Sunday, November 1, 2009


On Wednesday, 30th September five artists arrived at The New Art Gallery Walsall, with instructions to meet a (heavily disguised) contact, and deliver a particular code phrase. As with previous weeks they had each received a text message the night before instructing them on what to do and what to say - the code phrase which they had to deliver was 'The concrete hippo is on the move' relating to Walsall's (arguably) most popular piece of public art. Their contact would them ask them the question 'Are you an agent for change?' to which they would usually say yes (although one confused agent said, 'No, I thought I was an agent for Interrogation!') They would then have to show their i.d. before being issued with an agent i.d. card and sent up to the Interrogation room. On arrival in the Interrogation room they would be issued with their uniforms, paperwork and materials fee (£20) They would have to quickly change into their uniform, before being made to sit silently in a row to be photographed. Intervention agents were: Agent Doubleday (below)
and Agent Duffy (both from Open City.)Agent Pitt.Agent Smith.
and Agent Winnett.
The entire process up to this point is designed to make the agents feel uncomfortable, in order to disarm them and perhaps encourage them to work differently to their usual approach to practice. The last week's mission was Intervention, and there was to be 3 artists working alone, and one pair that had applied together (from Open City). We were surprised ourselves when we were expecting one agent from Open City, (AGENT BROWN) but another turned up in his place (AGENT DUFFY), due to unforeseen illness. Though this was most irregular, there was no real problem, as the replacement agent had worked with Open City on various projects as well.As with the previous weeks the Agents were fully briefed on their Mission for the day, contracts were signed and then a masterclass to explore precedence and methodologies for the day took place.
Then we went on the whistle stop tour of the gallery - starting on the roof to see the view...
And checking out the view from Gallery Four...
Before the fastest viewing of Gordon Cheung's show ever, quick peak at the video piece:We then went outside to look at the target area, and take a group photo.Before pausing to consider directions...Then back inside for lunch and planning time.Getting some funny looks from visiting school groups on the way.This weeks artists seemed to want to get outside as soon as possible, and a few even went back outside to continue the planning process.
The Open City artists had decided to use their £20 materials fees as cash payments for members of the public, who they hoped to engage in their project. This had caused a bit of a problem, as all monies had to be accounted for - with any money spent being replaced by a receipt. A bit of negotiation with Longhouse was necessary to agree that the artists could write an invoice for the entire amount, rather than getting a receipt from each member of the public engaged. Agent Doubleday and Agent Duffy got their materials fees changed into £1 coins, and then went out into Gallery Square to start negotiations with the public. They were interested in the way people move through public space, and in the way that public life is speeding up all the time. People no longer seem to have time to stop and contemplate, pausing in our busy lives to look around us, or think for a moment about where we are going, preferring to hasten through life, getting from a to b with no thought for the journey. They decided to negotiate with the public, offering them payment for their time. They would have to stand still in one spot, for an agreed amount of time, for an agreed amount of money. In order to get paid the member of the public would have to stand absolutely still, not smile, talk or laugh, and just look in one direction - effectively becoming a human statue for a few minutes. Some people were more happy to be employed in this way than others. This pair of participants drove a hard bargain, but negotiations finally saw them settle on being paid £1 per minute, and that they would stand still for 5 minutes. Part of their agreement was that there would only be one photo of their faces taken, and that their faces should not appear anywhere on the Internet (hence the back shot).Other participants were cheaper, and more willing to get involved, but one participant had to give up half way through - finding it impossible to stand still for the allotted length of time.
The interesting phenomenon which occurred as a result of this activity, was that other members of the public (not being paid) would stand completely still in other parts of the square, watching the standers, and extending the project. Once the participants had finished their allotted time slot, they would be paid, and then a postcard would be left on the ground where they had been. The postcard read:
Time: Next Saturday at Noon
Place: In front of the City Hall
Action: Assemble facing towards the steps.
Fix your gaze and remain completely still.

