Difficult Guest

A durational performance for the event National Anthem at Number Shop Gallery, Edinburgh, april 2017

The exhibition commissioned artists to make work which responded to the concept of ‘nationalism.’ My performance involved eight performers including myself who enacted a ‘border control’ within the gallery space in order to create a critique of ‘nationalism’. Two performers stood at the door and interrogated visitors as they entered the space, before making them put on plastic gloves and get their hand stamped. Once they entered the space, the other performers would walk closely behind them and watch them intensely. After a while we began following pedestrians in the street outside as well. The performance lasted for 3 hours.

I intended to create a space which explored the idea of nationalism as a defensive, territorial notion and this problematic is revealed through the spectators’ subjective experience of surveillance and being grouped into generalised stereotypes as a means of exclusion. Through asking the audience/participants to wear the same gloves and all to be stamped as they entered the show, I aimed to convey this generalising tendency, attempting to strip people of individuality and grouping them into a single stereotype of ‘outsider’. I intended that this increased surveillance of individuals in countries and spaces following recent political developments be projected onto the audience’s experience, which consequently generated discussion on the concept of nationalism. This sense of being watched was maintained throughout their time in the gallery (exacerbated by the gaze of the performers whispering and watching around them).