In this interactive performance artwork, Hamish Annan strips human emotion to its rawest forms, and invites (dares) the audience to watch on. A list on the wall includes six emotions; aggression, lust, fear, grief, happiness, and disgust. It also provides instructions to the audience and participants, asking them to sit in the chair opposite and speak one of these emotions out loud. Then, Annan engages in a performance of this emotion, speaking no words, but embodying the feeling as it builds into higher and higher intensity.
The experience of watching the interaction is so different between each emotion, but it’s always so visceral. A prolonged performance of fear makes you want to reach out and stop the engagement. Participants who’ve chosen happiness seem to step away to soon. The room feels tense with the selection of aggression. The nervous and curious energy that fills the room as audience members watch on is electric, and stepping out of the room afterwards is a disorienting experience.
The performance also brings out a certain curiosity about those who do choose to sit down with Annan—why did they choose this emotion? What are they feeling in this moment? Some onlookers shift between watching Annan and the participant themselves, and their response becomes a fascinating part of the piece.
It’s an incredible exercise in empathy, and an experience that feels unique and personal, and also communal. While the premise seems straightforward, the feelings that witnessing the performance produces are anything but.
Access, performed by Hamish Annan, ran as part of the 2022 Auckland Fringe Festival at Studio One Toi Tū and the Ellen Melville Centre.
Photo credit: John Rata Photography