Perhaps the most enthusiastic (and most knowledgeable on all matters of espionage) agent of the entire project was Agent Pitt. Pitt had come prepared for his mission, having already created some Dope books (spy notebooks where details of assassinations and spy subjects are recorded), but Agent Pitt was also very prepared to respond to the givien situation on the day, like all good agents. Agent Pitt set himself up a base in the centre of Gallery Square, and set out a collection of postcards purchased from The gallery shop, showing selected artworks from the Gallery's collection. These he intended to use by persuading the public to write innocuous thoughts and remarks onto - they would then be posted to various intelligence agencies worldwide (CIA, MI5 etc), as these were to be what in spy language are called 'Innocent Postcards.' Spies use Innocent postcards to activate other agents.
Here is Agent Pitt persuading Bob and Roberta Smith to fill out one of the innocnet postcards.Another intervention which Agent Pitt carried out involved various formation of chocolate MICE around the square, the significance is that MICE is a spy acronym meaning Money, Ideology, Compromise and Ego. Which Pitt said could also be an apt description for most public art.
Then the dope books came into their own, vantage points around the gallery were selected, and the dope books left in the vantage points - resulting in three different assassinations around Gallery Square: one using the old poisoned umbrella technique,one saw the accidental death of a raven
and the final one seemingly a suicide (though possible murder staged to look like suicide.)It was very impressive to see just how much could be achieved by one person in one day. Excitingly Agent Pitt remained undercover for a while longer - taking Interrogation to the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square - very exciting: click here to watch Agent Pitt's continuation of the project.Agent Smith responded to the Floral/natural still life section of the Garman Ryan Collection, and decided to create an opportunity to make connect the collection with the public in Walsall. Agent Smith purchased lillies, cyclamen, turnips and other natural objects which can be found in the collection, and held a Free Garman Ryan Tombola. Members of the public would come over, and be invited to select a raffle ticket. If there ticket number matched with a number of one of the Garman Ryan objects, then they had won. But in order to take their prize with them they would have to draw a picture of the natural object.This was a lovely idea, that these real objects, now represented inside the gallery within the collection, had made there way out into the public realm, effectively raising awareness about the art works they were now representing. The public would then create a representation of that object, which then returned to the gallery to be exhibited as part of the Interrogation Room. A fantastic exchange had taken place.Even people who won a turnip were pleased, and each person was given a leaflet about the collection, which could encourage them to visit the gallery (and in some cases actually did.)
The final Interrogation project was Agent Winnett's Heritage Fishing.It was during the process of putting up this sign to advertise the fishing that the video camera was lost. Agent Orange was helping Agent Winnett with the unwieldy sign, and somehow the video camera was dropped into the canal. Plop. Luckily, Agent Winnett's trusty fishing device (an extra strong magnet) saw the camera being fished out, but unluckily it no longer worked...Agent Winnett had noticed that there were quite a few romantic views of fishing shown in the Gallery's collection.He was interested in exploring the romanticism of being a lone fisherman on the canalside, but he was not fishing for fish, but heritage. Referring to the importnace of the canal in Walsall's industrial history, he used his extra strong magnet to fish the canal for metal treasures dropped by the canal boaters into the murky depths.
Swords were discovered, as well as various saddles with badges (directly referencing Walsall's two main industries, stirrup and saddle making and mining for metals.)It was a site to behold, as Agent Winnett pulled one treasure after another from the water. It was almost as if someone had planted all of these treasures there for him to find! Members of the public would come along to watch, letting out shocked gasps whenver a new treasure was discovered. One eager onlooker informed me that Winnett was using the wrong equipment, saying what he really needed was a more traditional approach. He was keen to show the giant fish he had caught in that very spot the week before!Agent Winnett's project attracted the attention of a purely male audience, and they were keen to discuss the canal and its fruits.Everyone returned to the Interrogation Room to mount their documentation, and as with other weeks, this group decided to split the space into columns, with one column per project. It was the last mission, and so we all went to the pub for a pint afterwards.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Agent on the Fourth Plinth

Click on the link below to watch Agent Pitt on the Fourth plinth! So exciting!

Monday, October 5, 2009

a thought

Agent Shipley: Unfortunately I had to leave the symposium early last week, but one thing that I have been thinking about since is something Gary said, he mentioned that he was nervous because he would be assumed to be an 'expert' about Action Research by being paid £500 to talk about it. I would have naturally assumed the same, he obviously has more experience than me in that I have only been graduated from my BA since 2006 and he was chosen to speak at a symposium when I never have. Somehow I feel that this qualifies him to have more time dedicated to talking about his opinions.

Similarly I went down to Cell Projects in London this weekend to see Lisa Le Feuvre in conversation with Ian Brown, Johanna Hallsten and Marcus Coates about their current exhibition 'Trying to cope with things that aren't human (part one)'. There was a moment that triggered a similar thought when Marcus Coates declared he believed himself to be a stoat as he made his new video piece, Lisa Le Fauvre said she simply didn't believe that he believed himself to be a stoat. Coates immediatly responded with'Well I did' and later on, over a pint in the pub, Coates said that he had quite liked the opportunity to confront what he described as, Le Fauvre's assumtion that an artist doesn't really believe anything.

