Laboratory of Encounters

Press Release / Public Announcement

Appointment of 30 Bird and public works as Artists-in-Residence at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge Biomedical Campus

Left to right: Mehrdad Seyf (30 Bird) Sir Hugh Pelham (Director of LMB) Torange Khonsari (public works)
Image: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

The MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) is pleased to announce the appointment of 30 Bird and public works as LMB Artists-in-Residence starting in April 2015. They are a collaborative team made up of a Cambridge based performance company led by Mehrdad Seyf (30 Bird) and a participatory art and architecture practice led by Torange Kohnsari (public works). They are ground breaking artists who will engage with members of the LMB with the aim to inspire new perspectives and understanding of the LMB’s research, both amongst LMB staff, and the general public. The residency is scheduled to run over 12months.

Mehrdad and Torange were selected by the LMB’s Public Art Steering Panel, made up of LMB staff and external advisors, who were impressed by their enthusiasm about the LMB’s science and their diverse and engaging response to the brief. The LMB is one of the world’s leading research institutes, whose scientists are studying biology on a tiny scale to understand fundamental biological processes and diseases.
“We were attracted to this residency because it provided us with the opportunity to bring together art and science in an innovative and interesting way challenging the more traditional notions of public art”, said Mehrdad Seyf.

He added “The research at the LMB involves work at the minutest detail, with the aim of extracting information that influences life on earth on an epic scale. It is the marriage of these two, the minute and the epic, the scientific research deep within organisms and its physical and social consequences that make the research at the LMB work so exciting to us.”

The LMB residency is the first in a new Artist-in-Residence programme that forms part of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC) Public Art Programme. The Programme is led and funded by property developers Countryside Properties and Liberty Property Trust under the s106 agreement with Cambridge City Council to deliver public art across the CBC expansion land. The Programme is curated and co-ordinated on the developers’ behalf by cultural agency, Futurecity.
“The ambition for the CBC Public Art Programme is to embed the very best creative arts practice throughout the expanding campus. A combination of public realm projects alongside artist-in-residence commissions will demonstrate the impact and value created through collaboration between the art, design, science and healthcare”, said Andy Robinson, director at Futurecity.
Further information:

MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. Image: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

Background information on the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology

The Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) is one of the birthplaces of modern molecular biology and one of the world’s leading research institutes. LMB scientists are working to advance the understanding of biological processes at the molecular level – with the goal of using this information to understand the workings of complex systems, such as the immune system and the brain, and solve key problems in human health and disease such as cancer, asthma and Alzheimer’s disease.

Discoveries and inventions developed at the LMB, for example DNA sequencing and methods to determine the structure of proteins, have revolutionised all areas of biology. LMB scientists are also encouraged to exploit their discoveries – through patents, licensing and business start-ups – helping to advance medical research and improve the UK’s economic competitiveness. To date, work carried out by LMB scientists has attracted 10 Nobel prizes, dozens of Royal Society awards and numerous other scientific honours.

Biographies of the artists:

30 Bird is an award winning performance company based in Cambridge. Each one of their projects is unique – no one project taking the same form as another – and often using the detail of autobiographical stories to explore global issues pertinent to contemporary society. Their roots lie in visual theatre with the company’s early work presented at venues such as the Riverside Studios, Lyric Hammersmith, Birmingham Rep, The Traverse Edinburgh, Cambridge Junction and Warwick Arts Centre. In recent years their practice has shifted to creating outdoor, site-specific, multi-disciplinary and interactive performance projects that create unique experiences for audiences. They create multi-disciplinary performance projects, often designed for non-theatrical spaces and toured nationally and internationally to theatres, festivals, cinemas and sometimes across whole cities. They want audiences to have a direct relationship with their work; to engage, to participate and to be surprised.

public works are an art and architecture practice working within and towards public space. All public works projects address the question how the public realm is shaped by its various users and how existing dynamics can inform further proposals. Their focus is the production and extension of a particular public space through participation and collaborations. Projects span across different scales and address the relation between the informal and formal aspects of a site.
Their work produces social, architectural and discursive spaces. Outputs include socio-spatial and physical structures, public events and publications.

About Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC)
The Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC) is the name given to the cluster of biomedical, clinical, research and treatment organisations centred around Addenbrooke’s Hospital on the Southern fringe of the city of Cambridge. By 2020 it will be one of the largest and most internationally respected centres for patient care, biomedical research and education in the world. CBC is already home to a number of internationally renowned treatment, teaching and research organisations including the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology (MRC LMB), Cancer Research UK and Addenbrooke’s and Rosie Hospitals. This concentration of clinical and biomedical expertise is now set to expand considerably with planning consent having recently been granted for up to 215,000 square metres of new biomedical research, development and clinical expansion space on a 70 acre site adjoining the existing hospital, research and development facilities. The expansion is providing new accommodation for the MRC’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Papworth Hospital, and AstraZeneca.

About the CBC Public Art Programme
The CBC Public Art Programme is delivering two major public art projects as a fully integrated part of the CBC development. The first is a landmark art commission to design the campus’ new focal point 20,000sq.m. Circus and Piazza public realm. The second is a campus wide Artist-in-Residence programme that will commission artists from a range of disciplines to work within and across campus organisations to engage patients, staff and wider public audiences in the campus’ ground breaking work.

About Countryside Properties & Liberty Property Trust
The development of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus is being undertaken through a joint venture between Countryside Properties PLC, and Liberty Property Trust, in conjunction with Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

About Futurecity
Futurecity is a cultural placemaking agency. They have worked with Countryside Properties PLC, Liberty Property Trust and CBC organisations since 2009 to develop and implement the CBC Public Art Programme. Futurecity devise cultural strategies, broker cultural partnerships and deliver art projects from inception to completion through collaborative relationships between clients, artists and other disciplines. They champion artists who are changing the way art is presented within the built environment and public realm. Current projects range from the recently unveiled 78 metre Richard Wilson sculpture ‘Slipstream’ for Heathrow Terminal 2: Queens Terminal, to an arts programme for the new Cancer Centre at Guys Hospital, London.

In 2010 Futurecity opened a Cambridge office to support a bespoke approach to commissioning public art and cultural projects, working with Cambridge’s unique offers across the arts, culture, science and technology. Leading and emerging artists are integrating major public projects into the fabric and life of new workplace, healthcare and residential schemes, offering a range of engagement opportunities for residents, workers and visitors.


Junctures logo AW HR

Call out for theatre/performance practitioners and scientists

JUNCTURES: UK Iran Cultural Exchange – A day of debate & provocations exploring innovation & collaboration across the Arts and Sciences.

Produced by 30 Bird in partnership with the British Council Iran and in collaboration with ZENDEH.

Cambridge Junction, Wednesday March 25 2015 10:00 – 20:00

We are looking for six artists and six scientists to present a Pecha Kucha about their work in response to the provocation:
How to foster experimentation, collaboration & innovation across disciplines and cultures?
Pecha Kucha (chit chat) is a presentation format in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each (6 minutes and 40 seconds in total).


As relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the UK improve, cultural collaborations can strengthen mutual understanding and trust between the two countries.

JUNCTURES brings together practitioners and experts from the arts and sciences to explore and inspire new models of working which enable experimentation, collaboration and innovation. Through dialogue and showcasing we will share knowledge, ideas and contacts to strengthen partnerships across sectors and across geographies.


• Spotlights collaboration as a model of sustainability and resilience
• Highlights examples of best practice
• Presents examples of cross cultural and cross sectorial exchange
• Is framed within the context of the Creative Case for Diversity

The day includes two Pecha Kucha sessions consisting of six presentations – three by artists, three by scientists. These are followed by a full days programme including a panel discussion on International Exchange, networking and the Long Table conversation (including Iranian dinner) “Working across cultures and across disciplines – can we find a common language?”

Expressions of interest should include:
• a short statement no longer than 500 words on how the applicant plans to address the provocation
• a short biography, no longer than 500 words, of the applicants work history
• external links to publications, reviews or footage of performances or lectures
• name, address ,email, website (if applicable) and telephone number of applicant

Selected candidates will receive a small stipend and travel expenses. Where necessary accommodation will be provided, though this will be limited to those travelling longer distances. All Pecha Kucha presenters are expected to stay and participate in the full day’s activities.

