2:09pm Wednesday 27th April 2011
By George Nott
The man leaves the room visibly shaken. “I just called my wife a lying b****!“ he splutters. “I’m going to have to call her and apologise now. They made me say it!“
His expression has completely changed from when I saw him just a few minutes earlier. We had been sitting in a corner of the Shoreditch gallery, Rivington Place (as we had been instructed to do by a voice that burst over our audio tour headphones) making conversation about the exhibition we’d just been plucked from.
Now, as he dashes to the exit for air, I’m led to a darkened room. I sit down on one side of desk, a spotlight is glaring into my eyes. What’s going on here?
“We know this is you. There’s no use denying it.“
A grainy CCTV image is thrown towards me by two shadowy figures I can’t quite make out.
“Why did you do it?“
I’m barely given a chance to answer and stumble over my words. I’ve never been interrogated before.
“Oh a bit of a joker are we? A fascist? You’re already in trouble, just tell us the truth...“
More questions, more threats and more confusion before I’m allowed to leave. But what had I just said? What had I admitted to?
I can’t be sure, and that’s kind of the point, says Lebanese artist Tania El Khoudry who has led the exhibition, Possible Damage, with the help of The Inivators – young people on the gallery’s development programme.
Following the recent student protests, Tania and her team set about archiving and investigating the clash, “provoking the question of what is in fact believable“.
A mallet, a mask and a heavy duty rope – ’evidence’– is lined up in one display booth. In another corner, the fire extinguisher that was dropped from the roof of Millbank, labelled with a police evidence tag. But perhaps their authenticity should be called into question.
“These objects and documents that have found their way into our hands have dubious and sometimes speculative origins,“ says Tania, 28. “We hope to reveal the delicate bonds of social narrative and trust in a collective idea of history.“
Am I to take the interrogation I’m still shaking from as a criticism of the protest’s policing?
“Absolutely yes,“ says Tania. “What they did was awful. Did you see what they did? I know people that were right in it. It was terrible.“
“Though they say the protesters were violent it was in defence, in defence of their education and lives.“
“But all those people. It was great to see, to have a whole nation becoming politically-minded and taking on a political issue. There were people in the streets. There was revolution in the air.“
Just as the police gathered footage of protesters during the clashes, Tania and The Inivators have been taking their own data from gallery visitors. They present the findings of their night of interrogation in a lecture performance on April 30.
Possible Damage is at Rivington Place, 1 Rivington Place, EC2 until May 14. Open Thursdays 12noon to 9pm, Fridays and Saturdays 12noon to 6pm. Details: 020 7729 9616.
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