Swampy at the Thames Barrier

On the 18th of December, 2011 a strange creature was seen on the banks of the river Thames in London. The creature, appearing out of nowhere, climbed up from the mud flats and was last spotted entering the Thames Barrier Park…

The performance SWAMPY  by Tom Ests took place at The Thames Barrier and was staged on December 18, designated “International Migrants Day”. The River Thames is a traditional port of entry into London (and the U.K), while The Thames Barrier was erected to protect London from rising sea levels and the possibility of flooding.

Born outside of Boston in The U.S.A to an immigrant parent, Tom Estes moved to Paris and lived there for a couple of years before settling for London as his base of operations. As an artist Estes’ work has been hung, played and performed in a few of the world’s right places and a couple of deliciously wrong ones. In the last few years Tom Estes has begun to establish a career as a performance artist which utilises photography as an integral element of his practice. In his performance work Estes stages a Live Art action and then ask members of the audience to take pictures of the performance on their own cameras or on a communal camera that is passed around. In this way members of the audience become not only involved with the performance but part of the Live Art action. The pictures of the performance and the audience participation are published on social networking sites for another online audience to view.

Through the performance ‘Swampy’ artist Tom Estes adopts a role based on the all-too-human emotions embodied by fictional creatures in science fiction. Ever since the first cheesy monster or goofy robot leered out from the cover of a pulpy magazine, science fiction has struggled to shake off a certain tinge of ‘camp’. No matter how hard creators may try to tell frightening stories, the slightly ironic silliness is always lurking just outside the frame. A little ‘camp’ is fun to giggle at, but is often tinged with feelings which are based on real-life issues that are familiar and frightening; threatening and strange.




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