This project returns to Ivan Illich’s 1967 manifesto Celebration of Awareness, originally written after the 1967 March on the Pentagon. It reconfigures this text as a site specific response for a guerilla re-enactment on the roof top of the Welbeck Street NCP Car Park, a short distance from London’s Oxford Street.
Upon arriving on the ninth floor of the car park, participants are greeted by one of the artists, invited to take a protest banner and proceed on to the roof. There, from an ACCIDENTAL PULPIT made from the car parks own architecture, a series of readers pronounce the following text from Celebration of Awareness. Audience members are invited to enter the pulpit and read themselves, fitting – seeing how the words do or not fit their own bodies and voices:
We call you to join man’s race to maturity, to work with us in inventing the future. We believe that a human adventure is just beginning: that mankind has so far been restricted in developing its innovative and creative powers because it was overwhelmed by toil. Now we are free to be as human as we will.
The celebration of man’s humanity through joining together in the healing expression of one’s relationship with others, and one’s growing acceptance of one’s own nature and needs, will clearly create major confrontations with existing values and systems. The expanding dignity of each man and each human relationship must necessarily challenge existing systems.
The call is to live the future. Let us join together joyfully to celebrate our awareness that we can make our life today the shape of tomorrow’s future.
WHY THE WELBECK STREET NCP CAR PARK
This event comes from a perceived connection between the NCP Welbeck Car Park and a series of radical educational paperbacks, published by Penguin in the series Penguin Education Specials in the 1970’s. These included: Paulo Freire Pedagogy of the Opprressed ; Paul Goodman Compulsory Miseducation; Ivan Illich De-Schooling Society; Everett Reimer School is Dead.
The striking graphic design of these paperbacks is reflected in the modernist brutalism of the car park itself. As the paperbacks themselves feel dated, the car park has been almost empty since the introduction of London’s congestion charge scheme. If this reading seeks to re-activate such educational ideas, the car park awaits its new function.
To read the paragraphs aloud here is, we propose, to experience a vertigo of time between future, past and present akin to looking straight down from the top floor. Some readers may be immune to the emotive temporal flux of these texts, as others will look over the rooftop edge without any feelings of vertigo.
ACCIDENTAL PULPIT – (1)a feature of architectural space that provides unintentional opportunities for public speaking and public address. (2) Physical or mental space resulting in the spatial configuring of speech acts.
LOCATING INCOMPREHENSIBILITIES – a way of reading that focusses on what becomes incomprehensible in a text through distances of geography, time, or situation. A distinction is drawn between surface practices – texts in unknown languages, for example – and more deeper engagements with the nature of incomprehensibility – texts easily read, spoken and comprehended but certain of whose effects and intentions have become illegible.
SOME NOTES ON READING ILLICH ALOUD IN 2009
FOR READERS: Consider the phenomenology of THE ACCIDENTAL PULPIT. How do you respond to the distinct experience of the space, and how does it inform your encounter with the text now in your hand? Think of (a) the political speech; (b) a speech at a wedding; (c) an intimate conversation in a noisy bar; (d) private reading; (e) traditional Swiss yodelling. Draw and ignore from each of these in your reading as appropriate.
Many of the artists, when first reading this text from the pulpit, laughed – in response, perhaps, to the strangeness of the situation. If as readers we concentrate intently on the words do we laugh more or less? THE ACCIDENTAL PULPIT will tell you.
FOR AUDIENCE: Stand at a distance as at a conventional rally or public lecture. The acoustics are terrible, particularly if it’s windy. You will probably hear only one or two of the speakers. Move closer, onto the top of the ramp, looking up, to hear the content of the speaker’s words. Experience a false intimacy: a conversational closeness, but towards an other distanced by position, location and script. Whilst hearing and/or not hearing the words reflect on their mixture of opacity and transparency. Stand at the back and enjoy a purely inaudible, visual spectacle. Disregard these instructions.
WHEN DOES THE PERFORMANCE END?
When everyone who wishes to has read the text aloud from the pulpit, postcards are distributed containing directions to a local pub, for further discussion. The performance at the Welbeck Street car park will take place without permission of NCP Car Parks. Cards instruct audience members to leave by different routes, to avoid large groups of people being recorded on CCTV cameras, and possibly prompting a response by security officials.
CODA: THE FUTURE IS NOT ONLY 2009
This project is a preface for larger scale projects, by ourselves and others, exploring the relevance of Call for Celebration, and, more broadly, the ideas of Illich, Freire, Reimer, Goodman and others. Future projects could move from readings into discussions and other events, or expand the number and style of readings. Like Illich’s own ideas, they could explore the applicability of these ideas to a number of different issues and areas of society.
The possible range of these ideas can be mapped on to the NCP Wellbeck Street Car Park. Separate floors of the car park are dedicated to particular areas of investigation as follows:
FLOOR AREA OF STUDY
1a A CALL TO CELEBRATION
1b WHY WE MUST DISESTABLISH SCHOOL
2a VIOLENCE: A MIRROR FOR THE AMERICANS
2b NOT FOREIGNERS, YET FOREIGN
3a PHENOMENOLOGY OF SCHOOL
3b THE ELOQUENCE OF SILENCE
4a THE VANISHING CLERGYMAN
4b RITUALIZATION OF PROGRESS
5a THE POWERLESS CHURCH
5b THE FUTILITY OF SCHOOLING
6a INSTITUTIONAL SPECTRUM
6b SCHOOL: THE SACRED COW
7a IRRATIONAL CONSISTENCES
7b LEARNING WEBS
8a RE-BIRTH OF EPIMETHEAN MAN
8b SEUXAL POWER AND POLITICAL POTENCY
9a PLANNED POVERTY
9b A CONSTITUTION FOR CULTURAL REVOLUTION
This piece was first written as part of a performance/event at the NCP Welbeck Street Car Park devised by David Berridge, Hyun Jin Cho, David Johnson, and Pippa Koszerek. Celebration of Awareness was the final performance in an event that led visitors through the car park, encountering performances, curated by Birdseye Prouductions.
Celebration of Awareness is presented here as a script for events that may or not involve any of the original artists, explicitly mention Ivan Illich, take part in or otherwise reference any NCP car park.