Laughing at Life (1991)


Another series of residencies including lots of participation to create an installation and performance. We thought it was time to leave love behind and decided on the theme of madness (interestingly love wormed its way back in, but definitely in a mad way!)

The starting point was the concept that everyone, at some point in their lives, experiences a moment when they question their own sanity; when they ask themselves, 'Am I going mad?'


Another Gary Cromack installation spectacular. This time we ended up touring with thousands of artificial carnations, rolls of scrim, wire and string. Also with seven carousel projectors with photography coming from a further collaboration from Aberdeen-based photographer Mike Davidson.


The positive thing for us was that all the art galleries and centres that had taken Tonight's the Night, were all very positive about working with us on Laughing at Life...and had more ideas and understanding about developing the participatory aspects of the work. 

The concept of developing long-term partnerships was starting to take hold.


Apart from the local authority and Yorkshire Arts money that supported the creative residencies, we were awarded national Arts Council touring support for Laughing at Life. We designed a series of one-week residencies with workshops, installation and a couple of public performances which enabled us to take the work to galleries throughout the north of England and Scotland.

Photography Mike Davidson (both this image and distorted projection within)

What We Learned

When we performed we would always have after-show discussions with the audience. There would always be at least one question along the lines of 'what did that bit mean?'. What we found was that the interesting thing was to throw the question back on the questioner...what did you think? The person would always come back with their own personal interpretation, sometimes very different from the idea that we started with, but based on their own personal experience.

  • A good performance (or any creative work) will resonate with an audience and allow space for the spectator to invest their own particular experiences. The fact that different people saw completely different meanings in the work was actually a mark of its success.

I loved the way you brought the two people together at the end of the show....

...Together? I thought they had split up forever!

Audience discussion

Carlisle Art Gallery