We kidnapped two people in 1998. Here is how and why. For about 15 years afterwards, the main way people found their way to our web page on the project was by googling “tips for putting people under surveillance”.

So, yes, sometimes I have learned unexpected skills on Blast Theory projects. For two weeks Jamie Iddon and I drove around the country putting the 10 shortlisted Kidnap entrants under surveillance and taking a photo of them. We then posted them a copy of the photo to alert them to the fact that they were in imminent danger of being kidnapped by us.

Starting this month, we’re going to share some of the things that we’ve learned and that we hope you might be able to make use of, or be inspired by. It could be an artistic technique, or a way of working with technology, or even how we organise our media (alright, calm down, just form an orderly queue).

When we put our lucky shortlisted entrants to Kidnap under surveillance, the only van we could afford was a Scout van. We covered the windows in newspaper and hoped our innocent outer appearance would work in our favour.

As the day of the kidnap drew near, we received a phone call on our freephone number. The caller said “You people are pretty rubbish at surveillance. I saw you pull up outside my flat several hours ago and I’ve been watching YOU ever since”.

Satisfyingly, we were over 100 miles away at the time. The thing we learned then is that the edge of the artwork can be invisible. It can occupy purely imaginative space. That person was having a vivid experience that was both created by us and which had nothing to do with us.

From then on, we made many works where you are uncertain where the work ends and the real world begins.

P.S. If you have a penchant for web archaeology, the original Kidnap website from 1998 is still (mostly) up.

And here is the cover story that The Sunday Times ran on the project when we did a test kidnap of journalist Stephen Armstrong.


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