Contingency plan

The plan started with series of exercises, questioning ways we defer risk and contrive comfort.

'Contingency plan', Kathryn Gray, 2009.

‘Contingency plan’, Kathryn Gray, 2009.

The outcomes remain uncertain. Significant are the ongoing processes of risk assessment and mitigation, gathering evidence and asserting what’s really real. These are pragmatic and useful measures, even as they involve conjecture and pretence.

Four experts were consulted, in business continuity planning, life risk assessment, private investigation, and magic. Three performers have taken up the scripts and invented new characters to inhabit the words. This has added new logistics and possibilities to the overall plan. The authentic, performative and illusionary nature blurs between interviews and performances, as each character poses variations upon the problem of ‘what if?’

Like in documentaries, working with real people before a camera lends reality to the work. The interviews are genuine, their narration and diction their own, and as professionals their words are authoritative. They tell us how to manage disaster, protect assets, solve crimes and influence people. In their working environment, they are assured and charismatic in representing themselves. They speak largely in first and second person, persuasively, so that you are implicated in their message. However their voices are absent, in subtitled silence. With close inspection, they slip in and out of synch with the subtitles and their idiosyncratic words are refracted through the other performances.

Like in fiction, working with performers before a camera suspends disbelief. Their performative readings of scripts were loose: allowed only two takes and no rehearsal, they invented conflated characters and narratives while reading. Often just as convincing as the real professionals, their performances oscillates between sincerity and hyperbole, vacuity and play. Sometimes they appear on-camera reading or with the script in hand, stumbling lines or out of character. It is like a rehearsal space or a holding pattern, looping lines of dialogue, sets and props, between performances and interviews. We are inclined to believe the performers as they read and figure things out.

'Contingency plan', Kathryn Gray, 2009, installation detail as part of 'Imprint' exhibition at Artspace, Sydney, curated by Anneke Jaspers.

‘Contingency plan’, Kathryn Gray, 2009, installation detail as part of ‘Imprint’ exhibition at Artspace, Sydney, curated by Anneke Jaspers.

With consultation, narrative and performative processes I aim to suspend for scrutiny some of the logistics and vulnerabilities we all employ. These characters and scenarios, real and performed, are each effective in singularity, but together they are tenuous and uneasy in affect. Moreover, the reflective mirrors, surfaces and subjects generate endless feedback and misdirection. With surfeit of detail, absence and inconsistencies, I am playing with the fabrication of facts, aesthetics and expectations.

The audience are invited into each disparate and conflated narrative to triangulate the plan. Being safe requires rigorous logic and implausibility, and we all play parts with the artifice and affects.

For their generous involvement within the project, many thanks to Rinske Geerlings – Business as Usual, Susan Laing – The Risk StoreAdam Mada, Warren Mallard – Lyonswood Investigations & Forensic Group. For their ingenious performances and engagement with the Contingency plan, many thanks to Andrew Johnston, Teik-Kim Pok and Fiana Stewart.