The work revolved around the introduction of a new resonant object to its site as a means of fostering participation – in this instance, with the hope of creating a community choir. The goal was to create an event that prioritised some aspects lost by traditional participation and impact assessment models – notably, to avoid self-reflection at the cost of accessibility, to critique the linear relationship between process and outcome, and to utilise existing community spaces in the same manner in which the community autonomously uses them.
The work is ostensibly very simple, involving nothing more than the act of a performer carrying a sign adorned with the lyrics to Mariah Carey’s Without You through the clubbing district on a busy Saturday night. It was important to choose a site in which people could autonomously participate without transgressing the expected or afforded behaviours of its locale. With this in mind, I selected Brighton’s West Street - a highly ritualistic space, replete with inherent codes concerning its costumes, utility of space, and permissive behaviours. Crucially, however, the nature of the site’s ritual is such that it actively celebrates its own transgressions. Acting outside of general social norms, and the collective punishment of that acting out, is commonplace, and acts such as blocking traffic, shouting, and fighting are an expected manifestation of that community.
The community of West street may share an intimate and highly resonant space, yet their interactions rarely involve any form of mass creative collaboration. In my numerous visits to the site I noticed that, particularly among men, the frequent confrontations that occurred were almost exclusively centred around attempts to exhaust the creativity of others as a means of promoting an individual’s status. My own passage through West Street was often hampered for this reason – the communal sharing that my sign offered drew attention from the individual to the community, a shift in focus that resulted in numerous acts of violence from those seeking to regain control. With this in mind, the function of the artwork was not to elicit a specific outcome (even, as with community choirs, if that outcome is allowed the freedom of amateurism), but to channel the volatility of the community into a creative, musical act.