It’s difficult to make art which responds to politics in any climate, but to make art during the Paris Climate Conference, in the midst of a heightened security state, just weeks after the November 13 terrorist attacks in the city, is a whole other challenge.
Daily Review’s Ben Neutze speaks to Director Generals of Doppelgangster, Dr Tom Payne (Bath Spa University, the Silver Rocket Club) and Tobias Manderson-Galvin (artistic director of Melbourne’s MKA: Theatre of New Writing) about Doppelgangster (DEAD), one of the company’s works at the UN Climate Talks.
Firstly, what exactly is Doppelgangster?
TP: It’s a performance company based in the UK and Australia. Set up by Tobie and myself. Some people think that our work is controversial. We don’t do anything illegal. Most of the time. The rest of the time we figure that the law is flexible enough to accommodate Tobie … For example, when he is in the UK Tobie is an immigrant. And that’s controversial right now.
TMG: Doppelgangster is a corporate propaganda exercise, a freelance industrial espionage agency, and so far also a song about the validity of inflatable yellow water wings as a floatation device.
How did it come into being?
TP: The ways these things often do …
TMG: Our very productive inaugural annual general meeting was held in the Girl Guide Headquarters of Wales, UK; a beautiful old sandstone mansion in the lush, green hills, overlooking the Severn River. We found a Rudyard Kipling book in the library that had a swastika printed in it; and the rest as they say –
TP: Is available in the online shop.
Can you tell us how Doppelgangster (DEAD) works?
TMG: It takes place in Paris. We’re here for the UN Climate Talks, COP21. Doppelgangster (DEAD) is part interview, part disruption, part argument-
TP: Part falling in love.
TMG: We’ll be sharing the series online; we’re throwing together a map so punters can follow the action from afar, and know things like ‘oh, that’s where they got kicked out of the Climate Awards’, or ‘that’s the bar where the interview with denialists happened’ –
TP: Or, ‘that’s where Tobie’s Tinder date who we cast in our next show came from.’
What are you hoping to uncover?
TMG: I really thought there’d be more people dressed as polar bears.
TP: We’re looking to talk to polar bears.
TMG: We thought everyone would have one so we left the Doppelgangster polar bear in Melbourne.
TP: You mean polar bear costume.
TMG: Like a bowtie? Or a hat? Do polar bears wear hats?
Is there anything in particular you want to capture on film or audio – or somebody you really want to talk to?
TP: The initial plan was to gate-crash events with Tobie in red speedos. And me in red speedos.
TMG: Lots of us in red speedos.
TP: But since you lost your more immediately amusing prime minister we’ve had to reassess our plan of disguise to sneak into official COP21 events.
TMG: So far we’ve interviewed a fluvial geomorphologist, some kid from a squat –
TP: And renowned anthropologist ‘Tobie’s Mum’.
I imagine doing a work like this is a logistical challenge at the best of times, but have you had to change your plans because of the heightened security situation in Paris?
TP: Things in Paris are difficult right now. It’s a state of emergency, and that’s a pretty serious thing. Police are there to enforce the law, soldiers are on the streets with automatic weapons. I don’t know if people are different right now, but there is a sense in which things are a little subdued.
TMG: We’ve re-located a lot of our performance work, for example our live work Doppelgangster’s TITANIC, which was scheduled to take place in a shipping container which we planned to locate in different outdoor locations around Paris.
TP: And Oxygen Support …
TMG: Yes, Oxygen Support, which didn’t feel appropriate after the recent attacks. Also I hadn’t thought about the fact that facial coverings are banned in France anyway.
TP: The show is supposed to take place in gasmasks; dressed all in black – well people can book us to come to their house.
TMG: We’ll stop by the protesters who are currently under house arrest.
TP: And failing that we can go to Disneyland.
TMG: Can we?! Are you spending arts council funding on that?
TP: It’s the only place that facial covering rule seems not to matter.
Does your other work Titanic deal with similar issues then?
TP: Doppelgangster’s TITANIC is an attempt to respond to the current migrant and ecological crisis. We see a lot in mainstream media, and on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, that is difficult to process. Doppelgangster’s TITANIC tries to deal with that. The text is a mash-up of found texts, including James Cameron’s screenplay, interviews, fragments from historical and contemporary news reporting. Conflicting narratives are given voice. We hope that something interesting emerges out of that.
TMG: Doppelgangster’s TITANIC is about a very real tragedy that occured: James Cameron’s 1996 Oscar winning film. We’ve spoken to real people who survived the film. Some survived it as many as five or six times and had crushes on Leonardo DiCaprio for years and years afterwards.
I suppose people can already see what metaphorical resonances might be lurking in the story of the famously “unsinkable” ship?
TP: Yes, I guess it’s a not so subtle exercise. But then, the show has allowed us to say things, to give voice to ideas that it doesn’t feel appropriate to address directly. The show is a tragedy, it’s also a farce. It’s also an entertaining rock gig.
TMG: Black metal jazzcore. You’re right though Ben, it’s definitely about Clive Palmer’s continued mission to build Titanic 2.
TP: We’re writing a play that’s going on for Vault Festival in London in January.
TMG: It’s an actor dressed as a polar bear.
TP: It’s something we feel that we need to do right now. We need to see more polar bears.
Photo by Warren Orchard