views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

David James: Egg UKIP
Foreman's Yard
2nd August 2014


David James as a UKIP politician

We do get a lot of strange requests, but being invited to watch someone have eggs pelted at them didn't really fit into the team's existing ideas about art. "Performance art? Isn't that just... really bad immersive theatre?" asked one of our reviewers, pulling a puzzled face at a debrief. Well, as the editor of Views from the Gods, I get the dubious honour of reviewing anything the rest of the team deems too weird or out there.

According to artist David James, "performance art doesn't have to be entertaining", it merely has to get people thinking. As he set up for his slot at Foreman's Yard as part of Hackney WickED festival, a group of children gathered to watch the odd man and the rows of eggs he was lining up along the stage. "Who do we get to throw them at?" asked one hopefully and was rewarded by James saying, "Me". Sometimes, what you wish for, little children, does in fact come true.

James changed from a typical Hackney hipster into a suited and booted politician on stage, complete with slicked back hair, ignoring the confused heckles of another of the kids ("is it a strip show?") who was also waiting for his moment to lob some eggs at the performer. The rest of the crowd also stared, waiting, wondering where the eggs came into the show. Then finally, James stood on his soapbox, carefully unfolded a piece of paper and began reading out some of UKIP's more controversial policies.

A sense of understanding dawned over the crowd and the eggs came fast and furious from all angles. James continued to try to read the vitriolic manifesto, but the eggs were relentless, knocking off his glasses and finally, pushing him off the platform until he became a crumpled mess lying on the floor, his arms wide open in defeat. UKIP: 0, Angry Mob: 1.

David James as a UKIP politician

I remain unconvinced that the children really understood the purpose of James' piece and instead took away from the afternoon that it's okay to throw food at adults (I am locking the doors this Halloween and turning off the lights). However, there was at least a clear purpose behind the performance and once the adults stop laughing, perhaps they'll reflect on its meaning, which is essentially a political call to arms. There may be increasingly regular protests and strikes in London, but at the last set of local elections in the UK, we had a sub 40% turn out, proving that somewhat ironically, there's nothing more infectious than apathy.

We're more a nation of grumblers and less a nation of doers, and as James rightly points out, the only way to influence what politicians are saying is to react, not sit around eating tea and crumpets and moaning about the weather. No, the action has to be at the ballot box - at least, that's the message I've chosen to take from this; throwing eggs at people I don't especially care for probably won't go down well outside the realm of art and inside the realm of assault and battery, public order, criminal damage and littering. Probably.

Doesn't have to entertain? Well, on this occasion it did. I've also finally responded to the letter from the Electoral Registration Officer to update my voting details for the next election. I suspect James doesn't really care what we think about his art, as long as he gets us thinking more about politics. He may have egg on his face, but I think he'll take that as a victory.

David James: Egg UKIP as performed on 2rd August as part of Hackney WickED, which opened on 1st August and runs until 3rd August 2014.

Nearest tube station: Hackney Wick (Overground)

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