The Crowd Theory project involves ritualised performances of entire communities, documented and exhibited as fine art photographs, along with contextual materials and events. The performances are stage-managed public operations designed as a new model of public art practice. The results become counter-portraits of the people and places they represent. What does it mean to be part of a crowd? Based in Elias Canetti’s work on crowds and referencing the spatial qualities of Bruegel paintings, the same processes have been applied to 10 projects and locations in Australia and the UK.
The works are first exhibited in the sites of their creation, followed by exhibition in museums and public galleries internationally. Comparisons with Andreas Gursky, Melanie Manchot, Gregory Crewdson, Stephen Willats amongst others position the work in relation to collaboration, participatory art, marginalised communities, public art and community engagement, alongside themes of crowds, identity, architecture, contemporary photography, performance and public space.
The events are constructed as open experiments, who turns up and what they do is left to chance. Distinct from prevailing definitions of community that reach into ethnicity, family or social connection, the invitation to participate is based on connection to site, defined by participants. The crowd ideal becomes a model of an open form of sociality. Rather than protest crowds or pleasure crowds, the works depict ‘place’ crowds. The events are staged but not choreographed. It is up to participants to choose how they represent themselves. Staging is limited to technical operations; lights, soundtrack, position of camera, theatrical effects. As public events the works are 1 hour rituals where community art event meets large scale film set. Those involved are simultaneously subject, participant and audience where the mode of engagement facilitates a new form of public ritual. Avant-garde theatre meets community art practices, rendered as large-scale fine art photography.