STATE THE NATURE OF YOUR EMERGENCY
KIMBERLEY MCLEOD / HELENE VOSTERS
“State the Nature of Your Emergency” was a participatory performance that explored safety and surveillance on university campuses. The blue glow of emergency poles and phone boxes figures prominently as a physical presence on campuses across North America and is proudly displayed as a signifier of safety consciousness in student handbooks and on university websites. In our day-to-day movements, these objects generally recede into the background—a figure of the imminent but rarely present emergency. Bodies—student bodies, women’s bodies etc.—are at the centre of this implied emergency and, as such, we explored these questions through embodied activism. We considered what it means to embody the role of these emergency beacons—to meet in the blurry zone between the calming and silencing effect of the blue glow and the surveilling gaze.
Dressed as embodiments of blue light emergency poles, we wandered a university campus and engaged passersby in considering the role these sites play in the life of scholarly communities.
Participants were given one of the following questions:
What’s the emergency?
What are we afraid of?
What keeps us safe?
Who keeps us safe?
What is safety?
What dangers lurk?
What don’t we do when we’re watched?
Who is watching us?
Who are the cameras for?
Does blue mean we’re safe?
When will we be secure/safe enough?
What is safety worth?
Participants were then invited to engage with the question in one of four ways:
1) Inscribing a response on our bodies with a pen
2) Recording a response on-site with a camera
3) Using the hashtag #dangerlurks to respond via social media
4) Discussing the question with someone else