We are committed to ensuring the Pecha Kucha presentations are open and accessible to everyone. If you experience of anticipate any barriers within the application process, or require any help to make an application, please contact us as soon as possible.

Please send your application to:, mentioning: JUNCTURES: Pecha Kucha

Deadline for submission: 5pm Tuesday 13th January 2015

30 Bird is resident company at Cambridge Junction

long logos

Domestic Labour Auditions

Thank you for all your submissions, we were quite overwhelmed by the number of applicants and the variety and quality of their expressions of interest.We will be creating our shortlist in the next couple of days and contact the selected performers/artists. Apologies to those who are left out but once again thank you for your thought provoking submissions.

30 Bird Team

Seeking Female Performer: Domestic Labour: A Study in Love

Domestic Labour: A Study in Love

Audition notice

Regional tour and Edinburgh Fringe Festival run of
Domestic Labour; A Study in Love
by Mehrdad Seyf, 30 Bird

Commissioned by The Bush and following completion of Research & Development during 2013 Domestic Labour: A Study in Love will embark on a short regional tour before heading to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2014. We are currently looking for one female performer or performer/artist to join co-devisors Nicki Hobday and Chris. Dugrenier.

Description: female 25-35, experience of devising work or creating own work, versatile all rounder. Build not important. Good sense of rhythm and musicality.

Fee: £420 weekly for full weeks plus allowances, otherwise nightly performance fee (subject to confirmation of funding).

Show description:

Domestic Labour: A Study in Love is a witty investigation of gender roles, love and the very domestic battle over who does the washing up.

A love story; a love story about the mundane and the monumental, the personal and the political, the dust behind the bed and the Iranian baby boom.

A love story told through the nitty gritty of daily life – the rituals of cleaning revealing stories about past girlfriends, marriage, Islamic law and Brigitte Bardot – as the ‘man’ and his absent wife negotiate the power games of equality. Darkly humourous and visually rich Domestic Labour highlights the absurd details of our daily lives and their resonance within our wider world.

We are currently looking for one female performer or performer/artist to join 30 Bird’s co-devisors Nicki Hobday and Chris Dugrenier from March-June and 21 July to 24 August 2014.

Deadline for expressions of interest: Fri 24th January 2014.

Meetings/ Auditions: w/c 3 February

Working period: Devising & Tour 26 March – Middle June (end date tbc) Edinburgh: 21 July to 24 August

Statement explaining interest, including CV and photo to:
Louise Higgins
Project/Company Manager 01223 403362

(please note we work in the office part-time, if you do not get an immediate response please send us an email with your contact details).

NB. Expressions of interest will only be accepted by email

Deadline for expressions of interest: Fri 24th January 2014

Please note if you do not hear from us then we are sorry you have not been shortlisted on this occasion.

Launch of The Factory

30 Bird and architects public works worked with pupils at St Matthew’s Primary School in the city’s Norfolk St to design The Factory. This is the first of five structures to be built by this unique partnership of performance makers, pupils and architects. Titled MUD it is a key part of a long-term project linked to the redevelopment of the school premises. The structures are designed to be outdoor play structures and also to house arts and cultural events open to the public – playgrounds for imagination, fun and creativity that are open to all.

Over an 18 month period 30 Bird and public works worked closely with pupils, teachers, non-teaching staff, parents and the surrounding community, capturing their stories and triggering their imaginations. The children actively participated in the architectural design process.

When asked about the project, a St Matthew’s pupil said “We’ve never done anything like this before. I wish we could do more”

The Factory will launch on Wednesday 27 November at 7.15pm with music from the school choir and Mawson Street Community Orchestra.

Mania Akbari’s 20 Fingers

20 Fingers
Written and Directed by Mania Akbari
Produced by Bijan Daneshmand
With Mania Akbari and Bijan Daneshmand
BFI Mania Akbari Retrospective

After seeing Mania Akbari’s 20 Fingers at the BFI, who are presenting a retrospective of her impressive and innovative work, I joined friends and acquaintances in the bar. I was introduced to a budding novelist on a visit from the US who asked me in a frank manner: “So is it like that?” “Like what?” “Well as an Iranian man, is it like that?” I came up with my customary reply: “Why do you assume I’m a man?” She laughed. “And why do you think I represent Iranian-Man?”

