Salisbury International Arts Festival, Salisbury Cathedral
27 – 31 May, 2010
Upon arriving at Salisbury Cathedral on the morning of the get-in we promptly got to work unloading two tonnes of rice, discussing logistics and the placement of the first pile. Focussed on the task in hand the enormity and grandeur of the setting had barely been noticed. It wasn’t until the last rice sack was placed ready to be made into the UK Population that eyes began to wonder and heads began to tilt back and back. It was an incredible sight/site to be in and as the days passed it would inevitably inform our thinking about the piece.
The first day was the most stressful. We were overwhelmed with the amount of visitors and being watched whist doing our get in, and with such bewilderment was a new experience. Looked at objectively without costume, labels or literature, we were just a bunch of people pouring rice into piles in a Cathedral. We soon became skilled in working around so many people but it was a slow start with only a few piles laid out by the end of the first day.
The largest pile was placed in the centre of the Cathedral, as you entered through the western doors you were greeted with a tremendous view of the UK’s population, perfectly lit by light streaming through the stained glass windows. The rice was dwarfed by the sheer size of the Cathedral but its simplicity was remarkable.
An interesting dynamic and alteration to the piece was the soundtrack the Cathedral unintentionally offered, in the form of music, bells and prayer. The latter was conducted over microphone and politely everyone was asked to remain still and silent as this was delivered. Looking out at the sea of people carefully positioned by ‘Child soldiers’, ‘Refugees’, and ‘People killed in fighting in Kingston, Jamaica’ felt poignant.
The Cathedral and therefore OATP found itself host to a diverse mix of people from all over the world, each looking for themselves in the piles. A new arrangement of ‘People Per Square Kilometre’ came in very useful engaging this cosmopolitan audience. A fascinating side to this presentation were all the people who encountered it just because they were visiting the Cathedral; their responses were earnest and open.
The tour guides and our volunteers were eager to learn about the piece and expertly answered questions about the Rice, our directions to the Magna Carta also improved rapidly.
Over time we learnt how best to use our allocated space, which, ironically considering the vast size of the cathedral, was quite limited, especially once we took into account access points. Small piles didn’t work in the centre of the transept as visitors are so busy marvelling at the ceiling they don’t see where their feet are going. Small piles didn’t work by the exit door as they got blow around by gusts of wind. We stuck to choosing large piles and building around them, which worked well until the final day when ‘X Factor Viewers’ were stepped on and in recoil ‘Millionaire in the World’ got a kicking.
As we settled in we felt able to be more playful with the placement of our statistics. Execution statistics were carefully placed behind a railing, a flat tomb provided a good platform for more statistics and ‘The Population of Surprise’ hid behind a pillar.
The early shift – with that amazing space almost to yourself.
The middle shifts – with huge audiences.
The show used as a focus for a sermon.
Arriving to find an audience member dressed in her own version of the costume and stood behind the table, ready to work.
Performers:Chris Dugrenier, Charlotte Gregory, Amanda Hadingue,
Bharti Patel, Kerrie Reading
With thanks to: Peter Fletcher
Producer: Charlotte Martin
Concept: James Yarker
General Manager:Charlotte Martin
Advisory Producer: Nick Sweeting
A wonderful illustration of relativities and inequalities.Audience Member
A stunning idea that works so well in this special place.Jan
What a wonderful visual aid in a time of computers and iPods. So simple yet so informative.Audience Member
Next time: use potatoes.Audience Member
An extraordinary concept – the reality communicated is the more powerful because of the visual impact and the simplicity of the material used. Understatement is here shown to be, paradoxically, overwhelmingly powerfulIgor