Equal Opportunity to be a Dictator

Concept

“Equal Opportunity to be a Dictator” is a social practice artwork where people intuit each other's voice directly. It’s an invitation for people to ventriloquise each-other. Anyone can offer others something to say (feed them a line), and anyone can also speak what others offer them to say (say the line they are fed) as conversation. Everyone can say the lines they are given in their own way. People have agency in saying their lines, they can edit, refuse, embody however they wish. 

“Equal Opportunity to Be a Dictator” immediately issues authoritarian, empathetic and predictive coding qualities which each individual will handle in very different ways. It asks the audience to challenge themselves, to find how they share power, empathise, listen beyond the words (listen more to body language) in day to day conversations and it asks them to physically actively share voices. It asks them to shift their way of talking/thinking and try to walk in another person’s shoes, or understand what their contribution is to another voice, how the subtextual negotiation of projections happens within a conversation. There are extreme introjection and projection exchanges that can be difficult to engage with, but can be insightful into other sides of our characters. We fight for our voice our whole lives, we share and fight for the voice of others too. The work asks the audience to find ways to move in an echo chamber. This also comes into the principals of activism, how can we use our voice to fight for those who cannot speak for themselves. Who has the right to speak for another? It also gives people the option to speak other languages they don’t speak, anyone can repeat phrases of unknown languages. This method of mimicry is part of how we learn to speak. We already know how to do this, this is how we have already been taught to speak - we are going back to scratch. There are many ways this can play out as people are work in strange ways to discover one another within it. 

CULTURAL, INTERGENERATIONAL, GENDER, RACE, CLASS ISSUES

This work challenges many cultural, intergenerational, gender, race, class, political, national issues head on. It might not seem obvious that the work does this but this can become more evident as we see a 20yr old gender neutral Italian person offers an elderly Indonesian man words to say, it's clear how this particular exchange could pan out and the difficulties in attempting to speak for others especially from different classes, ages, ethnicities and nationalities. As many combinations of people from different socio-political positions attempt to speak for each-other in this piece, these cross-positioned tensions find ways forward in a different way of communicating, people operate in other ways to find themselves in this mimetic universe. 

 

This piece approaches identity politics from another angle and not something just to contemplate – everyone is invited to (in the flesh) role reverse, walk in someone else’s shoes, talk with other mouths, try to empathise with each-other, listen to body language deeply, give room to offer things that usually cannot be said but maybe could be said in this context, given powers to be careful with, feel for each-other and feed each-other the words intuitively, the scary act of carving out selves within halls of mirrors, live face to face and heart to heart.

Installation

Interactive 

Roaming

Performance

Exhibition

Concept Phase

In Development

Sculptures

Your Second Hand

VR Imaginary Friend

Hear the Call

Speecheoke

Your Second Hand

VR Imaginary Friend

Hear the Call

Better Version of Yourself

Speecheoke

Dance Literacy

This is Your Life 

Equal Opportunity 

VR Imaginary Friend

This is Your Life 

Equal Opportunity 

Speecheoke

Dance Literacy

This is Your Life 

Equal Opportunity

Sculptures

Your Second Hand

VR Imaginary Friend

Hear the Call

Better Version of Yourself

Speecheoke

Dance Literacy

This is Your Life 

Equal Opportunity 

Better Version of Yourself

This is Your Life

VR Imaginary Friend

Hear the Call

Dance Literacy

Previously Exhibited

Your Second Hand

Speecheoke

Equal Opportunity 

Sculptures

Audience

Some of the audience can be planted audience members in a live interactive audience social event.

The audience could be online. This could work in a range of settings given the main work is conversational. Whatever the setting or audiences, this work works best in a short events, since a good amount of people need to be present for this to work with participation. If audiences would rather interact with this work passively, a video can be shown of people interacting this way in the gallery or bar. Audiences can wear a "tell" piece, an item of jewellery, a broach or something appropriate to the setting, to let others know they are open to speaking in "Equal Dictator" mode. Those who wish not to speak this way will not be wearing a "tell" item, or will hide their "tell" item (specific piece of jewellery or broach) in moments they feel too uncomfortable and don't wish to participate. This gives the audience agency clearly visible to anyone that they wish to participate of or not at at any moment. 

Space

As a roaming socially interactive work there is flexibility with space, since it mostly consists of conversation between audience members, this work can be piggybacked within other installed shows or event nights. 

Selected video interaction, induction video or video footage from live interactions can be exhibited in the space and/or shown online. This piece could work in a variety of settings, in a bar, in gardens, wandering in the gallery etc. The more comfortable, sociable, and crowded (so people can move from one conversation to the next with greater variety and ease) the space, the better. 

Development

2020 ONLINE TESTS

Every 5 minutes or so, people are positioned online in different arrangements with different people. As a participant, on your screen you may be faced with a complete stranger and the two of you can offer each-other things to say, then after five minutes you are faced with another random participant (may be a stranger or perhaps someone you know) and then after five minutes, the participant is faced with a few people or several people and can try group conversation speaking in "Equal Dictator" mode, then will be switched again after five minutes to another random other participant one-on-one. Through tests online, in a randomised kind of speed dating chat roulette style of online conversation, this method has worked well through tests so far and people can do it from the comfort of their own homes (covid friendly) internationally. This is looking like the most successful, time efficient, cost efficient, power equilibrium efficient, physical and mental energy efficient version of this work so far. The effort to approach people speaking this way is eliminated as the audience is randomly faced with someone, so this method has less approach anxiety for participants. 

INSTALLATION

Potentially the online version and offline version could both work in the gallery space or nearby social spaces. 