In case you don’t know me, I am a man and Iranian born, but I always find it difficult to respond to generalisations like that. Surely we know that being a man or a woman is more complex than having a penis or a vagina in-between your legs and cultural reductionism is not my game. I grew up supporting Team Melli (Iranian National football team), watching Bruce Forsyth’s Generation Game on British TV and going to a French school. What kind of an Iranian does that make me? I thought of what Mania Akbari stated eloquently in her post-screening interview with Geoff Andrew, somewhat lost in translation to those who do not speak Farsi. To paraphrase, she said that her work is not particularly about men or about women, but about what takes place in-between.

The film starts with a back shot of Mania and Bijan sat in a car driving to an unknown destination. It’s night time. Mania speaks of games she played with her male cousin when they were children – Doctors and nurses, mummy and daddy – all with hints of childhood sexual frivolities. She speaks with an innocent nostalgic tone. Bijan asks precise questions: “How old were you when you did that? How old was your cousin? How long did it go on for? When did you stop?” He speaks with an interested if slightly nervous tone. Mania is baffled but obliging, she provides all the answers, water off a duck’s back. Occasionally she asks: “Where are we going?” Bijan answers: “Just a little bit further, there is a beautiful spot I want to show you.” It’s dark, the headlights are on, we can barely see the couple’s heads. Bijan stops the car. He turns off the headlights. The screen goes black. We hear Mania’s voice: “What are you doing? Are you crazy? Bijan?” she speaks with a gentle if surprised tone. “I had to check for myself”, says Bijan. “What shall I tell my mother, my sister? “ “I had to find out for myself.” He speaks with an affectionate tone.

In our mind, we can see Bijan’s hands exploring the film character Mania’s vagina, looking for the hymen, tearing it, feeling the blood and then perhaps penetrating it. “Are you crazy?” says Mania. She does not seem to stop him.

The in-between is beautifully established in this first sequence. The young couple’s fundamental relationship lies between a desire to roam freely and sexual exploration on the one hand , and a determination to preserve purity, to keep intimacy and sexuality within a private sphere, even at the expense of illegal sexual entry. Is it rape? Or is it an initiation of the relationship for years to come? Mania Akbari, however, does not make general statements about society. These are traits that come from the very specific situation of the fictional Mania and Bijan. It is repeated in various contexts. Riding a motorcycle in Tehran a few years later, with their toddler daughter precariously placed between them, they debate having another child. He wants one, she doesn’t. They talk, argue, shout. She jumps off the motorcycle and grabs a taxi. He follows them. She eventually gets out of the taxi and rejoins her partner on the bike, swearing at him whilst holding on to his waist. Later still whilst having a ride on a train, she tells him that she slept with a female friend. He throws her out of the train compartment into the corridor.

Still from Mania Akbari's 20 fingers with Mania Akbari and Bijan Daneshmand

Still from Mania Akbari’s 20 fingers with Mania Akbari and Bijan Daneshmand

Throughout the film there is one constant. They remain together. They remain lovers. Mania Akbari explores different contexts at different times in the chronology of their relationship – the car, the motorcycle, the telecabine above the snow, the train, the car again – to show what preserves, fuels and protects the relationship. She provokes, he reacts, he provokes, she reacts.

Still from Mania Akbari's 20 Fingers with Mania Akbari and Bijan Daneshmand

Still from Mania Akbari’s 20 Fingers with Mania Akbari and Bijan Daneshmand

In the very last scene, we see the couple on a small boat, on a lake, alone. Bijan says: “I really enjoyed myself. I had a good time. “ She confirms the sentiment. There is no one else, just the water, clean, pure, still. And then, the screen goes black, we hear the sound of the water and Bijan saying: “I feel good”, and we see in our mind, the manual search for purity, the tearing of the hymen, water and blood. In a masterstroke, Mania Akbari sends us home with the complex signs that construct the relationship between the two characters.

I say my goodbyes to the budding novelist, wishing her luck with her novel-waiting-to-be-published. As a parting shot I say: “If anything, I identify myself with the fictional Mania”. I turn to look for the real Mania in the bar.

