They say that you can fully appreciate Marcel Duchamp's Fountain just by having [[the work described to you.|Start2]]*A 'ready-made', mass-produced porcelain urinal, Fountain was signed "R Mutt" and submitted to the 1917 exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists. Despite a promise to include everything for which the entry fee had been paid, Fountain was rejected by the committee.* Duchamp had sent a message to the organisers: [[Art is something you piss on.|Start3]]There is an alternative view though, that Fountain cannot be wholly appreciated without the physical presence of its perceiver. If we turn our male gaze on for a second, and we approach Fountain in person - this urinal on a plinth in a gallery, into which we could quite feasibly have a wee - do we fundamentally alter the work? Does Fountain take the piss out of art? Or does it take the piss [[out of us?|Start4]] Does it turn and point the finger at us, at our collective human dick, gushing away like an animal? Are we the ridiculous thing here? Or does it reference the cherubic Grecian statues of the classical period? Like, "you might be pissing into this urinal right now, but let me tell you, *you* are the artwork here. You are the highlight of this exhibition. Keep pissing soldier, for you are [[a great masterpiece."|Start5]]When a piece of performance has these two sides to it, how the fuck are you supposed to review it? You can't properly address the electricity of the live encounter without explaining the context, without tracing the narrative journey, but you can't analyse the concept because SPOILERZZZZ Seriously, it's no wonder criticism's fucking dying. This shit is [[a minefield.|Start6]] But, cards on the table now, before we begin. The Privileged by Jamal Harewood is a terrifyingly good show. It's a jolt, a gunshot. I urge you all to see it. If it does its job, you'll feel awful in it. You'll want to leave as soon as you can. It might even make you hate yourself. When I think back to it now, I'm just grateful that I'm not there any more, that nobody's going to make me go back. But I'm still going to do everything I can to [[make you go.|Start7]]So I guess what I'm saying is this. It's up to you how you read this review. It's up to you how much of a commitment you make, how deeply you choose to participate in this piece of criticism. You can navigate it yourself, change course, even shut down your browser tab and simply walk away. You can give me abuse on twitter or you can write to your MP. You could make a home-made bomb. [[You are empowered.|Start8]] So how do you want to start? With some [[information from the artist?|Level1a]] With what [[Lyn Gardner thought?|Level1b]] Or would you like to know [[how I first heard about The Privileged?|Level1c]]About The Privileged: Have you ever seen a polar bear in the flesh? Been close enough to notice just how white these magnificent mammals are? Remove your shoes, coats and bags, as you are about to encounter the Arctic’s whitest apex predator, with black skin. The Privileged is a solo participatory performance event that explores race, community and the identity of the working-class citizen within today’s society. About Jamal Harewood: Jamal Harewood is a solo artist who creates temporary communities through participatory events. He believes that these events should be a playful experience that allows everyone to get involved. Find out what [[Lyn Gardner said.|Level1b]] Find out how [[I first heard about The Privileged.|Level1c]] Or skip forward: Do you want an [[objective, outsider's review of The Privileged?|Level2a]] Would you like to know more about [[my background and politics?|Level2b]]"What begins apparently playfully becomes an extraordinary charged and disturbing meditation on cultural stereotypes and perceptions and fears relating to the black male." - Lyn Gardner, The Guardian "Searing and thoughtful" - Lyn, again Find out more [[from the artist.|Level1a]] Find out how [[I first heard about The Privileged.|Level1c]] Or skip forward: Do you want an [[objective, outsider's review of The Privileged?|Level2a]] Would you like to know more about [[my background and politics?|Level2b]]I went to Spill festival in Ipswich last November, just for the day. I couldn't see everything, obviously, so I did what I always do on these occasions: relentlessly petition everyone I speak to, demanding that they pick a favourite performance of their festival. Often, this doesn't go down well. Artists are notorious fence-sitters. They hate judgement of any kind. They'll be sensitive and positive even about the stuff they hated, until you're forced to stand right in front of them, make prolonged eye contact, and hope that a little twinkle will eventually give away their true feelings. This time, I barely even had to ask. "Jamal Harewood. The Privileged. Without a doubt. One of those rare moments - and I mean really, really rare - when a performer just commands a whole different energy in the room." "Dude, it was ELECTRIC. Harun from Fierce says he reckons he'll still be talking about it in twenty years' time." "OMG Meg! I can't believe you missed Jamal Harewood earlier. Where WERE YOU?" Etc etc. Find out more [[from the artist.|Level1a]] Find out what [[Lyn Gardner said.|Level1b]] Or skip forward: Do you want an [[objective, outsider's review of The Privileged?|Level2a]] Would you like to know more about [[my background and politics?