Tortilla or No Tortilla

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The Basement, Brighton, 2012
Photo Credit: Rosie Powell

‘The best piece of contemporary art I have ever seen’ Participant, Arnolfini, 2012

The piece is set in a kitchen. The audience are to make a Spanish tortilla and are given instructions on how to do so.

On a video screen is a projection of the ‘Tortilla Master’, he gives detailed instructions on the steps to follow in order to make a tortilla in Spanish (with English subtitles).

Peel and slice the onion separating the layers into half-moon shapes

Simultaneously an automated answerphone plays alternative instructions to follow.

First peel and slice the potatoes and cut in half length-wise.

At the same time, there is a live commentary broadcast to the audience offering a third alternative way of making the dish.

Put 50ml of olive oil in a pan and heat gently.

Each audience member is required to contribute to the making of the tortilla. However, there is also one rule imposed, each person is limited to touching only one object in the tortilla’s preparation and that object is to be used exclusively by them throughout the performance. If one person chooses the potato peeler, they must then keep hold of the potato peeler for the whole piece, someone else must choose the potato. The mode and order in which the instructions are followed is up to the audience themselves to negotiate or not.

The piece aims to investigate the voice and listening as modes of participation. Does the live take precedence over the pre-recorded? What effect can the quality of the voice and the way sound is perceived have in persuading you to follow one set of instructions rather than another?

The piece ends after 12 minutes. Tortilla or no tortilla.

Tortilla or No Tortilla has been performed at The Basement in Brighton and at the Arnolfini, Bristol as part of You & Your Work Festival.

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