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Look Again, 2019

Performance and Research Piece

‘Look Again’ is a 2019 performance piece that explores the reality of ‘suspicion’ as described within the Counter Terrorism Police video of the same name. The piece was made in response to my degree’s 'Offsite Project' brief, within which we threw a dart at a map of Brighton and made a piece in response to the place it landed, mine having landed by a police station. The project brief encouraged us to spend time in a place, observe people around it, take notes and pictures, which are actions that are standard in the research stage of an art piece, but that within the context of a police station, characterise a person as suspicious. At first this correlation didn’t alarm me, but I realised that this was because I exist outside of the stereotype of a 'suspicious' person, relying on my race and gender (white and female) to bail me out of a suspicious situation, rather than my actions. I took on the project of performing actions that we are told characterise someone as suspicious, but that in reality expose that suspicion is much more likely based on racial or gender stereotypes than actual actions. Each time I visited the site I would change my appearance and dress slightly, at first dressing how I usually do, perhaps "looking" like a traditional "art student". As the visits went on I progressively lost elements of my own personality, creating a caricature, in an attempt to harbour more attention, and yet still my actions were not remarked upon. It is also worth noting that although some of these visits were documented, the documentation process perhaps giving justification for unusual actions to onlookers, I did visit the site regularly alone. The findings were as I suspected; despite staying in the area for prolonged amounts of time, taking photos, visiting at specific times of day, sometimes night, and even leaving a bag at the side of the road (to be retrieved later) I was never approached. If someone enacting many of the signals described in the referenced video were not enough to deem me suspicious, then perhaps my projection was true; what we deem suspicious is less to do with actions and more to do with a profile people have created for a suspicious person, which is indicative of a much larger systemic issue.

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