All this has got me thinking about my own opinons and nerves, in both situations mentioned above I was too nervous to pipe up with my own comments or discussion points. It wasn't that I didn't have anything to say I just wasn't confident enough in my opinions to think that they would be relevant; I fear that I am to be perceived as one of Le Fauvre's non believing artists.

So the question is do I need more faith in my opinions in order to be paid £500 to speak them, or do I need to be paid £500 to speak them in order to have faith in them?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Interrogation Agent Pitt on the Fourth Plinth!

Interrogation Agent Pitt will be interrogating the fourth plinth in London at 04:00 hours on 05/10/09. It is possible to watch live online, and see what he will be doing. How exciting! He will of course be undercover - and will be wearing the agent uniform.

Friday, October 2, 2009

symposium. 02/10/09 - 12:50

agent orange: hi guys and welcome to todays final installment of interrogation walsall. the symposium today will take the form of a four part discussion of the events four pronged interrogation - action research, consultation, collaboration and intervention. kick off time is 1pm, so settle back maybe with a brew or the livation of your choice and enjoy. any questions you may have please let me know and i'll put them to the room in the q&a session at the end. remember live streaming is here -


Today is the final day of Interrogation and we have our 4 speakers and interrogation artists converging on Walsall, when the Interrogation Room will be open to the public, and the results of the program will be disseminated.

The speakers are:
Mission: Action Research - Gary Anderson from The Institute for the Art and Practice of Dissent at Home.
Mission: Consultation - Jeni Burnell from Architecture Sans Frontiers
Mission: Collaboration - Sophie Hope from B + B and
Mission: Intervention - Rich White from Counterwork.

It is going to be fantastic! If you can, then head over to the New Art Gallery Walsall today between 1 and 5 to join in the debate, and see what happens. But if you can't then you can always watch live via our online tv channel - and if you want to ask a question during the panel discussion - then you can! See you at 1 then!
Free TV : Ustream

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Interrogation Agents

Dear Agents,
Thank you so much Agent Pitt for your very kind thought, and we are very touched by the camaraderie and support suggested. There is however really no need for you to worry, as we hope to have it all in hand. Many, many thanks fot the amazingly thoughtful notion though.
We are so pleased to have worked with you all on the project.
Agent Francis

Calling all agents

Dear agents.

Yesterday, Operation Intervention went really well, without a hitch...... Well, there was one problem.
Agent Francis, who, as we all know, looked after us all throughout our respective missions, lost her HD DVD techcoms in the canal - to some expense, she is not insured by the gallery or any of the organisers.

I propose this, I would like to receive £70 pounds for the completion of my report with the remaining £30 going toward the repair or replacement of another camera. Of course I understand in the current climate us spooks are working hard to make ends meet, but I worry that agent Francis will not make anything monetary from the residency - this seems the fairest solution, please if you can donate £30 pounds, or anything you can, from your fee.


Agent Bond, James Bond (born Bloxwich 1851)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


agent orange: tour over, agents informed and replenishment about to begin.


agent orange: intervention masterclass has informed and instructed and now the agent tour is about to start.


agent orange: the masterclass on intervention is about to begin. agent francis will lead the other agents on an exploration of the subject, with local facts and subject info.


agent orange: agents have arrived and are currently undergoing registration. this involves identity stripping, and deprogramming. from now on they are agents.


agent orange: bad news. we have an agent down in the field. agent brown has met an untimely end, however, luckily agent duffy has stepped into the breach. the mission will not be affected.


agent orange: oh and we're live streaming again today, so you can follow us all day by clicking this link


agent orange: hi interrogation fans, it's the morning of the final mission...intervention. today promises to be an interesting one. we have five disparate characters ready to become agents for change. just 20 minutes to de-programming and mission briefing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Last Wednesday six artists arrived at The New Art Gallery Walsall, with instructions to meet a (heavily disguised) contact, and deliver a particular code phrase. The week's mission was to be Collaboration, and we had two pairs who had applied together to collaborate, and two separate individuals (strangers to each other) who would be put together to collaborate.

