Tiny gestures in big cities, cinematic experiences without cameras
Try to remain invisible say the Subtle Mob. Find a partner, download an MP3 and be at a secret location at the right time.
Two of us under a horse chestnut tree, between the fountains and the cascading steps. There’s nothing embarrassing or dangerous says the voice on the recording. Stay in the area marked on the map.
Narrow Quay, Bordeaux Quay and Pero’s Bridge.
Stay where you are and look down at your feet. Look carefully at the ground beneath you. Right now, you’re here, and you’re not alone. Keep looking at the ground. You can’t see them all right now but around you are friends and strangers.
Now, raise your head, very slowly, and take in everything around you. This vision, this street. People in this place. To your left and to your right.
The instructions are simple and unhurried. The story interweaves with the soundtrack but it’s more of a series of fragments than a cohesive narrative. I wait for the next thing to do, not wanting to miss anything. I miss some of the fragments.
We smile hello and try to find a reflection in the water. We stroll along the Narrow Quay and I mishear so I smile at too many people. Past the Bristol Hotel and leaning against a tree. Autumnal hair and autumnal leaves on the ground. Orange light from Pero’s Bridge and we end up facing the steam cranes and the boats in the harbour. I can’t figure out how to lean as if I’m holding up a wall. Ah well. There’s dancing. Slow dancing, then faster, then spinning, then back to slow.
Two women are shuffling at the edge of the bridge and they wear mittens and woollen hats. A couple kiss and then walk away and then the soundtrack stops. 33 minutes are up.
In contrast to a flashmob, which gathers hundreds of people to create a big and obvious impact, the silentmob is an apparently small experience which leaves an individual impact.
Two MP3 files were made available, so the audience were divided in half. While one group was instructed to perform a simple scene the other group heard this described as if it were a film scene, but they could actually see it happening around them.
Throughout the piece these roles of watcher/performer alternated between the groups, ever increasing in pace until by the end they are all performing/watching simultaneously.
We walked away without instructions and chatted about it briefly. Now and then, however, I think ‘wait, I could have done that part better, I would have liked that moment a little more, enjoyed the stroll without looking at what others were doing. I would have been less self-conscious, appreciated my own partner’s smiles more than looking at other people. I hadn’t realised it would finish so quickly. That this instruction would be the last thing’.
Oh, I see.
The next one in Bristol is on December 2. Our Broken Voice premieres as part of the Inbetween Time Festival and you can sign up on the website.