In the City

In the City…

‘In the City, there’s a thousand things I want to say to you.’ 

One of the Situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”]…

In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there.

Guy Debord Les Lèvres Nues #9 (November 1956)

Hayley Alessi ©2014


This piece was part of the ‘Selfies’ project detailed below – and my attempt to explore the city of Sheffield through pictures and verbatim text.  As a theatre maker and writer, I often find myself on the fringes, observing people and scribbling down bits of overheard conversation, so I thought this would be an interesting way to structure my own practice and see what happened.


My remit was simple, to spend 2 weeks taking photos around the city on my mobile phone: these could be at any time of day or night, but must not be pre-planned or posed in any way, and had to include my feet.  I would then transcribe the first piece of speech I heard immediately afterwards, which could include one or more voices or conversations, and make a note of the estimated age and sex of the speaker.


I was not allowed to alter or edit the pictures or recorded speech in any way – nor discard or change the order of the pictures.  After the first few photos I also decided to include some instances of my own thoughts and internal dialogue, as and when the mood took me.


The performances took the format of a slideshow, and in putting mine together I decided to remain elusive onstage too, to maintain my flaneur persona.  So the piece opened with a spotlight coming up on my red shoes placed in front of an empty microphone stand on the stage, while I remained behind the scenes reading the script and attempting to embody and portray the variety of characters and voices I had heard on my journey around the city.




A cut-to-fit ready-made template for the single (even reluctant) performer

Forced Entertainment’s Terry O’Connor worked with University of Sheffield and local artists to define a simple new template for short performance pieces, addressed directly to an audience and placed before a selection of self-images. Borrowing contemporary vernacular, we called the performances selfies, though our iteration of the photographic self-portrait extended beyond the use of mobile devices and became a process of inquiry, rather than a simple vanity project.


  1. There must be between 5 and 50 images.
  2.  The performer must appear in each image, though it may have been captured by someone else.
  3. There must be a verbal element to the performance, this may be extensive or limited to one word.
  4. The performance should last between 5 and 15 minutes.
  5. Costume, characterisation, narrative or poetic device, fictional world or confessional revelation are all optional.

Engaging with audience essential.


 images by Hayley Alessi© In the City 2013




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