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Going Places

Page history last edited by melancholic1 14 years, 10 months ago

Going Places (1998) is the first-and best known-work by The Leeds 13. The project involved a staged trip to Malaga, ostensibly paid for by a grant, that was presented as an end-of-year show. The work went on to generate significant media coverage of both the holiday story and the subsequent revelation that it was staged.


At the outset, the group applied for an art grant from the University of Leeds Students Union. To be eligible for the money they had to be an official student society, so they all joined the Arts Society and voted in two of their group as the chairman and treasurer. As members of the Arts Society, they submitted a funding proposal for a 'conventional' art exhibition. The Students Union awarded them £1126.


The group initially publicised their project as an exhibition called 'Going Places' that would take place at East Street Studios in Leeds city centre. In the week prior to the opening their tutor Terry Atkinson received a postcard from Spain apparently from the group, apologising that they were unable to attend their weekly seminar with him.


Around sixty guests arrived on the opening night. The large gallery space was empty apart from a large bowl of sangria in the middle of the room and some flamenco music playing in the background. An airhostess then emerged into the space. Using a megaphone, she invited everyone to make their way outside where a bus was waiting for them. The visitors were taken to Leeds and Bradford Airport and instructed to await an incoming flight from Malaga. As they made their way to the arrivals gate, the visitors saw the students coming through customs, apparently arriving back from a holiday in Malaga.


The students recounted stories about their week in the sun. They brandished forged travel documents and staged photographs that 'proved' they had been to Spain. The story spread by word of mouth, until the group took photographs to the Leeds Student Newspaper and stated that the holiday was a collective art project. The story was then picked up by the national press, televison and radio. The name 'Leeds 13' was created by the media at this time, but the group subsequently chose to use this moniker for themselves. In the absense of a definitive concensus, both 'The Leeds 13' and 'Leeds 13' are equally acceptable.


The story of 'Going Places' was first published nationally in the Sunday Mirror, and on the following Wednesday the Leeds 13 were invited onto Radio 4’s Today programme to justify their actions. In response to the accusations of a relatively hostile panel of commentators, the students announced that the holiday was in fact an elaborate simulation; the photos, tickets and suntans were all fakes. The turquoise Mediterranean that featured so heavily in the holidays snaps was in fact the freezing North Sea just along the coast from Scarborough. The Spanish blue skies were created with a lens filter, and the sun-kissed swimming pool – the iconic symbol of a holiday abroad – was actually located in suburban Leeds.


The nightclub photos were taken in Leeds and London. The group had managed to secure various Spanish artefacts – bottles, beer cans, crisp packets, castanets, red roses, posters etc – and displayed them as conspicuously as possible in the foreground of the staged pictures. The postcard that they sent to their tutor was also doctored. A postmark depicting the appropriate date was painstakingly forged by hand onto an original Spanish postcard - authentic stamp included - and this was then slipped into the University’s internal postal system in the middle of the night.


The students never left the country; instead they spent the week holed up behind dark curtains - ignoring the doorbell and phone - sunning themselves on a hired sunbed that they hid in their cellar. If they did have to venture outside, they would wear balaclavas and hooded tops for fear of being spotted.


The group never intended to spend the money, and as soon as they revealed that the holiday was a simulation they returned the funds to the Students Union. A second wave of media interest was generated by their announcement on Radio 4. Channel 4 news, among many others, staged a studio debate called “But is it Art?” and Germaine Greer championed the Leeds 13 on “Have I got News for You?” The project has now featured in many art publications and textbooks. 'Going Places' has provoked many reactions both positive and negative, but It continues to exist as an evolving discussion surrounding art and mediation.


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