|Level2b]]Oh *please*. Objectivity MY ARSE. Gimme a fucking break. Find out more [[about me and my politics|Level2b]] or [[Skip forward|Level3intro]]I'm a white middle-class heterosexual female born in Scotland, and brought up in Cheshire. My parents are quite artsy and alternative, doing white-collar jobs. They have both been to university but neither completed a degree. I have a degree and a Masters, both achieved in my mid-late 20s. I am in debt (student loans mainly), I vote Labour and believe in equality. I wish there was a viable alternative to consumer capitalism. Friends describe me as confident and outspoken, but I suspect these are words chosen for their diplomacy. I work, and play, in the arts. Since leaving Cheshire, I have lived in Manchester, Leicester, Brighton and now North London. [[Almost everybody I know is white.|Level3intro]] By now, I hope you've got the background information that you want, and that you need in order to make a decision about whether you're in for [[the narrative|Level3-1]], or if you want to jump straight to some [[more general critical impressions.|Level4intro]]A polar bear is asleep on the floor. Remnants of his last meal are scattered around him. We sit in chairs in a circle. This is the polar bear enclosure. Someone reads aloud a letter from the zookeeper. He's sorry he can't be with us, but he has left us some instructions so we can get the most out of our encounter with the polar bear, even in his absence. To learn more about polar bears, we need to [[open the second envelope.|Level3-2]]There's a moment in The Privileged, about halfway through, where Jamal Harewood stands silently naked, surveying his audience. We all look at him, assess him, but, like with Duchamp's Fountain - daring us to piss, daring us to even think about pissing - that moment rips the whole show open. Suddenly Harewood's presence has put us, the bystanders, on display. What kind of an artwork are we? What kind of people are we? Something ripples through the room. [[Read about Jamal.|Level4a]] [[Read about us.|Level4b]] Polar bears are magnificent creatures, at the top of the food chain. They are covered in white fur which keeps them warm in the icy Arctic temperatures, but also camouflages them against the snow. Not many people know that underneath their white fur, [[they have black skin.|Level3-3]]The particular polar bear we are looking at in this enclosure is called Cuddles. Cuddles is not the fearsome beast that we have just been reading about, because he's in a zoo, and the zookeepers provide everything he needs. Cuddles sleeps quite a lot. He can afford to be lazy when he's being looked after by other people. We need to [[wake Cuddles up.|Level3-4]]Cuddles prowls around the edge of the enclosure, smelling us all, and rubbing up against our legs. He pushes the empty chairs until gaps form in the enclosure, so he can explore the room freely. We open more envelopes from the zookeeper, which give us instructions on how to bond with Cuddles (play a game, let him win), and where to find his food and drink. Cuddles eats KFC. [[Keep going...|Level3-5]]We must nominate three people. Person 1 must remove Cuddles' feet, and leave them in the enclosure. [[Keep going...|Level3-6]] Person 2 must remove Cuddles' costume. We may have to chase Cuddles, and pin him down to do this. [[Keep going...|Level3-7]]Person 3 must remove Cuddles' head. Cuddles is a strong, handsome, naked, dreadlocked black man, with tattoos. For the first time, [[he stands up.|Level3-8]]We open the next envelope. Cuddles needs to be given permission to eat his food. Someone must stand in front of Cuddles, make eye contact with him, point at the KFC in the corner, and say, assertively, EAT. EAT. EAT. Cuddles is very much taller, stronger, and more naked than the person we nominate to do this. He is significantly BLACKER than the person we nominate to do this. This is when the show changes. What would you like to do next? Continue to [[follow the action?|Level5intro]] Hear more [[about Cuddles?|Level4a]] Hear more [[about us, the audience, the stand-in 'zookeepers'?|Level4b]]It takes several moments for Cuddles to follow his order, and we decide to move things along a bit by bringing his food closer to him. He sits in the middle of the room and begins to eat the KFC. The next envelope tells us that, because polar bears aren't intelligent enough to know when to stop eating, we must only let him eat for [[five minutes.|Level5-1]]So, this moment half-way through, this axis for the whole show, is a magnificent pause. Jamal waits for a minute before he continues the performance, and his masculinity is fucking *radiant*, like, *dangerously radiant*. I have a mate who jokes that code for when a critic wants to fuck a performer is the word "magnetic", and yes, fair dos, I think it's safe to say that I can use "magnetic" in that way here, but he also has this other, arguably more powerful kind of magnetism, which is the same kind that a tiger would have if it walked into a reception class. Or if [[a polar bear walked into a theatre.|Level4a-1]] It's kinda funny, weakness. I mean, in some ways it's not an unpleasant thing. When we experience the sublime, some of the joy of it comes from a sense of disempowerment, of surrendering ourselves to the idea that we're not in control, we're not always our own boss. That's the cool sort of weakness. Then there's the playground fight kinda weakness, where we've just got battered by a bigger kid and it hurts and it's shameful and we never want to live through it again. But another sort of weakness, just as competitive, is [[psychological.