Harry Giles is from Orkney, Scotland, and is a poet, performer and general doer of things. He has lived on four islands, each larger than the last. He trained in Theatre Directing (MA with Merit, East 15 Acting School, 2010) and Sustainable Development (MA 1st Class, University of St Andrews, 2009) and his work generally happens in the crunchy places where performance and politics get muddled up.
As a performer, Harry has been featured in the SPILL National Platform, and programmed by festivals and venues including the Ovalhouse, Forest Fringe and Sprint. His performance lecture This is not a riot toured to Italy in 2012, and his one-to-one show What We Owe toured the European Imagine 2020 venues in 2013. What We Owe was listed in the Guardian’s “Best of the Edinburgh Fringe” round-up in the “But is it art section”.
As a poet, Harry has toured North America, given feature performances at venues from the Bowery Poetry Club to the Soho Theatre; hosted events at festivals from StAnza to Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, won multiple slams including the UK Student Slam (2008), the BBC Scotland Slam (2009), the Glasgow Slam (2010); and been published in journals including Magma, Gutter, PANK and New Writing Scotland. His pamphlets Visa Wedding (2012) and Oam were published by Stewed Rhubarb. Sabotage Reviews said of Visa Wedding that it “seems to veer between an intellectual, formal severity and a desire to celebrate, a naughtiness that charms”, and also that it “feels a bit as if he’s lashed himself to the mast of anarchism”. He won the IdeasTap National Poetry Competition in 2012, and in 2014 was on the shortlist of 6 for the UK’s biggest poetry prize, the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award.
Harry has developed and delivered workshops for organisations including Keats House, People & Planet, and the Edinburgh International Science Festival. He’s designed participatory games for the Scottish Book Trust and Hatch Nottingham. He was artist-in-residence for Govanhill Baths in 2013, and with the Crichton Carbon Centre for Nil By Mouth in 2013-14.
In Edinburgh, Harry founded Inky Fingers, a nationally-funded spoken word events organisation, co-directs the quarterly performance art platform ANATOMY at Summerhall, and is part of the collective behind the Forest Café, Edinburgh’s open access arts space.
Sometimes other things happen. He occasionally writes interactive fiction and sometimes appears as a rebel clown. He tweets too much. He gets enthusiastic about half the world and furious about the other half. His emails have too many exclamation marks in.
My work is about what it feels like to live under capitalism, and how to survive and resist in a violent world. I make participatory performances, working as a solo performer and as a director/facilitator to create one-to-ones, installations, street sideshows, interventions and longer interactive shows in theatre spaces.
I explore the performance possibilities of internet spaces. I use social media and blogging extensively to build public discussion around each project: increasingly my performances take place simultaneously online and offline. I Want to Blow up the Palace of Holyroodhouse, for example, exists as research and explosions in public spaces, discussions and arguments with participants around those events, a continuing twitterstream and discussion during each event, and satirical online auto-surveillance reporting. My website is a source of performance and documentation together.
This is not a riot is a performance lecture and training session on the political history of riots and what to do if you find yourself in one. Class Act is a gameshow about class war, designed to teach class politics and incite political action. What We Owe is a debt counselling service, supporting participants to come to grips with overwhelming feelings of emotional and political obligation.
I consistently occupy aesthetics appropriated from regimes of power: PowerPoint, lectures, spreadsheets, reports, business suits, surveillance, corporate social media. I enjoy clownishly inhabiting these regimes, both as a form of critique for the audience and as a form of therapy for myself. I like taking bankrupt aesthetics and making a good joke with them, or disrupting a lecture with a teddybearfight, or using a deathly scatterplot to ask a political question.
My process is activist: making performance is a way to explore politics, performing a way to intervene. I combine participatory performance and public feeling – to feel with audiences and resist together. To me, feelings are not a soft form of politics: they are hard, edgy, scary and potent. I am trying to use disruptive action, satire and discussion to drive a wedge into political moments, opening a space for audiences to think, feel and act.