Gillian Wearing, ‘Dancing in Peckham‘ (1994)
Gillian Wearing’s work, ‘Dancing in Peckham’ is a 25 minute video, in which she stages an intervention in a Peckham shopping centre. Wearing dances, exuberantly, to an imagined playlist, which cannot be heard by the passers by or the audience, and thus disrupts the otherwise ‘civilised’ atmosphere of the shopping centre, an obstruction by the absurd. As Wearing dances, the other inhabitants of the space rarely acknowledge her actions, simply walking past, with the occasional spectators turning their heads to gawp at the wild movements Wearing creates. There is a sense of bewilderment from the passers-by, as their routine of unobstructed consumption is altered, and their sense of self within the space is suddenly brought clearly into view by the actions of another.
Wearing’s work deals with themes of private moments within the public sphere, and I am very interested in how this relates to the space of the shopping centre. The shopping centre creates an unobstructed journey to consume. The design of the space is made with the intention of creating the easiest way for the shopper to consume and entertain in the process of this consumption. Purchases are facilitated by the space, and the space is meant to facilitate these purchases in a way that is subtle to the shopper, as they robotically complete the actions of the last shopper in their behaviour within the space. The shopping centre becomes a place of docile shoppers, filled with easy jazz/pop music and clearly defined walkways. Wearing’s intervention makes the passersby notice there own body and movements within the space, as they are drawn to the bodily exuberance of Wearing’s actions. This distraction from the automatic to the flesh, is one I’m very interested in, particularly in the arena of the shopping centre, One is made ‘real’ by Wearing’s obstruction, as they notice themselves within the space.
In my future work, I would like to look into how subversive actions within a space premeditated for consumption affect the view of the space for other inhabitants.