One day we will all be free | Tim Etchells (Forced Entertainment)

Because in this space of theatre, of performance, there is something valuable in the sitting together and not speaking, in the shared agreement that there will be silence (more or less), a silence authored, owned, maintained and made manifest by all the persons present, as well as in the shared commitment that there will be (more or less) attention focused in a certain direction.

Because in this space of theatre, of performance – fragile as it is, contested and subject to challenge as it must be – a complex series of simultaneous triangulations are possible. Triangulation between those performing and those present as spectators. Triangulation between those on stage as performers. Triangulation between those present as spectators. And a further however improbable triangulation between all those present, in the space of the performance and all those who are not present – those outside, absent, those not gathered, those who have no attention to spare, or no desire (need) to attend.

Because these triangulations – live processes of social echolocation and relational exploration which the performance itself demands – are a vital means to test who we are, who we might be or could be, and who we are not.

Because these processes of measuring (understanding, feeling, being sensitised to) proximity and distance, ‘sameness’ and difference are – so far as I am concerned – the deep foundations upon which ethics, politics and questions of relation are built. Who is present?

And because theatre and performance – old as these spaces are, bound in problematic structures of expectation and power as they are and are tangled with economics as they always will be under capitalism – are nonetheless the space in which we can perform the haptic thought experiment, the knife-edge negotiation of our individual and shared identities, our troubled collective. Because here (there) as watchers and as watched we are all, always breathers of the same air, mutual authors of each silence in each pause, subjects reflecting on our proximity, distance, difference and sameness and on the possibilities and responsibilities of relation in the wider sphere of the world.

London, June 2020.

Tim Etchells is an artist and a writer based in the UK. He is the artistic leader of the world-renowned performance group Forced Entertainment. His practice shifts from performance to visual art and concerns itself with questions of contemporary identity, our relation to fiction and the media, as well as with the limits of representation, especially in respect of language.