“…she’s such a mistress of precision mis-timings”

…White 2003

A Tramway Dark Lights Commission.


Surman examines the role of assistant to an absent magician, and has to conjure moments of transformation and everyday enlightenment from the materials surrounding her.

This performance takes on the title of the place it is performed in, which is less about responding directly to these places, but more about the similarities that connect them. Glasgow White becomes Leeds White, which then becomes Liverpool White, becomes London White, becomes Isle of Wight White.

Points to remember……… PUT the TOASTER down – PUT the BOWL on TABLE – GO TO MIC which is a bit too high – PUT ON WINGS (wear white at night so you can be seen in the dark) –  PULL the ASSISTANT over by it’s tail  –  TAKE OFF Nike TRAINERS – STAND ON ASSISTANT – Good evening TEXT – “ASSISTANT – yes you, you WATCH” – PULL out white BREAD – PUT IN TOASTER – Snow White HAND CLAP……….hopefully a cloud of dust……….

Questions of interest………. How do we* know something if we** don’t go through it? Common throughout Grace Surman’s*** work are in ideas of being trapped and containment. Often the performer**** is trapped by conditions of the artwork and attempts to work through and understand these immediate constraints; to have to exist in this moment, in this frame.

*Doves coo.

**Bunnies hop.

***Women get cut in half.

****Grace Surman gets sacked as a magician’s assistant.



“…she’s such a mistress of precision mistimings”

“All this, and more, takes her and us along an edgy tightrope between daft hilarity and something poignant, even distressing”

Mary Brennan, The Herald 9.6.03

“The piece, at turns as unsettling as it is comic, works to essay the The piece, at turns as unsettling as it is comic, works to essay the function of the magician’s assistant, a role traditionally filled by partly dressed young women variously employed to offer props to their employer as glamorously as they can, stand as still as they can, hide as best they can, or simply appear as lovely as they can in a bid to distract us from whatever’s being palmed, swapped or vanished in front of our very eyes. Alone before us Surman gamely performs the role of a magician’s assistant but to the aide of no magician and no tricks. Instead we witness a series of fragile attempts at creating near-tricks, or part-ticks, that falter, fail and disintegrate. What appears to have disappeared here is the act itself.”

Gregg Whelan, read more Body Space and Technology Journal