︎︎︎ Olso

The Attention Experiment

29      May 2021

︎ Location: Oslo  
Artist: Kirsty Kross

︎ Photo: Marit Silsand, Helen Røstum

Plot: How do people behave in public spaces? How do people look at each other? What rules are in plain sight? What rules are cultural? How can art highlight/ challenge these rules?

Plan a performance in the public space that addresses the attention economy and the climate crisis: consider a message/action, find a location, choose a costume and discuss how the performance can connect with the audience. Then perform, have fun and take photographs. Afterwards, reflect on the performance. How did you feel? Discuss each others’ responses.

We began by filling out this hand-written questionnaire:


To prepare our first public outdoor performance; we started by scouting for a location. We made a walking tour around Oslo’s Akershus Festning, visiting monuments and sculptures as well as other interesting spots where we could perform. We realised there were many things to think about, for example:
  • How a location effects the meaning of a performance?
  • How should the performance be choreographed and what should happen?
  • How will the audience react to a performance in this space?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What other important issues should we consider in creating a performance in this space such as safety, exposure, shock factor?

Kirsty was eager to share her ideas about performance, and she described how certain spaces can be better for longer, durational performances, whilst other locations are better suited for fast, guerrilla-style performanes. We discussed how to find and respond to an audience.

We visited Kirsty’s studio at Myntgata to create our costumes. Colours, fabrics, textures – everything we needed was there. In this organised, glittering chaos, fuelled by our earlier activity, the magic started. Some of us dived into the costume bag and played dress ups, whilst others carefully sifted through the materials to find the right outfit. As we helped each other get dressed up, the atmosphere was electric – filled with questions, compliments, laughter, and the anticipation of going out into public. Dressed head-to-toe in a bright orange skeleton suit, Mikkel exclaimed “I finally feel like myself!”. The excitement was palpable as we put together five superhero-like outfits: Partly for confidence and partly because they just looked gooood.

It’s important to feel empowered when you are doing something nerve wracking. Before we went out to perform, we had a meeting to include Kirsty in our ideas. We showed off our costumes and gave her the drawings we had made to illustrate and plan the performance. “I think she [Kirsty] should be in the piece” one of us voiced. “And then to the important question”, Kirsty asked, “Breast in or out?” “Out” Nasthea quickly responded to immediate laughter. And we were ready. Off to perform. We decided to perform at the top of a green hill at Akershus Festning. On the hill we would have more control of the audience as they would walk by at the base of the hill and then look up at us. This position gave us more confidence which was important for our first public performance. Marching up to the top of the hill it felt like we were walking in slow motion dressed as superheroes on a mission to make a performance about the climate crisis. We stood atop the hill in a silent configuration with a banner flying over us. The sun silhouetted us and it felt majestic. We then slid and rolled down the hill on a black vinyl mattress symbolising the problems of the fossil fuel/oil industry. We ended up as a colourful tangle of bodies. In the grand finale, Zeinab used a giant, golden fising rod to “catch” Kirsty in her Coral Trout costume.

Throughout the performance, the people walking by became our audience. They stopped and looked, then looked away and then turned back to look again. “What is this?”they were probably asking themselves. “Could it be art?” However scary, awkward or embarrassing the performance/attention experiment may have been to begin with, we were all elated to have personally done something new and exciting.

Performance artist Kirsty Kross (lives Oslo, originally from Australia) joined us – the members of PTAB – to introduce performing and interacting with audiences outside of museum or gallery spaces.

︎︎︎About the artist

Kirsty Kross (NO)

Index - The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation, PRAKSIS, and Publics