25 July 2007
Why Doctor Dada?
In the mid-1990s, I created two interactive performances at the Art Gallery of New South Wales: Doctor Dada's Time Machine and Just Jack the Garbage Man. In Doctor Dada's Time Machine, I became a 'mad' scientist who invited visitors to travel back in time imaginatively to the studios of famous artists. In one part of the performance, one member of the audience, acting as a nineteenth century academic painter, and another, acting as an Impressionist, would argue about what makes 'good art'. In Just Jack, I assumed the character of a garbage collector whose calling in life is to arrange junk on the floor of the Art Gallery so that the 'authorities' (i.e. director, curators and cleaners!) would treat it as a work of art rather than junk. To achieve this, the styles of various paintings and sculptures nearby were studied and copied. The audience was invited to help and by so doing, learnt first-hand some of the principles of composition.
Since that time, when I was asked to do a presentation for fellow museum educators or trainee guides, I was often asked to do a "Doctor Dada", meaning something that involves the audience in a fun, imaginative way, including the junk-on-the-floor routine. Then, before long, Doctor Dada became a kind of alter ego for me.