|Level4b-1]]In his nakedness, weirdly, Jamal Harewood is stronger than he has been at any point so far. At the start of this review I talked about having to switch on my male gaze in order to properly understand Duchamp's Fountain, at least in relation to me and my (female) body, but when faced with the strong, male, black body, there's no need to refocus my perspective or come "out of myself" or attempt any kind of reimagining whatsofuckingever. He is *magnificent*; more powerful, more physically impressive, and - yes, let's pull out all the wanky academicspeak - more *OTHER* than anything I can remember seeing before. And, if anything, the ridiculously tentative position of power that I have, as audience, as zookeeper, as white female, just makes him *more awesome*. Read about [[the audience at this point.|Level4b]] Continue [[following the action.|Level5intro]] Skip forward to [[some conclusions.|Level6a]]The Privileged is just an exercise, just a piece of performance, just a game, but it left me trembling, mainly because I felt accused. Rightly accused. I'd been caught out while cheating at life. Pants down, dick out. If Fountain says that art is a joke and we are the masterpiece (debatable, maybe), then The Privileged says that we are despicable, and it is the duty of art to [[make us know ourselves.|Level6a-1]] An empowered audience could be a dangerous thing, but more often than not it's a frustrating and embarrassing thing which exposes massive social ineptitude. When Jamal Harewood stood naked before us in The Privileged, and paused to let us look at him, a confidence vacuum opened up in that room. We were tiny, awkward, shuffling mini-people, freshly birthed in front of this glistened fucking statuesque man-god. It was us who were naked. I felt like someone was watching me [[take a shit.|Level4b-2]]Actually, that's not strictly true. I felt like I was watching the guy we'd nominated to fulfil the next task take a shit. He had to assert himself in front of this beautiful beast of a man and he could barely bring himself to look in the right fucking direction. The quicker we followed our instructions, the quicker it would all be over, and the quicker we could escape into the fresh air and stop hating ourselves quite so much. From that point forward I wanted to step in and be the bad guy for every task, just to get through the whole ordeal swiftly and efficiently, and make it so we didn't have to look at this useless fucking impotent wimp of a man make a right cringey hash of it any longer. Which, I guess, is exactly the kind of thing that starts wars. Read about [[Jamal at this point.|Level4a]] Continue [[following the action.|Level5intro]] Skip forward to [[some conclusions.|Level6a]]The longest five minutes of [[*all time*.|Level5-2]]We sit in silence for the five minutes. It's awkward as fuck. By the end we're all basically just glued to the guy who is timing with his phone, trying to ignore the naked black guy eating fried chicken on the floor in front of us, and willing this thing to end. When the time is up we must take the remaining food away from him, [[for his own good.|Level5-3]]It's *awful*. Like, really *awful*. He evades us for so long that he eventually begins to gag from over-eating. None of the nominated people feel comfortable holding him down, so I get up with a couple of extra volunteers and we hold his arms while others try to scoop up the chicken that's fallen all over the floor. It's greasy and wet and half-tepid, and we have to do it all twice because he fights himself loose and tries to claw a load of it back. I kneel on a big smear of fat and bone and get oily chicken juice [[all over my trousers.|Level5-4]]He has retreated to the edge of the enclosure and eats the last bits of KFC, salvaged from our clean-up, from his own hands. We're down to the last envelope, [[what a fucking relief.|Level5-5]] Our final task is to make him hand over the last of his chicken just by making eye contact and asking for it. If he doesn't do it, we must discipline him. The instructions don't say how. One girl gives it her best shot, keeps chasing after him trying to get in his eye line. The rest of us are fucking exhausted. We snatch at his food like we did earlier, don't bother with any discipline, whatever the fuck that's supposed to be. For a second I imagine grabbing his balls until he drops the food, but this is still a theatre. [[Just about.|Level5-6]]At the end he sits on his own in a corner, shaking and facing away from us. A few people start to look around like "Is that it? Is it over?" I'm the first one out. Don't even do my shoes up, just carry them up the stairs to the bar. Straight to the bogs to wash the chicken grease off. What now? Do you want [[some conclusions?|Level6a]] A pull-quote? A [[star rating?|Level7a]] One of the most unpleasant theatrical experiences of my entire life. FIVE STARS.I am white, female, middle-class, arts-literate, a Londoner. Because I knew the show was about race, I could live on the outside of that power battle a little bit, appreciate the point it was trying to make in a more theoretical, chin-strokey way. Like, yes yes, very clever, very clever indeed. What I didn't expect was how frustrated and angry I'd become with the ineffectual idiots around me. How, if they'd only nominated *me* for this bit, I'd have a whole room full of polar bears tamed in seconds and a resounding victory for all zookeepers declared across the land. Britain: [[a nation of zookeepers.|Level6a-2]] See? Despicable.