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‘Oles in the Ark

August 7, 2009


These pictures are from a guest recent performance at Toronto’s Headbones Gallery, as part of the ongoing Ark Experiment that’s going on there. This project – to be brief – is a preliminary to a film that Sepp R Brudermann will make next summer, using the world’s largest privately constructed nuclear shelter as its location. In the early 1980s, the trained Radiological Scientific Officer Bruce Beach thought to construct a fully-equipped shelter in a village north of Toronto, using forty-two connected school buses buried under three metres of concrete. The idea (with Bruce’s full blessing) is to take a hundred volunteers into the shelter for two weeks, and film a “pre-enactment” of the end of the world.


In the meantime, the Headbones Gallery is putting on a series of performances, talks, and meetings “about” the end of the world, which is where my own little concert came in. The tone of the project, thankfully, is not outright apocalyptic and doom-mongering, but thoughtful and in its own peculiar way optomistic, bringing together a whole load of topics such as ecological responsibility and regrowth, survival through community (rather than survival of the fittest), universal language. The leading idea is the ark, not the end.

Now, I had to think a bit about what exactly I (glib non-singer of daft puppetsongs) had to add to all of this. If we’re talking Old Testament archetypes, my own songs have leaned more towards Jonah than Noah (Jonah’s attempts at shelter are repeatedly frustrated). If Noah staggers through any of my music, he’s probably more similar to the figure of fun imagined by Stanley Holloway in the video below – or perhaps the post-Ark, scandalous / scandalized drunken old man whose nakedness is seen by his youngest son. I do not know whether Idle Tigers make it onto the ark.

In any case, I’m grateful to Sepp and Ana for having me as a guest. The photographs alone will show you that there was a really pleasant sparsity to the performance as production: fewer excess wires instruments (I feel less obliged to pretend to be a musician when performing in a gallery space), no semi-dismantled drum kit squatting ugly and unused behind me. An uncluttered ark is a good start.

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