Exploring pleasure in the ‘Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens’ – The performance intervention

Following the success of the model presentation, a natural direction to take our final design intervention within the space of the Pleasure Gardens was in the pursuit of a performance that built on the ways we had explored narratives using the scale models. Further reading and reflection on our own experiences of pleasure within the space led us to consider how pleasure could become dis-pleasurable – at what points does pleasure reach excess? does the repetition of pleasurable actions account for this? These were questions we wished to propose to viewers when we would perform our intervention. This was also accompanied by the construction and decoration (to the point of vulgarity) of six performative wooden palette stages and props that would be used to aid the representation of each of the ‘pleasurable activities’ that we had observed, experienced and documented whilst immersing ourselves in the gardens on a number of occasions.

Our pleasure process: the making of the performance presentation

This invigorating performance lasted for an hour and involved us, as the performers, acting out these roles for continuous, 5 minute periods of time before an alarm would signal us to switch stations. This form of the mechanical reproduction of pleasure was later highlighted to us as being historically relevant to the Victorian obsession with automatons and clockwork mechanisms that became popularised in London around the same time period as the original Pleasure Gardens.

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Enjoying tea and cake
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Taking a nap
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Taking selfies with friends
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Dressing in drag make-up
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Enjoying a cigarette
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Dancing to music

This too was a highly successful intervention, attracting much attention from commuters on their otherwise ordinary walk through the park. Had we taken this project further, we may have considered also how we could engage this audience in more extensive ways. Perhaps this would have involved the implementation of a system of more extensive actions and ‘performed’ activities undertaken by participants on a larger scale. While the palettes here represented our understanding of segregating the activities of pleasure within the park, a development on this could well have been the fabrication of more interactive or collaborative stations designed to make people reflect on and consider their experiences within this space in a more provocative and considered manner.


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