Oliver Payne interviewed by Dorothy Dubrule

Dorothy Dubrule: I find that in visual arts contexts, as opposed to proscenium theater settings, it is not assumed that viewers will remain passive and attentive to the work, and there is often no division of on-stage and off-stage spaces. How does the gallery space inform your relationship to the audience in CHILL OUT? If you were to restage the work in a theater, where the rules of CHILL OUT (“no phones, no talking, no photography, no late entry, no re-entry”) are traditionally already upheld, would the performance accomplish the same effect?

Oliver Payne: No. It couldn’t really work in a theatre. Despite all the modification we could make to the theatre, it’s a monument to spectacle. Listening to Chill Out is to participate in the journey it takes you on.  A seated audience would still imply – “look at these people chilling out.” Besides, fully reclining is very important to the enjoyment of the record. A supine audience is ideal.

DD: In performances that feature people doing their job, such as a security guard enforcing a set of rules for a performance, it has a doubling effect. Audiences perceive these people as both part of the artwork (performer) and as the position they normally fill under that job description (enforcer). When casting for CHILL OUT, are you looking for a professional security guard or a professional performer?

OP: My primary requirement for whomever takes the role of the security guard is that they look the part. That’s it really. Other than that, I just hope they are a good sport and understand what I am trying to achieve.  An audience in Gothenburg surprised me by self-governing the Chill. They would “shh!”  the chatterboxes when the guard was out of earshot. That’s the spirit! The security guard we used at the Venice Bienale was the only guy there with any weed. Poor show from all the other patrons, but exactly the quality I look for in a Chill Enforcer.

DD: Both CHILL OUT and your last piece shown at 356, Untitled (Shadow of the Colossus/In a Landscape), prominently feature recordings of other artists, reanimating and recontextualizing their work. How do you understand the function of quotation in your practice?

OP: I simply find it very useful to use other peoples’ work to explain my ideas.  My Portal paintings borrow the mechanic of the video game Portal to look ideas within painting. I’m unable to think about ideas of chance, space or player agency without having to consider John Cage.

But whatever I think I am talking about, maybe I’m always just talking about Marcel Duchamp.

DD: Returning to the explicit nature with which CHILL OUT tells people how it wants to be experienced, I wonder if you could say more about the value of focused listening when it comes to the KLF. In an interview about your film Gentleman, you spoke of wanting to entertain your audience and not punish them. Where does CHILL OUT fall within this spectrum of intended audience response?

OP: There’s no trick. I want people to Chill Out. The Security guard helps ensure this can happen by evicting people who are disruptive. But that’s not the goal.  The militancy of it isn’t there to antagonize the audience – it’s simply to ensure that the people that want to Chill Out, can. No cameras/phones is simply because blogging is snitching – I don’t want to end up in someone’s photo all zooted and chilling with my eyes closed and I’d like to extend that courtesy to everybody. I think that Chill Out is one of the greatest things I have ever heard. It’s a record of unparalleled brilliance. I want people to experience it on these terms – laying around with strangers, getting stoned with your phone on silent. 
People seem so unwilling to Chill Out due to a fear that they may be Missing Out on something else. That’s why it needs to packaged so radically  –  I’m asking people to make a radical engagement with chilling. Suggesting people “relax” just doesn’t cut it anymore.


Dorothy Dubrule is a LA-based choreographer and performance scholar