Obfuscation

Typically performed from the back of a truck in New York, this surreal take on a seminar exhorting the effective use of language achieves the desired level of oddness, but seems too short to really develop into anything meaningful. Intentionally unintelligible, the spectacle of two smartly dressed individuals delivering garbled lectures about words that can persuade, with the aid of cassette tapes and pamphlets, is intriguing but slightly infuriating.

You leave a bit baffled by what it is that you have just witnessed; intrigued for sure, but not certain that you have seen a fully formed idea.

The acting by the Human Head Performance Group is a little wooden throughout, although it is impossible to tell whether this is intentional or not. Everything that they do is quite unexpected, and there is an awkward extended make-out between the two of them mid-way through with no obvious context. They both use words in convoluted ways to question whether language has the meaning that we ascribe it. This is also done through short segments from instructional tapes being played through a loudspeaker. The topics of the tapes are things like whether there is a word for love that has not yet lost its meaning, although the tone and content of these offer nothing distinct from the performed lines.

Coming in at just 35 minutes in total, there is minimal audience involvement in the seminar, although it is a nice touch when the required contribution is so baffling that the audience is stunned into silence. As they point out, ‘sometimes silence is the most effective word’. Some of the props are a little lacklustre as well, like the cardboard sign offering ‘free continental breakfast’ over a single pack of shortbread on the way in. It was unclear whether this was something that they actually wanted the audience to take up or not. And unclear how it had anything to do with the performance. But then again, they do instruct us that it is imperative that you ‘save your questions until we teach you how to ask them’, and they never do teach you. You leave a bit baffled by what it is that you have just witnessed; intrigued for sure, but not certain that you have seen a fully formed idea. 

Reviews by Jonathan Mayo

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

In an age of disinformation, this seminar teaches you how to stop telling people what you think and start telling them what they think. But when truth becomes slippery, who can be trusted? Are the instructors plotting a nefarious scheme or just trying to find a word for love that hasn’t lost its meaning? Either way, if you forget your name, an extra will be provided.

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