Disobedient participants, or rather people who find their own way into our work, have become a strength of some of our work: a heart that is largely invisible to the outside, which we cherish greatly. In each work we assume that real disruption is likely and troubleshoot and ‘pre-mortem’ this in advance. However, I want to focus on what is positive here. 

When we were making The Thing I’ll Be Doing For The Rest Of My Life in Nagoya in 2013, one of the best aspects of the project for me was the invisible and spontaneous participation of volunteers and other people, and how that became central to the work. We had planned a call-out for people to pull a fishing trawler out of the sea and to push it into place in its final resting place, the park in the underpass in Nagoya. The work was made in response to the 2011 tsunami and the shifting attitudes of people in Japan to the government and authority. It was a commission for Awakening, the Aichi Triennale.  

We were partly informed and inspired by Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built In Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise In Disaster, which elaborates on the history of ordinary human responses to disasters before the medical professionals and charities reach the site. 

But how people came out for the project – beyond what we were asking for – floored us…

Not only did we get the people for the task in hand – families, artists and strangers in beautiful kimonos – but someone came with hundreds of white gloves for everyone who was pulling (not asked for by us). Someone brought a fish barbecue to share with everyone once the boat was on land to celebrate the effort. A fisherman gave the trawler for free and towed it along the coastline with another boat as the engine no longer worked. And someone came with nautical slippers and a homemade bracelet for me to wear. When we arrived at the park in the middle of the night, a group of people turned up with stools and food for the overnight crew; and more food came in the morning for everyone who would push the boat one more time. We had not organised any of these things.   

Participation is in our DNA but this project showed me how there are spaces to insert ourselves even more into work – invited or not, how we all have something to say and how we want to do something or be a part of something. And that these edges, disobedience and emergent behaviours help to define what our work is. Participants are the invisible heart of our work and change the work without permission from the inside. We are always looking for these spaces and we trust that the public will notice these opportunities before we do.  


– Ju

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