In the year 2525, Good on Paper celebrates 500 years since it became a fully fledged institution—its protocols, workflows, humans and habits, settled into a comfortable eternity. Performance art is different now and everybody does it. Broadcast as single tones between the earrings we all now wear, pulsating pitches and lengths carry instructions for the factory chips installed in our temples on our 16th birthdays. ‘READY READY READY! READY FOR PERFORMANCE ART!’, we howl in a circle (as is now custom) while the Good on Paper accredited doctor guides the chips’ teeth curling into the skin. Then the teenager screams, ‘I AM A PERFORMANCE ARTIST’, as the performance art they’ve been working on for their exams is transmitted across the network.
In the year 1984, paper thrown down memory holes is stitched together. This is the paper that used to support truths (or subsequent iterations of truths) and has been discarded as it no longer supports the narrative. It’s weaved together by a secret ministry that entangles old stories together. There’s no ink so it relies on what words are cast their way. If a word doesn’t exist it’s hard to imagine it.
In the year 1631, a group of ‘sorcerers’ meet at the foot of Mount Vesuvius in Italy, three days prior to an eruption. Their weirdness causes discomfort amongst the local franciscan monastery in Naples and the Scottish flaneurs who have arrived to collect lava specimens. Performing sorcery for one another, they test their capacity to perform a future where they can holler, pulsate and dance for a jubilant crowd. In 2075, their bodies were discovered mid ‘scratch night’ with a piece of paper in a vial in a closed hand with the number written in red ink ‘2027’.
In the year 2027, is there something to be gained from the experience of having a wet sock for this long? Cicely says athlete’s foot could be gained: the sensation of wet acrylic on skin starting to develop into an itchy, scaly rash. First between my toes, then as a fungal condition that spreads around the groin, down the inner thigh, up the back, round the ears and eyes, up the nose and down the tongue.
In the year 2263, the paper is our support, blank slates measuring 297 x 210mm fold us into a pulp. Inside: a moebius strip of barren potential, some quick pinches into paper aeroplanes first, then into fortune tellers teasing an endless game in the rain. As seasons change, the papier maché we made when we lounged around in our paper bedding stiffens, drying out and igniting in a blisteringly hot summer. We pull the landscape in, tucking and crimping mountains of the stuff to isolate the blaze in a single envelope. Global origami rolls back in for another day.
In the year 10191, aliens from the scissor planet attack in scissor-shaped spaceships. Good on Paper are drafted as Chief Recruitment Office for the high performing military operation planned to protect our vulnerable flat world. Scores of infantry with paper swords take formation in defence of our burgeoning library-metropolises. Good on Paper is confident, but the scientists are worried about prospects. The first wave is a shocking blow to our morale as our extra-stratospheric paper shields are snipped clean in half. Things don’t look good. One of the scientists, an outcast, remembers reading a myth that under the page we stand on was something tough, a round, 3-Dimensional substance that some had understood as a world before. Like a stack of paper, but stronger and uncuttable as if paper had calcified. An elite team of paper planet’s finest now look down now into the vertical horizon, under the structures that our civilization founded itself on: a world built of contracts, receipts, passports, invoices, bank notes, certificates, annulments, agendas, dreams. Digging deep into the mounds of paper, the specialists note a thickening, a stretching of the flatness into a depth—something that sustains heavy and unreachable information underneath its surfaces. Like a sheet of paper with writing on the back that disappears when you turn it over. Like a book with spines on every edge that you can’t open. Was it the fabled ‘Rock’ that the scientist had spoken of? Samples are excavated and further study for military application is granted permission.
In the year 8510, God shakes its mighty heads. Performance art retreats into the undercurrents, calling itself Feel Good Pop.
In the year 1,500,002,022, the Earth is scraping by. Most of the planet has risen to uninhabitable temperatures so civilization rests solely in two vast theatres at the North and South poles. Those who remain are good performers, good artists who got good gigs, living the good way of life. They found their immortality in the morally decorative, and capitalist-sympathetic good that patterns the means of oppression. Moving with the grain (an archaic idiom as grain hasn’t existed for millions of years) towards aspirations that are societally encouraged.
In the year 10^100, we are thrilled to announce a performance decided on by subsequent committees through countless meetings and confirmed via quorum. Everyone stays still forevermore. It’s a pleasure to support such a state of non-thinking, non-movement, just universal static.
In the nanoseconds following the Big Bang, Good on Paper supports the ballet before atoms. We look to one another, no curtains to raise or lights to dim, so we kind of just ad lib it. I give an uncomfortable speech which doesn’t transmit because there’s no atmosphere to carry sound yet. You contain the audience by brushing distracted quarks back into the venue. At the end of the show, the particles clap together and there’s stellar applause.
Gordon Douglas is a performance artist in Glasgow. He plays games with organisational staff and their stakeholders, celebrates birthdays amidst austerity, and holds it together before breaking down in offices. He is currently cardbearer for Good on Paper.
Cicely Farrer is a curator on the North East Coast of Scotland. Day to day she facilitates artist residencies, pedagogical events and workshops and supports artists to create new work including performance. She invests her time considering the invisible support structures for artists.
Good on Paper is a research project initiated by Gordon Douglas and Cicely Farrer looking into the futures of performance art making in Scotland. They are working with MAP Magazine on a series of texts through spring/summer 2022.
Good on Paper is supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland.
Click on links below this article for the third invitation appendices.