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REVIEW: Operation Mindf*ck @ Brighton Arts Lab, 25/07/2018

The Verse’s Jake Francis visited the event ‘Operation Mindf*ck’ at the Brighton Arts Lab. Here is what he had to say about it.

‘We are the coke headed robot loser c**ts who run your lives…we are your f***ing lords, you have been bought and sold’

With a name like ‘Operation Mindf*ck’, you’d be forgiven in thinking that the event may be a little crass, over-done, and bolshy- a near-perfect rendition of the attitudes found within punk bands that are far too inspired by the likes of the Sex Pistols and The Towers of London. Thankfully, that hefty assumption is soon blown out of these cringe-worthy waters and into much more earnest territories; the group’s chaotic approach being one of challenge – rife with communication, satire, and sardonic recuperation.

Now when it comes to writing on an event such as this, there is a niggling difficulty in achieving a coherent train of thought. The evening itself leading me so energetic that on returning home, I went for a 40-minute run to clear my veins of adrenaline. With this in mind, I will try my best to define a method in the madness, simultaneously scrabbling to not undermine the practitioner’s desire to liberate us from second-hand experience. For the sins that are to follow, I apologise and am repentant.

On entry to the event, a sign immediately claimed the status of the crowd’s conversation. It states that the mere presence of mobile phones within 5 metres of the upcoming performances would result in permanent damage. This initiated a ritual that I ashamedly compare to that of the movie ‘Life is Beautiful’ (1997). Individuals handing over their phones with the gravity of losing one’s children to Nazi stormtroopers, the scrabble and mini-arguments erupting as phones are clutched in fear of their placement within zip-lock bags. The hustle and bustling are then fittingly brought into rhythmic order with the train like intercom herding us from one lettered area to the next. The introduction of the event being recited by three members simultaneously in fitting chaotic fashion. Although the mini-lecture was presented in such a way to distract and fumble, the aesthetic nods to groups such as The Cacophony Society, Frank Zappa. Also, to counterculture movements such as ad-busting showed a fanatic breadth of knowledge towards all things ‘anarchistic’. This was a near-perfect promise for that what was to come here tonight.

A mixture of music, discussion, and shamanic ritual, Operation Mindf**k continuously kept the audience on its toes. Each mini-event offering an empathetic and deeply cathartic expression towards apathy and the manufactured experience. The evening flitted from one attack to the next, with each echoing the beautiful incoherence of Dada and Chris Morris’ Brasseye in simultaneous execution. Amongst the barrage of expressions made, the audience was witness to a poem that ‘said a prayer to the Burger King’, followed by the candid execution of a ‘deceitful mirror’ (an iPhone) in favour of spending more time with one’s children.

As the night went on, we were coerced into what appeared to be a boardroom presentation for ‘Claritas’ – a corporation that boasted ‘empowerment through data.’ It soon became clear in the lack of subtlety, however, that the masked goons infiltrating our numbers had turned the pitch into a bloodbath of ethical dilemmas. It ended with the all too true slogan that is clear in our post-Cambridge Analytical world: ‘we know you better than you know yourself.’ Amongst each jaunt into Orwellian critiques, we were treated to audible-dedications to the beloved ‘private sector’ – boating lyrics and imagery that even the most optimistic individual would find hard to spin into positivity:

‘Less Roald Dahls, more Craig Charles
Less Polar bears, more Tony Blairs
Less John Lennon, more Keith Lemon’

The barrage ended with an amusing (and all too believable) contractual toing and froing between artist and commissioner – the result of which including literal bloodshed, shamanic chanting, and the tarnishing of recycled Hollywood toot (personified by the lacerations made onto Doctor Who’s Tardis)

In the end, Operation Mindf**k was an event that is rarely experienced but frequently made an anecdote – it was one that tapped into the very fabric of unspoken frustration and satisfaction that was palpably discussed in droves between strangers on exiting the building. At the beginning of the proceedings, our entertainers compared our current condition of orchestrated chaos to a virus, and I quote:

‘Sometimes a virus has to run its course before it can be cured, it’s not fun but it’ll be worth it.’

I tend to agree with them.

Operation Mindf**k is presented as part of Brighton’s art lab in partnership with the Phoenix gallery and is curated by David Bramwell. For more information on upcoming events from OMF or from Brighton’s Art Lab as a whole, please visit: https://www.phoenixbrighton.org/phoenix-events/.

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