Mehrdad Seyf

30 Bird: A History of Ideas (one)

30 Bird's second production  Death By Heroine, written and directed by Mehrdad Seyf, designed by Leslie Travers Photo: Johanna Lowe

30 Bird’s second production Death By Heroine, written and directed by Mehrdad Seyf, designed by Leslie Travers
Photo: Johanna Lowe

Image Against Narrative

30 Bird started life in 1996 as a visual theatre company influenced by cinema, mainly the work of directors such as Hitchcock and Nicholas Ray and also the French New Wave ( Romer, Goddard, Truffaut). 30 Bird’s work had a distinctly visual element defined by the spectator/audience’s gaze. The visual was seated in the experience of the viewer coming across something that went beyond the story, the setting and the context of the production. It almost acted as a portal to something other, an invitation, a tease, an enigma. Similar to cinematography, 30 Bird’s theatrical productions were story-boarded, bringing the direct influence of the set designer and the lighting designer from the outset to the project. Still set within a story in the form of a play, the visual presentation of the production went beyond the role of the actors; the latter were in most cases the very last element of the production to be organized within the visual structures.

30 Bird’s early work was also influenced by the visual arts, predominantly installation art. In this context creation of installations within a theatrical space, and even within a theatrical narrative, interrupted the more literary flow of the story. It also challenged the notion of storytelling, plotting and characterisation as the main constituents of a theatrical production, elevating or reducing (depending on how one likes it) the role of the body/actor/performer to a constituent of the image.

There was inevitably a tension within this way of working picked up by reviewers of 30 Bird’s early work such as The Parable of The Blind

The Parable of The Blind, 30 Bird's first production, an adaptation of Gert Hofmann's novel by Mehrdad Seyf, designed by Leslie Travers Photo: Paul Emery

The Parable of The Blind, 30 Bird’s first production, an adaptation of Gert Hofmann’s novel by Mehrdad Seyf, designed by Leslie Travers
Photo: Paul Emery

or Death By Heroine. Critics complained of the distancing of the audience from the intimacy of the action through the visual mechanisms set on stage, the set, the lighting. Some desired for the actors to be allowed more freedom to carry the story/action/words forward without such interruptions. Whilst noticing the sequence of image creations in the productions, some reviewers however complained of a lack of clear meaning, clear narrative or clear and flowing line of action.

30 Bird's second production  Death By Heroine, written and directed by Mehrdad Seyf, designed by Leslie Travers Photo: Johanna Lowe

30 Bird’s second production Death By Heroine, written and directed by Mehrdad Seyf, designed by Leslie Travers
Photo: Johanna Lowe

The conflict between a more literary orientated theatrical text with its more conventional narrative demands and the non-narrative installation art images came to a head after a three year break when the company was resident at Studio Voltaire, a predominantly visual arts organization providing studios for artists. During their three year stay at Studio Voltaire, a new kind of writing emerged in the work of the company’s artistic director Mehrdad Seyf. Text was no longer a means to create a story with characters assigned to it. Mehrdad Seyf shifted his practice from writing plays to writing paragraphs. These paragraphs would be informed by an idea or an image and would be addressed to a listener, whoever the listener might be. The paragraphs did not have a gender, person or character attached to them. They were open to editing and characterisation, but the nature of these paragraphs allowed them to be edited in an infinite number of ways. There was therefore a clear shift away from creating theatrical productions based on literary textual narratives, to creating visual productions where the text would function as sound, as part of the visual construct, as part of the elements that create the space of performance. The text had an existence of its own which could have a body attached to it or not. A series of unrelated paragraphs could therefore be put together as constituents of a performative piece. The connections between these paragraphs were to be discovered and created, not through literary means, but through an exploration of space, rhythm, sound and image creation.

