On Sunday 17th Headless was represented at the Map Marathon event organised by the Serpentine Gallery and hosted at the Royal Geographical Society. The Headless contribution consisted of an interview between myself and the event’s co-curator, Hans Ulrich Obrist, towards the end of a long two-days of performances, mini-lectures, interviews and other material, all squeezed into 20 minute slots. Exhausting though it was – particularly for the Serpentine staff who had the unenviable task of getting the ‘leading names’ onto the stage on time, and then getting them to shut up again shortly afterwards – it covered a huge variety of material, some of it fascinating.
The highlights for me (though I did not see everything) were an extraordinarily beautiful performance piece by Luigi Ontani, a reading from Russell Hoban’s The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz, Amar Kanwar’s film A Season Outside, a delightfully mad attempt to sell-off the Middle-East wholesale by Oraib Toukan and, of course, Headless itself. Obrist seemed particularly interested both in my personal relationship with the project and in the theme of Prester John/John Mandeville which leads me to suspect that goldin+senneby had primed him first. Whether they did or not, it all put me nicely on the spot and there’s nothing like a drop of adrenaline to make an interview go well. At least I hope so, because I can never tell.
Notable for their absence from the whole thing were the geographers. Despite being in the RGS, the only ‘geographers’ on the line-up were myself and Peter Barber (chief map librarian at the British Library). And as we pointed out to each other, neither of us are really proper geographers anyway (both, coincidentally being in part products of International Relations at Sussex). I’m not sure if there were any geographers in the audience either, but if not then the discipline seems to have missed a trick. This was, after all, a very high-profile international event on home turf both institutionally (RGS) and conceptually (maps) and ‘we’ seem to have managed to ignore it. It certainly seems not to have been advertised by the RGS itself, which seems very strange.
Here’s the video of my contribution….