Another One and Other Blog 22 August 2009

I’ve copied the text below.
‘The plinth has changed my life’
00:10 GMT, Sunday, 23 August 2009

The Edinburgh Festival has taken over my life. Completely. I have had a show running since the start of the festival (‘Funny’) and on Monday there will be the first performance of ‘Tank Man’ that was written on the plinth during ‘One and Other’.

‘Tank Man’ is a short piece, it’s ended up at around 12 minutes, performed by a single female actor. From the script written on the plinth I’ve developed it in rehearsal with Gillian Lees, a talented and intelligent performer who I’ve worked with before on a number of projects. Gillian is great! Tank Man is derived from our knowledge of the man who stopped the tanks near Tiananmen Square during the Beijing protests of 1989.

I am very pleased with Tank Man. It has an intensity that reflects the intense experience of writing on the plinth. When I look at my notebook I am still surprised by how much I managed to write in that hour. I wasn’t even writing for the full hour as I signed off at the point when I knew I had a beginning, a middle and an end – and spent the remainder of my time happily toasting the health of members of the crowd with a fine single malt whisky.

Tank Man isn’t particularly political or intended as a campaigning statement. It is me playing around with ideas of what makes a hero and how that is remembered. The real Tank Man was someone who apparently acted without forethought or plans. He appeared to be on his way home from the shops. He wasn’t armed and there was no indication that he had even been in the protests that had occurred in Tiananmen Square during the weeks before. From his demeanour and dress it is very unlikely he had been in the protests the day before that had ended in bloodshed. Most commentators think it is unlikely he was a student; more likely is that he was a menial office worker or something similar. All he carried was a light jacket and a plastic carrier bag, that appeared to contain some groceries. From his actions that lasted no more than a few minutes he became one of the heroes of the twentieth century.

I don’t want to describe too much of what happens in the performance as I think people should draw their own conclusions from seeing it themselves. It will be filmed next week and I hope I can get a video that represents it well enough for it to be put on YouTube.

I know very well that Tank Man would have been a very different piece if it had been written elsewhere, certainly different from something I would have written at my desk. I’m not even sure that Tank Man would have been written at all if it had not been for the opportunity I had on the plinth. That experience was not just the act of being on that stage for a short while, it was an engagement with ideas of celebrity, performance, public endorsement, public art and the purpose of monuments. All of those things contributed to how I wrote about the Tank Man.

There is no statue to the real Tank Man like the ones for military and political leaders in Trafalgar Square. There are, however, many monuments to him using the famous pictures and videos of him standing in front of the long column of tanks

So the plinth has had an impact on my life, and my work. The project is clearly having an impact on many other lives as well, and not just the plinthers themselves. I’ve said it before, and I shall say it again – I hope a way is found to document the impact ‘One and Other’ is having on those experiencing it.

If you are at the Edinburgh Festival details of the free performances of Tank Man on 24, 25 and 26 August can be found here:  Tank Man Dates

P.S. I’ve been away for a while and come back to discover there are polls running on the One and Other site and by SkyArts on Twitter for ‘favourite’ plinthers. I think that is totally rubbish and contrary to the expectation of participants not to be judged. Please stop it.