Another major influence on 30 Bird’s work is its cultural affiliation with Iran and perhaps more precisely, with the perspective of people from other cultures who have either lived in Europe and grown up there, have access to different cultural co-ordinates and more importantly, by virtue of their position, have a much more varied experience of the everyday, an experience which, whilst embracing the local and the national, goes beyond both. This element has created a complexity regarding the notion of context in theatrical productions. If there are any references to other cultures, specifically to Iran or anything outside the European and American context, there is an expectation to elaborate on the background and the setting of these cultures. Without such elaborations, it is claimed, there is no way of understanding what is going on. This demand comes from two directions. One from the direction of a Eurocentric status quo that is keen to categorize anything culturally “other” by placing it outside the everyday cultural flow, assigning it a special position such as “minority” or “ethnic”, and defining it through the concept of identity. In other words anything sitting outside the Anglo- Saxon and European cultures is construed as a particular identity that needs to be explained/elaborated/elucidated. People from those cultures are therefore encouraged to create work about identity; Further, due to this categorization, the kind of work created is encouraged to tackle “social issues” or reflect “social problems about race” etc… once more relegating art to a means of articulating political and sociological arguments. In both cases art becomes subject and secondary to the elaboration of context.

Any work that refuses to do this becomes problematic, it neither sits in one camp, nor in the other; it sits in-between. 30 Bird’s work is exactly that: the in-between. 30 Bird has resolutely refused to be drawn in this debate by focusing its work on creation of art and providing various experiences of art for audiences, spectators and participants. The refusal to provide “enough” explanation or just “explanation” is an important part of 30 Bird’s approach which connects itself directly to the visual component of its work.

Mehrdad Seyf

MUD: a cultural laboratory in a primary school playground

Cultural Laboratory  for St Matthews School designed by public works for 30 Bird's interdisciplinary project MUD ( Front view)

Cultural Laboratory for St Matthews School designed by public works for 30 Bird’s interdisciplinary project MUD ( Front view)

The final design of the cultural laboratory at St Matthews’ school Cambridge is nearly upon us. A few adjustments left, nip-tuck, and it’s done. Looking at the design as it stands, it reminds me of the humble beginnings of MUD, on the day I proposed an idea to Tony Davies, the school’s visionary head-teacher. Tony had revealed the new school plan in a number of parents meetings: old 60s buildings were going to be knocked down and replaced by brand new pre-fabricated blocks to increase the school capacity from two classes per year to three , and to avoid the ritual breathe-squeeze-and-push bottle-neck school entry every morning. There was going to be a larger playground, more space for the children to roam. My seven year old daughter goes to St Matthews, so I attended all the meetings.

Cambridge being Cambridge you’re bound to bump into an academic sooner or later and have a conversation on a topic you never thought you would. I met Tony – not an academic – in a party, the summer before my daughter went to school. He was wearing a pair of ripped jeans and a T-shirt. We talked about beer, philosophy, Brixton, the way people drive in Tehran, and ended up with school uniforms. I don’t like school uniforms. My first significant moment of rebellion was at Reception when as a five year old boy I took off my navy-blue-cardigan-uniform and ran into the playground punching the air for victory. “We don’t have uniforms at my school”, Tony said and he went on to reveal that he is the head-teacher at St Matthews. On his first day in his new job, just as he was leaving home, Tony noticed a large empty box in the hall. He decided to take it with him. At 9 AM, the whole school met their new head-teacher for the first time, jumping out of a box on the stage of the assembly hall.

Cultural Laboratory  for St Matthews School designed by public works for 30 Bird's interdisciplinary project MUD ( Front view)

Cultural Laboratory for St Matthews School Cambridge designed by public works for 30 Bird’s interdisciplinary project MUD (Front view)

Later I talked to our host Dr Luke Skinner a research fellow at the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge. He was thin and tall. His daughter went to the same nursery as my daughter. His speciality was in marine sediments and millenial climate change. He explained it to me in simple terms: basically, you dig up mud from the bottom of the ocean and then, in the laboratory, you isolate microscopic fossils that have formed over millions of years and, by analysing their chemical make-up, you begin to construct a narrative of climate change in the past. Why mud? Because mud is basically dust that has settled on top of the ocean and gradually, slowly found its way to the bottom. Dust contains many characteristics including chemical atmosphere which eventually solidifies in and around marine sediments.

Perhaps it was no accident that the initial idea for MUD was formed in my head after the encounter with Tony and Luke. Walking around the school and looking at the tired spaces built in the 60s, I pictured them being knocked down – earth, rubble and dust – and within all that lay the secrets of everyone who had attended the school over decades, as pupils and teachers and dinner ladies and janitors and parents and grand-parents. Here was a chance to capture their narratives and to house them in a newly created space in the school. Initially, the idea of creating a structure with the rubble from the old buildings came to mind, the building itself, so to speak, being made of the past, literally. Our intention, however, was not to create a monument nor just an archive centre but something that was more about providing the possibility of re-interpreting the past, a way of both creating and amassing a narrative and at the same time critiquing and re-examining it.

