Only Skin #10

The Pipe Factory

6th March 2018

Shh! The Octopus is an attempt to look at cultural production from the point of view of someone who has very little to contribute. The performance centres on a washed-out script writer attempting to pitch a project that is unmistakeably a rip-off of the popular disaster flick Sharknado.

Clearly down on her luck but riding high on an ego wave, the scriptwriter undertakes a Xanax-fuelled journey starting at her ex’s award-ceremony, leading her through the shopping section of a ferry terminal and all the way to a country house on a remote island, where she intends to concentrate on the project. All the while, she is pestered by phone calls from her agent who tries in vain to make her aware of the impending deadline.

As the scriptwriter gradually loses not only the plot of Shh! The Octopus but of everything that surrounds her, she is plagued by visions of a hostile octopus which follows her across the country. The alien consciousness of a cephalopod functions as a stand-in for the fundamental unknowability of stories before they are written, only to take on a life of their own once they appear on the page.

Whatever needs to happen to make Shh! The Octopus a bearable production, the main character is clearly in denial of it. Her address to the audience is an attempt to evoke something that is neither here nor there, filling the void with tired B-movie tropes and bulky voicemails. Utterly lacking the urgency of writing, the scriptwriter finds herself smothered by the far-reaching tentacles of a writing block – or maybe just a simple inability to make sense of things (the octopus, writhing in a cloud of self-ejected ink, takes the brunt of yet another awkward analogy).

I have been thinking about our ability to look failure right in the eyes and see nothing. Considering the current consensus (held by humans and octopuses alike) that the best response to a generalised crisis is to sit tight and mind your own business, passivity must clearly have been an evolutionary advantage at some point in our shared biological past.

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