Written by Dani Abulhawa

Continued from Post #1 (17.7.14).

The politics of MILK by Nicola Canavan and other performances presented at Hazard, including Kris Canavan’s The Leveller, No More Page Three’s Hidden Women Trail, and Stephen Donnelly’s Driftmob is something I’d like to return to in more detail for another post, but for this I wanted to look at the response from some members of the public to have a selfie taken in front of Canavan.

There were only a couple of occasions when this happened, and both times that I witnessed it, it was adolescent boys who posed for a selfie during the first half of the piece whilst Canavan’s face was covered. There is something very interesting in this act; it comes across as a performance of bravado, since both people taking selfies were posed in front of a fairly large crowd of people. It is an attempt to take control of the space, to re-orient our attention onto the person making the selfie and to detract from the work (look at me). It is also an attempt to make a ‘souvenir’ from what is clearly a very thoughtful and carefully constructed piece; to designate this performance as strange spectacle and object (here I am in front of ‘art’).


The selfie is not really about documentation, but primarily broadcast. It is an affirmation that ‘I am here’; it is an act of placing the self into a stream of communication. The selfie as interruption, in this instance of Canavan’s work, is a way of recognising that something important and serious is being communicated, and the desire to want to subvert that, to make a joke of it, to diminish its power. These selfies, then, are a signal that there was something very powerful and pertinent generated through people’s engagement with MILK.

An event like Hazard raises several interesting issues, aside from the explicit politics a piece of work is engaged with. Particularly in relation to what ‘we’ designate as art – something Martin Hamblen piece Level Head dealt with – and the reclaiming of public space as a site for verbal and physical expressions of difference, discussion and interaction between strangers.

Image credit: Sarah Spanton, Nicola Canavan