12 Last Songs

Good to meet you. What do you do?

A durational work from Quarantine – part-performance, part-exhibition of people – 12 Last Songs is a 12-hour-long piece that, across that time, invites around 30 people into the room to demonstrate their labour, the work that they do… It brings a diverse set of people together from the location where it’s performed to create a complex portrait of people and place.

The project talks about our relationship with work, and through that lens, about representation. It asks us to consider how we spend our time. It brings people together who might not otherwise meet. That part is crucial.

12 Last Songs asks why we do what we do and takes a forensic look at the detail of our daily labour. It allows us to pay attention to physical acts of work – maybe a hairdresser cutting hair; a decorator wallpapering a wall; a chef cooking a meal; a jeweller putting a watch back together… The piece also engages with non-physical labour – perhaps a psychiatrist, a philosopher, a politician – and many others.

Most workers do a shift of an hour or two, some much longer, depending on the nature of their work. All the workers are paid at the same rate of £25 per hour (or local wage equivalent). Each worker is interviewed live by one of a group of three performers. The performers follow a text of 600 projected questions that span topics and themes that take us from beginnings to endings: from morning to night, from the start of work to retirement, from birth to death. Responses to questions are dealt with spontaneously – there’s no script. 

A fourth performer goes out into the city during the 12 hours and sends back video footage that is projected live into the space. The content of the video focuses on ways in which groups of people are assembling at that moment in the city, in transit and at leisure – perhaps the platform of a train station; guests gathering for a wedding at the town hall; a concert, a meal in someone’s home…

12 Last Songs is presented as a 12-hour-long performance from midday to midnight across a single day, with audiences able to come and go as they choose. Performances can take place in theatres, galleries and in appropriate, non-arts spaces, civic or (post-) industrial – Quarantine make a response to each specific context and site. 

There will be 12 performances of 12 Last Songs, then we’ll stop. So far, we’ve done 5…

“…hearing others discuss everything from the best way to make a coffee to how to counsel grieving relatives to how to raise children proved endlessly surprising – and often moving. It’s a reminder that all lives are extraordinary in their ordinariness.”
Holly Williams, The Stage