Luke made an appearance on Radio 4′s Today programme recently, and was pressed by John Humphries to come up with a definite explanation on the causes of global warming, which to his credit, he refused. He kept insisting that the data they collect, provides them with the possibility of interpretations, not one, but many. The importance, he stressed, was not to arrive at the key explanation, but to sustain a healthy curiosity, a desire to challenge and discover. In his work, he deals with the concrete material of mud and marine sediments, the more conceived world of chemical narratives and millions of years of climate change and, a third space where the relationship between the concrete and the conceived is constantly questioned, re-formed and re-manufactured.

Cultural Laboratory for St Matthews School Cambridge designed by public works for 30 Bird's interdisciplinary project MUD (Slide)

Cultural Laboratory for St Matthews School Cambridge designed by public works for 30 Bird’s interdisciplinary project MUD (Slide view)

Before approaching Tony, I contacted Torange Khonsari from public works, an architectural practice based in London we have been working with for seven years. Torange, her colleague Andreas Lang and I got talking. In the end, we thought we would suggest the creation of a temporary structure and research and develop ideas around that. “A permanent structure would be great but it’s unlikely that the school would go with it”, thought Torange.

Every morning, Tony stands in the middle of the school car-park/entrance facing the early on-rush of human traffic – boys, girls, parents, grandparents, bikes, scooters, cars. He meets and greets; a conversation here, a conversation there. I walk my daughter in. On the way out I get hold of him and tell him about MUD. He listens, he says hello to a few more parents and makes sure the gates are closed. He tells me it’s a great idea, “why a temporary structure though?”

Later I call Torange : “He wants a permanent structure.”

Mehrdad Seyf

Domestic Labour: Clearing up after #Sampled13 in readiness for #Pulse13

There they were, the three of them, Betsabeh, Chris and Nicki, holding up their 1950s Hoovers on The Junction stage, during Sampled 13, with the provocative music composed by Greg Mickleborough belting out of the speakers, beckoning more people to enter the auditorium. And they did.

Hoover Sirens 1 copy

The girls wait. The doors close. They start their Hoover walk/dance.

Betsabeh copy

The Hoovers are moved to one corner. The three performers stand in the opposite corner looking at the beautiful machines.

Face off 1 copy

They join the ranks of the vacuum cleaners and switch one on blowing air into a condom which grows to a massive phallic size before exploding into thin air with the sound of the Hoover still echoing into the space.

“The house is a mess”. The performance begins.

We enjoyed Sampled. The Junction space is tall and the sound and lighting quality very good which enabled us, in a near-suicidal-maximum-of-an-hour-and-a-half tech-time, to make the show look rather good. One of the audience members texted us this: “Enjoyed it on many levels, visually compelling, great music and thought provoking text.” Others described it as very ambitious and very original.

We still have one problem to solve. The performers set up an explosive device to blow up a bicycle inner tube.

explosives2 copy

The bloody thing just punctured. So abandon inner tube. Nicki Hobday, one of the performers, suggested that we blow up two balls instead, “phallus at the beginning, breasts in the middle”. We’ll see.

We are really looking forward to The Pulse Festival in Ipswich, with our new effective explosive device in place.

Work in Progess Sharing: Domestic Labour: A Study in Love: Saturday 1 June 2013

30 Bird Presents

Domestic Labour: A Study in Love


Work in Progress Sharing at Pulse Festival, New Wolsely Theatre, Ipswich.

Date: Saturday 1st June 2013 2.00pm Pulse Festival, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

War, bicyles and the withdrawal method: Domestic Labour is a witty investigation of Feminism, love and the very domestic battle over who does the washing up.

Weaving personal details from authobiographical stories with seminal events in European and Iranian contemporary history, Domestic Labour uses humour and a touch of the surreal in its unique portrayal of a man’s experience of growing up in the heydey of 70′s Feminism.

Come and sample our new work and help shape it’s future development. There will be a 10 minute discussion and feedback with the Company after the performance.

Advance booking