Interview: Kelli Mccluskey talks Deviator

Posted by Fiona de Garis, March 22nd, 2013

We have a soft spot for pvi collective. From 2008-12 they were part of the Performing Lines WA family as one of our core artists. They introduced us to the power of public intervention, the power of taking risks and most importantly, the power of fcuking things up once in a while. In their latest work Deviator, pvi invite audience members to take over the city and transform it into a playground. Adapted on-site with a team of local artists called the “motherfcukers”, deviator activates philosophies around revolution, positioning ‘games’ as a potential trigger to alter the official narratives of place. I had a chat with Kelli Mccluskey of pvi collective to find out how the fcuk Deviator works.

Words: Sarah Rowbottam (SR) and Kelli Mccluskey  (KM)

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SR. Let’s start from the beginning. What prompted you to make Deviator?
KM. deviator really came from a desire to shift our participatory practice into a terrain where we [pvi] were no longer the interventionists, bringing our audience members along with us for the ride, but to rather hand over that mantle of responsibility to the audience, so they have agency and autonomy within a work. as such they would become the interventionists and we would facilitate and support their experience.

SR. Who are the motherfcukers?
KM. the motherfcukers are an elite team of sly mischief makers who are out on the streets deviating in solidarity with audience members. they play the deviator games, monitor the deviators and have the capacity to award and deduct points to any player they see deviating. they also give the audience members the feeling that the city is truly occupied and hopefully embolden them to play each game with courage and conviction.

SR. What’s your process for coming up with Deviator games?
KM. each deviator game is drawn from a classic children’s game but has been twisted slightly to have either a social, political or spacial agenda which challenges the traditional narratives of public spaces. so for example a game like ‘spin the bottle’ will see a player spin a bottle in a retail area of the city, then go on to undertake a public exorcism of whatever building the bottle faces, aiming to get the ‘sweat’ out of these shops. ring-a-ring-a-roses asks you to undertake some seed bombing in an attempt to bring some nature back into the concrete jungle of the cityscape. some games are highly physical, others like quiet time ask you to lay down in public and just reflect quietly on this environment, something which we never think to do during a busy working day.

SR. What has been a satisfying moment during Deviator thus far?
KM. seeing sweaty, exhilarated people head back into the venue, looking at their scores on the leader board and going to the front desk to book in again to beat their friends!

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SR. How have passers-by responded to the work?
KM. mostly it is with curiosity and good humour, perhaps taking the odd photo of players guerrilla pole dancing in the cultural centre or hopping across traffic light intersections in a sack. others scan the qr codes to find out whats going on. if general public scan the codes it takes them to the pvi website with info about the work. some even join in! I love this additional layer of ‘audience’ as our audience members become the performers for general public.

SR. Northbridge can be quite a chaotic and unpredictable thoroughfare (especially on a Friday or Saturday night); what strategies and tools do motherfcukers have for dealing with challenging situations?
KM. yep, this is a very important strategy to cover and it feels very much like planning a military operation, as we need to know where everyone is at all times and make sure they are armed with tools for dealing with difficult people or uncomfortable situations. there is a buddy system so each motherfcuker has a team mate who they check on and message within the work, making sure they are safe and happy. deviator cards have been made to hand out to curious people who want more information. our producer is roaming the streets with a killer smile and a clip board full of permits to deal with any security / police issues. and back at hq we are able to send text messages to players and audience members within the game advising them on any situations that may be arising to be wary of. it’s a very live, fluid performance and we are finding the motherfcukers best weapon of choice is a smile, it sounds simple but its empowering, releases endorphins and can be quite disarming!

SR. What drives you to make site-specific, immersive and interactive experiences in the public sphere?
KM. with much of our work, we situate ourselves and our audiences in public space and for us this very notion of ‘public’, traditionally meaning something that ‘belongs to the people’ is something that is becoming increasingly controlled and replaced with beaurocratic systems, rules and regulations that most people know nothing about. its only when you challenge this that you find a startling minefield of official do’s and don’ts that are deeply restrictive and for us at least sit in direct opposition with the spirit of freedom of movement, behaviour and speech that we are entitled to as individuals. the politics of public space for us is a loaded topic and the more we dig, the uglier it seems to get. but having said that a work like deviator really uses the notion of play, something which is inherent in all of us, as a vehicle to explore and confront this issue in a playful, joyful, hopefully liberating way.

SR. On the topic of permits, restrictions and making performance experiences in the public sphere – how does Perth compare to other cities you have worked in?
KM. well it certainly sits on the more conservative side lets put it that way! I think that official governing bodies have a long way to go in understanding the full potential of popular lingo that is thrown around such as ‘space activation’. from our perspective their needs to be more trust, more generosity and less fear.

SR. If you could let loose in a city without permits or restrictions, what would you do?
KM. dance a dance to the idea of revolution

SR. And lastly, why should the people of Perth deviate from the norm?
because its fun

because you can

because life is short

because without deviation from the norm, progress can never happen.

deviator promo from pvi collective on Vimeo.

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Deviator
19 – 24 March 2013

PICA & The streets of Northbridge
TICKETS: http://www.pica.org.au/tickets/DEV

deviator is inspired by the situationist’s psycho-geography and ‘the coming insurrection’ an anonymous book written in 2007 which is part anti-materialist manifesto and part manual for a modern day revolution. deviator activates philosophies around revolution, positioning ‘games’ as a potential trigger to alter the official narratives of place.

watch the how to play deviator movie here: https://vimeo.com/43014252