Where am I going next?
We are living in an age of the “hyper- individual” where we are at the centre of our universes. We no longer surrender ourselves to the collective. “Most of the time, without having any choice in the matter, we are dominated by our ego” (Botton, 2012, p.48) and we strive to be powerful “because we are afraid of what will happen to us without high rank” (Botton, 2012, p.33).
We don’t surrender ourselves to political movements, religions and communities like we used to, we live in a time where the design and oneself the “true individual” is at the centre of society. However despite of this lack of collectivism “we are in most situations rather simple entities in want of much of the same kind, firm, basic guidance” (Botton, 2012, p.77).
Through exploring this idea of surrender I want to place a participant within the collective, to detach themselves from their individual daily role and experience
himself or herself in a new one, in what I believe to be the most literal form of voluntary surrender in modern day society- a navy captain.
I have started using myself as a test subject through exploring how to turn myself into an admiral- what elements make me feel authoritative, what are the speech, mannerism and qualities of someone of this role. I have based my transformation on a singular admiral (Admiral Nelson from Voyage to the Bottom of the sea) and externally through receiving training from ex navy cadet Alex.
I want to design an experience, I am working alongside an ex navy officer to help design the piece. I am interested in how people feel as though they are in role by others reacting to them as that role. For example the participant will start by being sent a uniform that they must put on at 11 am and be stood outside their house at 11:15. Then, they will then be met by 20 navy members or navy actors, who will stand in a row and salute them. They will then march to a space that has been set up to simulate a training bunker and they will carry out a variety of tasks with the team reacting to the participant as if they were the captain.
I see this project as being a kind of self- help. We are in a society where we are constantly being fed information about being the best you; for example being the best at your job to get the best pay check, but sometimes you would be better off acting as someone else, to surrender yourself to a new practice, there are obvious reasons why collectives such as Scientology has been so successful- we long to be part of something, to place our faith in something else other than ourselves. I asked Alex on why she took part in the cadets, what appealed to her about placing yourself very literally at the command of someone else. “ You don’t have to think about you, you’re there to do your job and follow your orders”. Botton describes religion as “sublimely obsessive and calmingly thorough” and I think the same could be said for the navy (Botton, 2012, p.132). “To be made to ‘feel small’ is, to be sure, a painful daily reality of the human playground” (Botton, 2012, p.261). But to be made to feel small by something mighty and noble which allows a permanent status for individuals simply on the basis of their membership allows us to be saved us from our ego centric demands and to understand, even for an afternoon, what it feels like to shed your role as an individual and place yourself within a collective.
Author/editor surname, Initials. (Year of publication). Title of book in italics. (Edition if not the first). Place of publication: Publisher.
Botton, A, D. (2012) Religion for Atheists. London. Penguin Books