The artists arrived one by one, and were instructed individually to change into their agent uniforms, and make contact with their collaborators. First to arrive was Agent Marsden, closely followed by her collaborator Agent Taylor. The two were keen to make contact with each other, and get into their uniforms. In fact expressing that they were quite used to moustaches.
Next came Agent Holdcroft, who tried to disobey instructions and had to be put straight by Agent Orange. Then came one of the two individual collaborators - Agent Strain. Followed quickly after by her soon-to-be-partner Agent Shipley. The agents were hurriedly getting into their uniforms, while the lead interrogator waited for the final collaborator to arrive. We waited and waited, but Agent Charnley failed to appear.
Finally around 15 minutes later the tardy agent made an appearance. It later transpired that the Agent had failed to understand the instructions given, and had to be severely reprimanded by Agent Orange - it was clear that Agent Holdcroft and Agent Charnley were going to be a handful!
The agents waited in line on the chairs to have their mug shots taken. They all looked suitably nervous, and there was even a bit of apprehensive whispering going on, which was quickly cut short by Agent Francis - who sternly said 'No Talking Please!'
The agents underwent their deprogramming process, in preparation for the days mission. Then the Masterclass got underway. Agent Francis introduced the agents to the notion of collaborative practice, and offered a methodology for the days mission.Then the agents were taken on a whistle stop tour of the gallery, looking out of the windows at the square below, and taking the lift up to the roof to get an idea of the landscape and immediate environs. Pausing briefly for a group photo... Before returning to the Interrogation Room for lunch and a planning session. The Agents prepared themselves for their missions - with Agents Taylor and Marsden creating their (Inter)rogation Station, Agents Charnley and Holdcroft drafting plans and then building a paper wall.And Agents Shipley and Strain (who perhaps had the most challenging experience, having never met before) planning their strategy, and going to the local shop to arm themselves with protective clothing and a rake.The Agents were soon ready to launch themselves on an unsuspecting Walsall public.
The (Inter)rogation Station was set up on the left hand side of Gallery square. Agent Marsden and Agent Taylor had come prepared for their mission - with badges declaring I'm (inter) Walsall, and with postcards which people could fill in and send back by post. Their Interrogation mission saw them consulting the public using a textual aid - a sign which bore the word (inter) - the participant was invited to write a word under the (inter) which expressed how they felt about Walsall. The agents would then photograph the individual holding their sign. They managed to engage a large number of respondents in this manner. The surprising thing for the agents was the negativity expressed by the public. It is unclear what caused this (bad weather??) but many of the words written down were negative - for example (inter) bad memories. It was a great idea to have something to exchange with people (for their thoughts) and is certainly something that I have found in previous consultation/participation projects - the public are very happy to engage and even happier when they get to take something home with them. They collected some really interesting responses, and also generated lots of fantastic photos of the people of Walsall.
Agent Holdcroft and Agent Charnley took their paper wall out into the square and attempted to create a paper barrier across the square, which they hoped to encourage people to write on. The wind however had other ideas, and saw the agents struggling to assemble the wall.
At first it looked like it might work, as they slowly unrolled their wall. But once the wind had taken it, the wall started to rip, and so the artists had to adapt to their new situation. The wall was flapping noisily around, and seemed to deter a good number of the public from approaching.The agents decided to work with this rupture in their paper barrier, and attached the wall to the ground and clearly indicated in chalk where the break in the barrier had occurred. They then created a performance space, within the middle of the break where one of them would lie down - in a passive protest - symbolising escape and resistance to power structures. Every now and again the Agent within the circle would come out of their foetal position, jumping up and crying out 'See through the glass!' or 'Lets do something different' or simply letting out an anguished cry. The agents were fairly experimental in their approach to the performative element of the work - testing out their bodies and vocal chords in this new situation. While one of them was performing in the space, the other one was involved in an engagement activity, talking to members of the public about what it might all be about, and acting as a bridge between the public and the performance art work. This was important to them, as they felt that often work of this nature could be inaccessible, and they were interested in exploring the role of dialogues when working within the public realm.
Agent Shipley and Strain had decided to focus their activity at the back of the gallery, on the Canal.
They put on their protective clothing and went outside to dredge the canal - taking out a variety of discarded objects: bottles, teabags, condoms, cans, plastic - there were also some needles floating around in the canal.The agents first laid out their finds in lines on the ground - creating an interesting display.While one of them emptied the objects out the other one would be ordering them into lines.
Then they decided to use the objects to draw attention to Richard Wentworth's piece of public art - the stripey floor, that continues on up the canal away from the New Art Gallery Walsall.
They lined up the bottles and other objects into what reminded some of mini city scapes. The city scapes were carefully placed on each stripe, as far along the canal as can be seen from the gallery. They then selected one object from each grouping, which was then tied onto a long string, in order to create a long floating sculpture, which they returned to the canal - and floated back home to the gallery. The Agents then took their rubbish floating sculpture and removed it from the canal for good. One passerby asked, 'what's happened - has there been a murder?' responding to the Agents protective outerwear - if ignoring the moustaches.Then all of the agents returned to the interrogation room to talk about what happened, and work out how to disseminate their findings, and eat some cake.They decided as a group to have two of the collaborations working from the top of the space downwards, and then the other one to work from the bottom up and try to coincide somewhere in the middle. The resulting wall space was vibrant and interesting, representative of the days mission.