‘Without you I wouldn’t be here!’

This was the refrain heard over and again in a performance of ‘England’ at the Whitechapel Gallery last Saturday. Tim Crouch’s piece is about art, about the value of art. The monetary value and the restorative, uplifting value. It was a stunning experience for those of us who were there, made more so by the closeness of actors and audience as we negotiated the artworks and spaces in the Isa Genzken exhibition. The actors stared into our eyes as they spoke and we couldn’t hide our reactions from them.

 

The repetition of such pat phrases to punctuate the unfolding was sometimes creepy, like a stalker; sometimes wholeheartedly joyful; sometimes ironic. Like the idea of the value of art itself, the piece both reaffirmed and debunked current government and media obsessions cultural purpose.