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The Public Assembly - A performance by Bani Haykal, Eglise Saint-Merry; Paris, 5 June 2015


The politics of cultural diplomacy. With a particular focus on the history of the U.S strategies on cultural diplomacy during the Cold War, from funding the Jazz diplomacy tours of musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie to the works of the Abstract Expressionists namely Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, cultural diplomacy (or perhaps kulturkampf) has been at the forefront of political and economic engagements, agendas even at present. Today, culture powerhouses have multiplied and its affects on society leaves much for questioning; how is a cultural glut shaping a future of boredom? Let alone questions of and pertaining to labour in relation to (mass) cultural production?

The Public Assembly is a music performance project for 50 participants and 2 chess players. Each participant is encouraged to bring a book, speech transcript, essay of choice that revolves around the theme “the politics of cultural diplomacy”. If a text source is not brought, relevant texts based on personal research will be provided. During this performance, the participants will be “conducted” by moves made by the chess players, who will deal cards with written instructions on the form of transmission, delivery for respective texts, with particular emphasis on voice.

The 50 participants may consist of both French or Singaporeans. Each participant is required to attend one rehearsal, workshop prior to the performance.

Instructions for chess players

0. The game of chess is timed to 45 minutes
1. chess players are categorised as such:
– player LEFT
– player RIGHT
2. Each player is given a stack of cards. For every move made, the player must pick (play) a card. This card is to instruct the performers to interpret. When all cards are used, they will be shuffled and made usable again.
3. Minimum play time per game is 20 minutes. Minimum overall game / performance time is 45 minutes.
4. If 2 games are played and both games clock in a total of 45 minutes or more, the performance / game(s) end(s).
5. If 2 games are played and both games clock in under 30 minutes, another game must be played.
6. The winner must sing the national anthem.

Instructions for performers

0. Each performer must select a book, essay, poem, article that addresses “the politics of cultural diplomacy”. All text sung / read must be from each respective selected source text.
1. The performance is entirely determined by the moves / plays of the chess players.
2. Performers are not permitted to speak / improvise outside their given scripts / texts; meaning, performers are only allowed to speak / sing / recite / engage in conversation based solely on their source texts unless specified otherwise.
3. No musical instruments or effects (pedals, drumsticks, metal spoons, pillows, cats, etc.) are allowed, only voice and body percussions / sounds are permitted.
4. Performers will be split into 3 groups;
– group LEFT
– group CENTRE
– group RIGHT
5. Performers in group LEFT are only allowed to follow instructions made by player LEFT
6. Performers in group RIGHT are only allowed to follow instructions made by player RIGHT
7. Performers in group CENTRE are allowed to follow instructions made by player LEFT or RIGHT without being unanimous
8. The group that wins, must sing the national anthem with the chess player

Technical Specifications:

1. Loudspeaker / megaphone (x1)
2. Small diaphragm condenser microphones (x3) (as overheads for group)
3. PA system
4. Small table (x2) (for chess set and cards)
5. Chairs (x3)
6. Music stands (x50) (for participants, but can do without)