bonus mid-week post - Ulrike and Eamon compliant

You are standing a small loosely constructed room made from chipboard, In front of you there is a large screen showing an interview/interrogation in a room similar to yours. You have a mobile phone in your hand, it does not belong to you but you keep it pressed tight to your ear.
“Now turn and leave the room and head out to the courtyard with the large mirror.” The faceless voice instructs, and you follow obligingly.
Why? Even after the experience I can’t tell you why I willingly walked the streets of Nottingham taking orders from a strong voiced man with exquisite diction. When he asked me to say, out loud, in public
“I am Ulrike and I am a decisive person” I complied despite the obvious embarrassment.

Call it morbid curiosity of the fun of a new experience but as my time on the other end of the phone line continued I became more and more involved, increasingly willing to do what I was told, whatever was necessary. This is the beauty of Blast theory’s ‘Ulrike and Eamon compliant’, an interactive installation come ARG (Alternative Reality Game) its ability to change your personality from mild mannered art show goer into international fugitive almost on a word. In the beginning you are asked to choose between Ulrike, a reporter and member of the Red Army Faction or Eamon a member of the IRA. I instantly chose Ulrike, giving away a little of the inquisition of the piece, simply put even in a role playing environment I didn’t want to be part of the IRA. This was the crux of the piece, creating a medium of self discovery where by you can better understand what it is to truly fight for what you believe to be right.

As I walked the streets of Nottingham, I was told Ulrike’s story. Her children, her friends, her beliefs all described in detail by a voice which seemed to know her intimately. There are points when the rational, conscious part of me questioned the path I was being taken on. Walking into a darkened underground parking area on a grey Monday afternoon quickly pricked my apprehension, but that quickly became part of the game, part of the joy in the losing of the self. You quickly assume what you know of Ulrike’s identity, strong, bold and a fugitive, it makes perfect sense for you get off the main street and stay out of sight. 
On several occasions you are given the choice to leave, quit and walk away. How many time had Ulrike thought of that as an option? How many times had she had to stand her ground? Since the piece I have felt the urge to know more about Ulrike Meinhof and her links to the Red Army Faction which threw some startling light onto my initial decision and resistance to take on the role of Eamon. My own lack of knowledge about either case would now make the choice much more difficult in terms of the lengths these people went to following their beliefs.

After about 30 minutes of joyous suspicion and paranoia you are guided back to the playhouse via an operative who meets you on the street, you exchange no words just a few simple nods which instruct you to follow. You can only just make out that the dark empty space you have been lead into is behind the scenes to one of the stages. The little light there is comes from a small loosely constructed room made from chipboard into which you are ushered. 
The beautiful cyclical nature of the piece dawns on you, you are now in the interrogation room. The kindly, unknown figure of assumed authority asks questions about your willingness to take action for a cause and it’s hard to snap out of your short-lived identity of the rebellious and decisive reporter. The interview is similarly geared to have you question the issues of right and wrong, belief and rationality, how strong does a belief have to be for you to commit an act of violence? Is there a time when blatant deception can be justified?
What blast theory have done is create a wonderful alternate world for you to inhabit, the enveloping nature of the experience is packed tightly into the realization that these assumed characters, these outside people are real people in real situations based on the past but still grounded n our present. The joy of acting the spy for even a short period thankfully doesn’t overpower the underlying message of the nature of belief and action.
Being able to immerse yourself and give over control to a situation which is quite likely beyond your realm of comfort was akin to a great film, good or bad as long as it evokes an emotion it has succeeded. And by those standards Blast Theory undeniably achieved. One can only hope they have more planned for Nottingham in the future.

1 comment:

  1. I really wanted to go on this but I ended up being really tied up with interview preparation. Sounds like it was brilliant. I'd love to write something like this actually. Did you see that there's this as well? Not quite so clever but might be fun...