The World is Flooding, zine, B&W, A4, 77 pages, Tate Commission 2014

available to print upon request.

The world is Flooding




An Eskimo sticks a finger in the ground and shouts: A hole! There is a hole! The world is flooding! Depressing!


So begins Mayakovsky’s play Mystery-Bouffe, written in 1918/1921 to celebrate the anniversary of the 1917 Russian Revolution.


The Unclean build a boat to save themselves from the flood. The Clean ask to come on board, alas once on board they take over. The Unclean are left with no choice but to throw the Clean into the water. The play continues. The play ends. The Unclean find their earned heavily place.


Mayakovsky introduces a disclaimer stating that in the future anyone can present the play, providing that they make it contemporary, immediate, up to the moment. In an act of faith, he creates a de-authorising contract with the future – no official licensing needed – trusting that at any point in time an urgent sociopolitical moment would be foregrounded.


The framework of the play creates a world’s schema, combining elements that absurdly expose the language of administration and mechanisms of power and social biases. Over a period of three years I worked with this schema in two projects, Party for Freedom[1] and most recently The World is Flooding[2]. The World is Flooding is a project with participants from Freedom from Torture (Write to Life), UKLGIG (UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group), Portugal Prints, as well as people who arrived at the project individually. Collectively we created an absurd script for a performance at Tate Modern Turbine Hall, large-scale banners and a set of ponchos and headgear made of cleaning materials.


The script for the performance, images of the group modelling the ponchos and some of the drawings we developed during the project are the mainstay of this zine.


Who is the Eskimo? Who are the Clean and Unclean of today? What is the boat? How do we save ourselves from the flood?


Through a series of workshops we adapted the play to make it our own. We’ve developed the figure of the Eskimo as that in possession of the agency of discovery. The Eskimo is at once a whistleblower, a messenger, an innocent child forming an early comprehension of the system and a newcomer experiencing a new environment for the first time, perhaps an asylum seeker. The figure of the Flood came to represent that which is ‘too much’; too many feelings, too many demands, too many traumas. The Boat we understood to be the thing that saves us from a crisis such as advocacy, education, art, policies, working together. Alas, the Boat also turned out to render the idiosyncratic system we all inhabit, such as the asylum-seeking system in the UK for victims of torture and LGBTIQ people. The Clean and Unclean were proving to be complicated entities; poets, artists, thieves, a corrupt elite, those in need of help, outsiders, hypocritical politicians; all mixing class, race, gender and sexual orientation. To complicate things further, The Clean and the Unclean tend to merge and become one of the other.


In our script, the Eskimo only ever saw ice in iceboxes, so when she/he sees snow for the first time, they touch it and the snow melts under their hands, rendering their hand numb.


The chorus asks: How can we discover without getting numb?


Oreet Ashery, 2014


With: Oreet Ashery, Aso Sliber, Bassam Alabsi,  Cheer Ren, Corin Levick, Emily Stone, Fauzi M. Hasani Hasani, Jakub Wachocki, Jade Amoli-Jackson, Lana de Meillon, Mohamed Conteh, Nandera Sylvia Suubi, Natasha Nzazi, Norda Daley, PJ Samuels, Ridwan Salman, Sarah Walker, Ting Ji, Tracy Ndovi, Tamara McFarlance.



[1] Party for Freedom was an Artangel and Performance Matters commissions.

[2] The World is Flooding was a Tate Modern Public Programs commission.