Is your regular supermarket trip like doing your ironing, when you go onto automatic pilot to get the job done as quickly as possible, or do you savour the experience, taking your time to contemplate and meditate as you struggle to keep your trolley progressing in a straight line? Should you be in the first category then you might like to try WONDERMART, the latest event in this year’s Compass Festival.
The experience, for that is what it is, was devised and written by Silvia Mercuriali who was in residency with Compass in May, and I must say that it is one of the strangest things I have ever done, in public at least!
The idea is that you book a time-slot at one of the participating Morrisons supermarkets, download an app, connect it to your headphones and collect a trolley for a trip through the aisles. Ms Mercuriali’s voice asks you to move to specific parts of the store and perform various tasks, which, given that you are on your own, can seem strange but should you enter into the spirit of the thing it is quite immersing.
I have to say that I backed out of a couple of tasks; there is one where you are asked to open the door of a cabinet in the freezer aisle and touch both the produce in it and the back of the unit, before creating a spy hole in the condensation on the door before closing it again. The reason for my declining the invitation was not that I didn’t wish to appear silly, too late for that, but it seemed like a very irresponsible thing to do, what with energy prices rising by the second and the threat of impending power cuts.
There is some music, written by Tommaso Perego, interspersed with the narrative and the combination is quite restful, even when you are asked to do things which are totally out of character, at least I hope they are. It is difficult to write about this without revealing too many spoilers so I will just say that, if you want to do something totally out of your comfort zone, give it a try.
A few things you should know though are that you are totally on your own, no one from Compass is there. You book a slot at which time the commentary begins, so if you are early you will need to wait outside or if you are late I presume it will be partially over when you connect. I got there five minutes before my allocated time enabling me to connect to the store’s wifi so that I didn’t use my cellular data. It lasts exactly 30 minutes. It is free. It runs on various dates between now and 27th November at Morrisons in Horsforth, Harehills, Hunslet and the Merrion Centre. You can abandon the performance at any time. You will not be told, or even asked, to buy anything. Most importantly, there was a part of me which expected someone to approach me at the end of the experience to say that it had been captured on the store’s cctv system and either a) could they use the footage as part of the Festival, or b) would I like to buy a copy. Neither of these outrageously cynical thoughts came to fruition so you can relax and enjoy learning both about the way in which supermarkets operate and also how you operate.
Remember – eye level is buy level! That was not in the narrative, you’re welcome.
To find out more about this event and to book a slot please go to https://compassliveart.org.uk/event/compass-festival-2022/wondermart/
Photographs by Stan Graham