My novella Common was written in the City of London over the summer of 2011, immediately before the occupy movement erupted. The book documents a crash in global markets caused by the downgrading of American debt, turbulence in the Eurozone and riots that started in London before spreading across Britain. Written as Self-Appointed Artist-in-Residence in the City of London, events in Common take place over a day: beginning at sunrise and ending at midnight. Its main protagonist is an artist who, on witnessing an injustice in the City of London, cries ‘white-hot tears’ before appointing herself as Artist-in-Residence in the Square Mile. The book combines biography with journalistic writing and fantastical imaginings. Footnotes run through the text, mimicking the rolling news on TV screens seen in lobbies throughout the City. It is in these footnotes that the politics of the work are delivered, and the City of London is examined.
There are many performances in the book, which documents a short performance and an artistic intervention of my own, alongside the performance of traders at the London Metal Exchange. Money gets to perform in a short play, while the performance of bankers and markets are represented in the two acts, Bonus the Banker Clown and Boom and Bust who perform in the ‘Crisis Cabaret’. In the book I link corporations in the City of London to the destruction of the global commons, climate change and the current social crisis. I wrote Common in hope of finding a possible future in the midst of a social, environmental and economic crash.
‘The financial sector in the City of London is often viewed as an impermeable, inaccessible block, and that perception is what gives it a lot of its power. In Common, Hayley Newman has subverted that, opening the City up through richly imaginative stories that are at once creative examples of how to play with the space, and empowering political actions. I hope this book will inspire others to embark on similar transformative adventures.’
Related works: I began working in the City of London in 2009 when writer Andrea Mason and myself held three Capitalists Anonymous meetings on the steps of the Royal Exchange. Originally set up for bankers in the wake of the economic crash, Bankspeak was a therapeutic intervention in the City of London.
After writing Common I went onto make a couple of related artworks. Histoire Economique (2013) is a series of rubbings of the fronts of banks on envelopes.
In 2013 I was invited to perform ‘Crisis Cabaret’, a chapter from Common, at the Barbican Theatre.