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Public Projects Ongoing

Alice Theobald

2022 – 2025

How do you know when you are ‘living your truth’? What does ‘living your best life’ really mean? What influences our definitions of success and failure, and informs our future aspirations and personal goals?

We are relentlessly directed towards self-optimisation, encouraged to ‘work on ourselves’ to ‘live our truth’, andbe our best selves’ with the promise that through doing this we will find a route to authenticity and success, a ‘journey’ that ideally we will document and share online. But what impact does this pressure have on our collective psyche? What does it actually mean to ‘just be yourself’ when you don’t always know who or what that self is? What influences our views on the kinds of lives we admire and consider satisfying or successful? Rather than placing value on success and professionalism, what could we gain by embracing failure and amateurism, or simply allowing ourselves to be happy that we are ‘good-enough’?

During her time as an Incidental Artist Alice has been developing research and ideas around authenticity, and exploring how we understand the gap between professional and amateur and success and failure. Interested in the politics involved in borrowing from different disciplines and cultural movements – like DIY or Punk – she has been considering what it means to be un-trained or an amateur, and how success is measured in contemporary society. She has also been developing skills in theatrical improvisation.

This summer she will work with a group of year 6 children who are on the cusp of moving to secondary school, and a group of adults who have attended Improv courses at MAC Birmingham, to explore what living my best life’ means at different ages. A series of workshops led by Alice and Actress and Psychologist Sarah Wassall, and built around different improv techniques, games and exercises will take place at MAC Birmingham. Both groups will be invited to explore experiences and expectations of success and failure and think about what influences our views on the kinds of lives we admire, the pressures to succeed, the pros and cons of failing. The workshops will be filmed and this material will form the basis for a new multiscreen video work which will be shown in early 2025.

This project is co-commissioned by Eastside Projects and MAC Birmingham and supported by a Wheatley Fellowship from Birmingham School of Art, Birmingham City University.

 

Alice Theobald was born in Leicester, UK in 1985. She lives and works in Birmingham, UK. She works across a wide range of media including live performance, video, installation, sound, text and sculpture and composes musical scores for her works. Her work fluctuates between script and improvisation and highlights the unstable relationship between art, communication and representation. Often conflating sentimental tropes, cliche and social archetypes with absurdist and dead-pan humour, Alice addresses accepted concepts of spectacle and emotion and uses performance as both starting point and subject matter to magnify aspects of everyday life and typically introspective thought. Borrowing from the vocabulary of cinema, television, theatre, literature and soundtracks, her practice is concerned with the desire for authenticity and commodification of emotion and what this might say about empathy, aspiration and how we (mis)communicate.