Freedomination billboard and soapbox performance

Woolley, Dawn ORCID logoORCID: and Watne, Davin (2017) Freedomination billboard and soapbox performance. [Show/Exhibition]


Commisioned by RedBoard for their Freedom themed billboard series that was a part of Hull 2017 City of Culture Creative Communities Programme. The billboard artwork was produced and the performance idea devised in collaboration with Watne during a research trip to Kansas City in July 2017, supported by a travel grant from Artist Newsletter (a-n). For the billboard programme RedBoard asked: What does freedom mean to you? What does it look like to you? Does freedom really exist? Is freedom allowed to be expressed? Is freedom an understood word? Utopia? Watne and Woolley’s design addresses these questions by problematising the notion that freedom is a neutral or intrinsically good thing. They ask: whose freedom? Are we all equally free? Freedom and domination appear to be mutually exclusive concepts. The artwork aims to draw attention to this binary to expose and explore a grey area in between. The freedom to act without restraint can oppress others. The idea of freedom is evoked paradoxically by those in power to go against the best interest of others. Loss of freedom could be the price of inclusion and citizenship. To accompany the billboard the artists produced a performance that underpins the ideas behind the design. With the help of friends, organisers, and city of culture volunteers they took over a street corner in Hull and turned it into a temporary speaker’s corner. Woolley read a script (manifesto!) written in collaboration with Watne. The participatory performance encouraged members of the audience to get on a soapbox and give a speech on any subject. As individuals expressed their freedom of speech it became increasingly difficult to hear what they were saying, demonstrating the concept ‘freedomination’. The soapboxes were also different heights, suggesting a hierarchy of ideas, and that the benefits of freedom aren’t enjoyed equally.

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