ONLINE

- Some ipads could be set up in the gallery for an event. Booths may help with privacy and sound issues but not essential. 

- People can log in from anywhere internationally and speak online to each-other this way at their leisure. They can stay as long as they want within a time window for the event. 

- There are two screens nearby with help info, induction and video demo info and if anybody needs further help and and attendant can also be on hand to facilitate anyone online if they are having problems. 

- There will be a designated person online to switch participants with different people every five minutes. 

- This online event needs a minimum amount of people to work, RSVP confirmations and/or tickets would be essential.

- Possibility for this to happen in tandem with a live in-person event in the gallery or cultural precinct area. 

- Additional potential to have an online speed dating event using this method one night (to be tested). 

LIVE

- People in the gallery can watch "Equal Dictator" induction video upon entry guiding them on how to speak this way with each-other.

- After watching the induction video, once inside the "Equal Dictator" section they can enter one of the few booths with ipad installed and communicate online (in dictator mode with others).

- or for offline version, they can try talk with people in the flesh in dictator mode. There will need to be several hired plants in the "Equal Dictation Section" who will look and behave like audience members but will be hired specifically to speak in dictator mode for the event, assuring the conversation will continue in this mode in the space. Conversation does not have to be the only thing happening in this social space. Since the work is just conversation, it could potentially be in a space where the other artworks are already installed and people can move around the gallery as normal viewing the works but just with the dictator mode of speech in the air, which they can listen in on other conversations or try talking with others in this way.

ETHICS

There is a high amount of projection and introjection and shared control within this work. Just because this work involves dictation, it does not mean it must be malevolent dictation. It will be made clear in signage and induction video, that nobody has to do or say anything that another person tells them to... when offering others things to say, it must be remembered that these are offers and not demands. People must be highly aware that they can set their personal boundaries and have agency within this, before beginning. Maybe participants should sign something to confirm they have read and are aware of this upon entering the work. 

SIGNIFIER WITH ROAMING

Instead of a dedicated space for dictator speech mode, people could be offered a necklace which will indicate to others near, that they are comfortable to try speaking in dictator mode. Plant audience members remain essential to make sure this mode is comfortably continued with a buffer, to minimise risk, so there will always be enough people around in this event who are actively speaking and available to speak with, in this mode. 

With tests so far, the necklace (worn as an indicator of willingness to speak in dictator mode) has worked in an event in Belgium, in a former sex club.  

PREVIOUS WORK 

2017 - 2020 SOLO INTERVENTIONIST WORK

From September 2017 Danielle has spoken in social public everyday life inviting people to dictate her speech and vice versa. She does not do this in appropriate work situations, organisational situations, speaking privately with certain friends, in the studio or at home. In all other public social situations, she tries to converse this way.  ​

PREVIOUS DICTATOR ITERATIONS LIVE IN INSTITUTIONS (INVITED TO PERFORM/EXHIBIT - NON-INTERVENTIONIST) 

ZKU (Centre for Kunst and Urbanistics) Berlin 

Hectolitre - Former Sex Club and Art Space, Belgium

Seychelles National Gallery - Seychelles Biennial, Seychelles

Swiss State Contemporary Theatre - Zurich 

Power Makes Us Sick - Prague

Flux Factory - New York

LJMU in John Lennon Art and Design Building - Liverpool, UK

Kask Performance BA - Belguim 

ArOS Museum - Denmark

Performing Arts Forum - France

Bronx Art Space - New York

Benefits

- Flexible in use of space.

- Can piggyback on other events, and roam amongst other shows and spaces. 

- Works well online for covid accomodations. 

- Since there is no "performer vs participant" and people pick it up at their own speed, space and with others who are on the same level, all participants/audience etc... this creates a more equal platform to engage and respects the participant's need to do or not do something as they feel, in their time. 

- Naturally, there's no expectation for everyone to participate. This has been designed to work for everyone - passive and active participants and everything in-between, accommodating all at any level of engagement.

- Passive audiences (who do not want to actively participate) may eavesdrop on live conversations between others speaking this way, they can also watch videos.

- People who do participate can meet new people and connect with people they already know, in a different way.

- Challenges the audience to be considerate of others in sharing language this way and to finding boundaries for themselves by actively blocking, edit, reject, accepting, counter-offering - to take agency and contributions over suggested dialogues. There is somekind of bartering involved.  

- Challenges the audience to carve out others and carve out themselves beyond the projections and introjections of others. 

- Challenges the audience to be more creative within small talk. 

- Challenges the audience to have a deeper curiosity in the mystery of others, playful the characterisations of self and others within this way of communicating. 

Challenges

- Pushes audience out of comfort zone. 

- Can logistically be difficult initially for people. This can be aided with a very clear induction video and examples before beginning, in Belgium late 2019, through a clear induction with good example videos people had hardly any logistical difficulties in understanding the method. 

- This work may trigger some people reminding them of situations in their life with controlling individuals who may have forced them to say things. It is important that nobody should feel forced to participate if they do not want to. Potentially, trigger warnings could be issued. It must be clear that all dictated words are "offers" and not "demands". It must also be stated that people are not mere puppets and that people participating have agency in this work with the ability to accept, reject and edit words offered to them and can leave whenever they wish to. 

- May feel psychologically laborious to participate for too long, so short events may work well, or when online, short interactions with people, switching people often. 

Accomodations for Covid 

- Tests in 2020 have worked very well in online versions. The online versions have worked sometimes better than the offline versions as people are automatically placed with other people on screen every five minutes or so, so people do not feel the fear and pressure to approach strangers in the flesh, everyone is already assigned and distributed evenly.