An Unauthorised Tour in Fourteen Parts
Description: Site-specific performance
Site: The Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London
Residency: September - November 1994
Commission: The Union Chapel Project with support from
The Architectural Association and London Arts Board
Since its construction in 1876, the vast wooden
octagon of The Union Chapel at the end of Upper Street, Islington, in
London has echoed with some of the most radical of religious and political
oratory. At times James Cubitt’s ‘People’s Gothic’
masterpiece was filled with congregations of over three thousand people.
Charismatic speakers challenged the Establishment in a manner characteristic
of the Non-Conformist movement in the late Nineteenth Century. Although
its congregation has now dwindled the building remains a potent symbol
of direct action against the orthodoxy of the time.
In January 1875 the Union Chapel commissioned a group
of architects to propose a design for a new building. Six of the submissions
were considered, the seventh was late…
Taking the architectural competition as a presentational
device, and exploring the architectural vocabulary of James Cubitt’s
winning entry, the performance visited over thirty of the Chapel’s
spaces. Conceived as a partial dictionary of dissent The Glossary was
a live handbook to an extraordinary building in which audiences were enticed
into a variety of astonishing and perplexing environments; a gilded café
in fin de siecle Vienna, a subterranean world of secret meetings and forbidden
languages, and a tranquil dairy producing ‘ideal foods’.
This overtly theatrical event was punctuated by speakers
invited from a variety of fields, including medicine, economics and horticulture,
each challenging a contemporary mainstream idea or practice thus fulfilling
the Chapel’s original function as a haven for the dissenting voice.