In criticism it is said that the most honest response, that of a child’s, perhaps, is often the best. In the case of Nightwalks with Teenagers, we are literally in their hands, a malleable audience awaiting the commands of about a dozen teenagers.
One of the saddest things of adulthood (in particular British adulthood) is our grasp of awkwardness. Thankfully in this production by Canadian artist duo Mammalian Diving Reflex, that has been successfully shot to shit.
We’re led into the Knowle West Media Centre, and hyped up by a moshpit rush of teenagers, they quickly lead us outside and engage us (about a 60 strong audience) in some playground games in the guise of team building exercises. We’re told to talk to strangers, I feel a confliction with my upbringing. We begin holding hands and are led out into the streets of Knowle West, at about 8.30 at night.
These teenagers have such confidence, but this is not the first time Mammalian Diving Reflex have shown the power of what a naïve spirit and healthy amount of audacity can do to an art-festival-fatigued audience. In previous projects they have led a group of children to critique restaurants in Birmingham, deciding on their terms what constitutes a good dining experience. In lieu of this, I will review the evening on my own terms:
1. Not enough time on the monkey bars
I’m sorry guys, although there was a good chunk of time on the walk spent in the playground, I feel that being asked to do anything after introducing monkey bars into the situation is risky.
2. You gotta blast that music
IBT, give the kids bigger speakers, I can’t dance to Mark Ronson from a portable speaker attached to an iPhone, no matter how beautiful the view from the hill overlooking Bristol is that you’ve led us to.
3. Know your audience
Although when racing to the park, the last one being a rotten egg is not something I would wish on anyone, looking at the people around me, maybe something like “last one to the park produces pastiched and dull pieces”. They’d be like shit off a shovel at that claim ...
4. I wanted a selfie with the duck, #nightwalks
At one point I thought we were playing knock a door run, although with about 80 people that’s kind of tricky. When I discovered that we were being gloriously shown a duck by a lovely resident of Knowle West, I was elated. Ceremoniously passed amongst a few teenagers, I seriously wanted a turn, in particularly to take a selfie with the local celebrity.
5. I want to know where you all are in 10 years.
Because that was one of the most captivating projects that it made be recall my teenage days with such fondness that it bursts out of my chest. It makes me recall naïvety, with dewy eyes, remembering experiencing something for the first time. This was what I completely and totally experienced, and I look forward to your glistening careers as excellent human beings.