performance to capture and amplify the experiment in front of a live audience, and heighten the sense of being under observation, being under the microscope.
The audience observes workers adapting to challenges, in a highly charged environment. But as the performance unfolds, they begin to question their own role as viewers. In the end, audience members wrestle with what it means to employ someone, anyone, to do a job as part of an artwork.
‘ARTWORK is situated in a landscape of works presenting new ideas of what a performance can be. It questions the accepted convention of professionalism as being highly important in the consumer experience at the theatre, and creates a context in which this notion is put to the test. This unique experiment challenges the theatre as a place that anyone can participate in, and reveals its covert exclusionary processes’, said Branch Nebula co-founder Lee Wilson.
The performance takes place with an ever-expanding pool of real people, a variety of body types, ages and backgrounds, on stage in front of a real audience. The show is created to prompt uncensored variety as the subjects speak and relate from their own experience, raising such issues as racism, sexism, and class,’ said Branch Nebula co-founder Mirabelle Wouters.
In development workshops, the workers that have responded to the online advertisements have previously included a 72 year old woman who needed to be seated for much of the performance, an 18 year old student, a man just out of jail, and a former security guard. Placed on stage with a task to complete but without detailed direction, each worker can react as they wish.
“The results are stunning… Artwork is a gentle exploration into democracy and social equity. It looks at the state of our societies as they exist, and implicates its audiences and participants into the ways our world is allowed to function. The piece places us in the position of privilege, in order that we may achieve greater awareness about the failures of social and political systems, of which our involvement cannot be refused. In the stillness of Artwork, we are confronted with the fractures of our humanity, but we also discover its inherent and invulnerable strength, and a precarious hopefulness that we cannot help but embrace.”
Suzy Wrong, Suzy Goes See
Lee Wilson, Mirabelle Wouters, Matt Prest, Teik-Kim Pok, Sean Bacon, Phil Downing, John Baylis
Duration: 60 minutes. Touring team: 8. Ideal venue up to 300 capacity.
Artwork was commissioned by Carriageworks, and was supported by the NSW Government through Arts NSW, and by City of Sydney. Early development was produced by Managing and Producing Services (MAPS) for Artists NSW, a joint initiative of the Australia Council and Arts NSW, managed by Performing Lines.