Monday, 2 August 2010

At the Research Table

photo by Mark Cohen

What I Heard About The World was born during a conversation in Jorge Andrade's flat in Lisbon in 2007. Since we had met in 2004 we'd been talking about making something in collaboration with Jorge's company, mala voadora.

As is often the way, we had had a moment of realisation that this collaboration wasn't going to happen unless we actually, you know, started it. So we met for coffee, each bringing a few ideas to the table. Jorge told me about several stories that had caught his attention recently: the US military's programme of providing servicemen's families with 'flat daddies' whilst they were away; a survey that claimed that the number one pastime for off-duty western soldiers in Iraq was play war-sim games such as Medal of Honour; demonstrators-for-rent in Germany. I pointed out to Jorge that all of the stories he had been collecting were about fakes, stand-ins, replacements.

The conversation moved on to maps and mapping, and how a map is a fake, or a stand-in. We began discussing a project that located these stories of the inauthentic on a giant map, a map that morphed and shifted between different projections and purposes. By the end of the conversation we had the title, and enough information for a project proposal.

Something that looks like chocolate, but that isn't chocolate.
Something that looks like cheese, but isn’t cheese.
Something that makes it look like a house is built out of stone, when the house is still built out of brick.
Something that is like a person, for you to have sex with, but isn’t a person, but is still for having sex with.
Something that is like a person, but isn’t a person, that is used to measure the damage that a real human being would suffer in car accident.
A machine that makes waves like the sea, but in a pool.
A machine that lets you do something that is like going for a run, but is actually staying for a run.
Cardboard boxes originally used for protecting machines whilst being delivered to their new owners, used to protect sleeping humans.
On the internet, and in the published press, fictional characters commentating on real world politics.
In 2009 the amount of digital storage capacity surpasses the amount of information in the world.
A grown woman lies in bed, unable to sleep, listening to generative lullabies on a phone application invented by a man who was once famous for making music.
To make models’ lips look more kissable they are injected with collagen, to the extent that the make up artist is told to only use the softest lip brush, and the gentlest of touches, lest the models’ lips explode.
The bible being translated to a phonetic language that some people think cats would speak like, if they could speak. srsly.
A well paid football player, who works on possibly the best tended grass in the country, has his own lawn replaced with astroturf for his children to play on.
camera perfect.
disaster capitalism, selling futures.
collateral damage and friendly fire.
longterm relationships with a girlfriend simulation service.
cut flowers. here you go, watch them die.

Fast forward. Jorge and I have been joined by Chris Thorpe as co-devsior/performer, and have been kicking ideas around with the generous team at We are in the process of making two discreet pieces, one of which is a research engine for the other.

The theatre piece What I Heard About The World opens with a three week run at Sheffield Theatres in October, before transferring to Lisbon for a Portuguese tour. The research process for that piece has been running since the start of the year, online, in conversation and at work-in-progress showings in Sheffield, Glasgow and Oldenburg.

The work-in-progress showings have produced a stand alone durational project, that we refer to as the Research Table, and which we will be running for 12 hours at Forest Fringe in Edinburgh, on Saturday 21st August, 11am - 11pm. Chris, Jorge and I will be attempting to map the world, alphabetically, using post-it notes; we'll be discussing, no doubt, what territories are, and are not, actually countries. And we'll be collecting stories, hopefully one for each country. Stories of the fake being used in place of the real, stand-ins, replicas and replacements. We'll be retelling those stories throughout the day, labelling each story with just two words, and illustrating it with a single hand drawn image.

Those stories will then feed in to our bank of material for devising the theatre piece during September and October. If you can't make it along in Edinburgh, you can still contribute to the research process online. You can comment here on the blog or email us at alex[at] We're also running the research on Twitter; you can find me @AlexanderKelly, or simply tweet something with the hashtag #whatiheardabouttheworld. We'd love to hear from you.

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