Editors' note: see Platform's website for updates on the project, which is continuing as 'Desk Killer'.
By shining a light into the world of the bureaucrats, planners and businessmen who contributed to Nazism and the Holocaust, killing us softly raises a critical question as to whether such an event can be viewed as a finished, historical episode or whether the psychology and behaviour that
enabled genocide to occur then is not only still present today, but exists quite specifically both in the institutional culture of transnationals corporations and in the mindset and activity of many individuals working for such corporations.
killing us softly, conceived by Dan Gretton (writer and artistic co-director of Platform), was first made public through a series of eight performances between 1999 and 2003. These were, by the end, ten-hour events devised for a small interdisciplinary audience of nine people who were invited from fields such as industry, business, the arts, education, psychology, environmentalism, and campaigning. The performance itself is an intensive durational experience, combining lecture, poetry, autobiography, live music, slide and video. The audience sits in a semi-circular series of personal
darkened spaces, enabling them only to focus on the ideas and the images/sounds presented to them. Food, refreshment and warmth is important to provide a sense of safety and privacy.
After the performance (which for the ten-hour version, lasts seven hours), participants leave the performance space and walk to the 'after-space', a floating discussion, where a conversation begins. Here begins an ongoing dialogue about the issues in the work, as well as the form (if desired). Later, the participants also give written or one-to-one oral feedback.
The intention of this form is to create a highly acute environment where deep personal reflection is unavoidable, and where, as a result, new revelations and insights may occur, which can then be shared immediately if desired, or reserved for another time.
The model differs from certain notions of performance's potential in making a political effect in that it is apologetically for a small strategically selected audience, concentrating on profound private impact and the ensuing ripple effect, rather than mass impact through mass access.
Some months after the event, participants from a number of performances are invited to a group feedback day where reflection on the ramifications of the performance and the issues it tackles can be discussed in a more formal environment.The feedback and ideas generated from this work has been exceptionally engaged and provocatively useful.
On the recommendation of writer John Berger and others, killing us softly is now being written as a book which will combine the textures of the performance. personal narrative, factual research, analysis and prognosis. Considerable interest is being shown in this book and a leading literary agent has taken this forward to mainstream publishers.
killing us softly is one strand in 90% CRUDE, an ongoing investigation into and provocation around the culture and impact of transnational corporations.