THE THING — an automatic workshop in everyday disruption (with Ant Hampton)

THE THING, an automated and hybrid form between performance, workshop and mental hike. Over 4 episodes, each about 4 hours long, THE THING takes its participants on an exploration of the overlap between things which matter to the world, and a thing each of us could set into motion at any moment.

Doing THE THING is about creating the best possible conditions to take a leap of both faith and imagination, daring to enact another possible version of oneself. To decisively step out of one’s comfort zone by, as David Graeber coins it, “insisting on acting as if one is already free.”

In THE THING, no charismatic leader stands in your way. The only ones present are you: a group of 8–12 people who open a suitcase and follow a wild mix of different triggers as a guide.

Everyone knows there are inherent rules and limitations to what is possible or acceptable, either on a personal or social level. But what happens when you’re confronted by the sense that some of those rules need to be bent, or broken?

The THING frames the impulse that comes from that mistrust of ones established norms; from having ‘had enough’ of not taking up the challenge of trespassing those limits.

We are living in times when the problems we face seem to multiply daily. Human inequality and environmental damage, for example, have reached proportions both obscene and critical. Why don’t we do something? There is a sense of being stuck, blocked.

We like to think that art can at the very least unblock, and of this workshop especially as a kind of de-blocking agent, principally by working towards a practice, accessible to anyone and drawing from a variety of disciplines, of creating moments of exception; something like a conscious insertion of a parenthesis into daily life  within which one’s normal behaviour is to be suspended, and deviation finds legitimacy.

The THING focuses on those aspects to our lives which in some way relate to other people, so that any action which constitutes taking a risk, or going beyond the limits of one’s usual behaviour, will have a reciprocal consequence for at least one other person. While it’s certainly about contemplating and taking personal risk, the workshop could equally be thought of as an exercise in creating accomplices. ‘To surpass oneself’, thought of in this way, suggests a useful double meaning.

More than just encouraging a ‘bucket list’ (the things you want to do before dying) the workshop makes ‘a claim on your capacities’. Participants work to identify and amplify that potentiality, leaving them by the end of Episode 4 ‘on the edge’, ready to jump.

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Concept & creation: Ant Hampton & Christophe Meierhans

Video production: Luca Mattei

Coding & electronics: Toby Duckworth

Creative Producer: Katja Timmerberg

Development support: Das Theater, Amsterdam

Studio support: Kunstenwerkplaats Pianofabriek (Brussels)

Thanks to: Agnieszka Kurant, James Plummer

Coproduction: Auawirleben Theaterfestival (Bern), Kaaitheater (Brussels), West Kowloon Cultural Development (Hong Kong), Theatre & Dance Department at Iceland Academy of the Arts (Reykjavik), Zeitraumexit (Mannheim), Techne – eine Produktionsplattform von Theater Rampe und Künstlerhaus Stuttgart (Stuttgart), Over het IJ Festival (Amsterdam), Nouveau Théâtre de Montreuil (Paris), FARº Festival (Nyon)