Back in 2011 I co-curated a show called Throw the Switches at TROVE. This was a three day event celebrating the work of film director James Whale. It was also the birth place of ‘The Human Puppet’!
This performance was originally inspired by the themes in ‘Frankenstein’ of what it means to be human, what gives something ‘life’, and also the desire in humankind to dominate and have power over others.
I was suspended from the beams of TROVE, an art space that once resided in the engine room of the old Science Museum, and people were free to ‘puppet’ me from the strings I was attached too.
This initial performance was quite macabre, clunky, I was heavy to move. The costume, blindfold and lifelessness were all geared to make me seem doll like, on pulling the strings however, the weight of the human body reminded the puppeteer of my ‘realness’. This was a 40min interactive performance.
I then performed it again for Fierce festival, this time strung up to the front porch of a wendy house style shed. This time I was more interested in the nature of breakdown. The costume changed to a nightgown, I was eye level with people. The pully system was adjusted to make the limbs lighter to move. This time the ‘human puppet’ was a woman, not a doll, (although my small size is endlessly likened to as being doll like). This was a woman, strung up to a replica house, a pretend house, in her most vulnerable state of sleep. Maybe she had taken too many sleeping pills, maybe she just didn’t want to wake up.
More recently I performed it for Little Wolf Parade in the Market Square, Nottingham. This time I was suspended from a free standing frame, built to look like a gallows. This was performed every day for three days. On the third day i decided to wear my own clothes and go without the blindfold. The viewers response changed dramatically going from pure objectification to empathetic reactions just by the simple change of clothing.
I am hugely interested in how the surface can alter peoples attitudes to what they are looking at. This was a fantastic experiment that evidenced this human trait of assumption, judgement and then response based purely on ‘aesthetic’.