Action Hero Takes Me to Paisley

ACTION HERO / MIA + ERIC (England/Canada)


Around Paisley
21-30 May 2021

ACCESS: The work is an outdoor installation and highly visual.

Future Perfect: New Byelaws for Civic Spaces is a hopeful, positive act of re-configuration. Byelaws that regulate behaviours in civic spaces—in this case  Paisley’s “Rules for the Management of Public Parks”—are cut up word-by-word and meticulously rearranged into a new set of rules for a transitioning world.

From this new poetic script, selected phrases are enlarged and re-inserted back into the architecture of the cityscape on hoardings and giant billboards, acting as playful instructions, permissions or manifestos; a collection of imagined alternative behaviours unfolding throughout the city. From the words of Paisley’s existing byelaws, an accidental poetry emerges that re-constructs, re-engineers and rehearses possible futures.

A large-scale remnant of the cut-up process, the billboards and signs work against the fast-moving digital dialogues of the internet, media and advertising. As the hand-pasted signs appear in the urban landscape, a slow-moving narrative develops that invites the reader to imagine alternative ways to move through civic space.

You are invited to help with reconstructing Paisley’s new Future Perfect byelaws! Visit our interactive website (launched early May) to submit your own new rule, using cut-up words from the original text. Then look out for Paisley’s new byelaws as they appear around town.

There seems to be a real clarity in the function and expression of the byelaws – a quality which is not always in abundance in performance art (until it is seen…). Is this immediacy and accessibility important to you in terms of the art you are making?

Gemma Paintin: I think we are interested in the specificity of the language around city byelaws. They are about how behaviour in public space is controlled/regulated, whereas for me performance is about opening up possibilities, or ways to be in the world. So with this project, we’re taking that language- of real city byelaws- and scrambling it up to create a new set of rules that might describe a future world, or a possible one. So perhaps its moving more towards a performative state- suggesting behaviours that might occur rather than restricting behaviour.

I don’t know that real life city bylaws are more accessible than performance art! For sure the average person intersects with them everyday, but perhaps they’re not aware of it. I like the idea of working with a material that is explicitly about the public realm, and that describes how we’re allowed to be in that space. The idea that remixing those words might produce a vision of the future is exciting to me. Maybe that future is absurd or playful, maybe its weird or funny, maybe its a little subversive or calls cultural or societal norms into question. Maybe its a parallel universe!

But yes, we want the project to be immediate and for people to be able to engage with it on multiple levels and across multiple timescales. Maybe somebody sees one billboard and it makes them smile, or gives them pause. Maybe someone else decides to track down all the billboards across town, sees them changing daily, visits the website & reads all about the project. Maybe they even decide to read the actual real-life set of city byelaws. All of these are possible responses

What made you decide to take it to the streets and leave the auditorium space?

This project has to exist in public space, it makes no sense in an auditorium. It needs to play out across a city, to have the ‘performance space’ be the city streets, and for a narrative to build slowly via the billboards over time. The piece is a collaboration with Canadian visual artists Mia+Eric. A lot of the work they make is in the public realm, and we’ve been slowly moving away from making work for auditoriums for several years now.

Burroughs regarded the cut-up as a potential strategy to disrupt the narrative flow. Although byelaws seems more gentle, do you have any affinity with that particular approach to language?

I think this project is about disrupting the narrative flow of a city through a cut-up methodology, but more than that its about rebuilding a new narrative, and inviting people to join us in that process. You can have a go a rewriting a byelaw on our project website ( We didn’t want to break the byelaws down into gobbledygook, to undo meaning or for the project to be about breaking language. We wanted to rework the rules to make something new. For me that’s more of an exciting imaginative leap.

I am afraid this is a predictable one: how far did the collaboration evolve under the impact of COVID? Did it change your attitude towards public space?

Covid has given us a new way to think about public space and the rules that govern it, so the project takes on new resonances. I think everyone has become more aware of how our behaviour is shaped in civic space. In terms of how we’ve adapted the project, we worked online with Mia+Eric using an online shared whiteboard space.

We’d started the project in person and had a couple of IRL residencies together physically cutting up documents and reassembling them. Finding an analogous process online was pretty straightforward. We had to make some changes to how we’re presenting the work because of covid. In a non-covid time we’d want to be in situ in a public space, rewriting the byelaws in realtime and inviting the public to join us. And then pasting up the new billboards daily with a team of local pasters.

This version is completely remote- you can see the full set of rewritten byelaws for Paisley’s parks on the website and the billboards will be slowly changing around town. I like the idea that someone might be reading them on their way to work each morning, watching a narrative unfold. As we’re all slowly re-emerging back into public space after lockdown, it’s a good time to think about the ways we use them.

Future Perfect is a collaboration between UK performance makers Action Hero, and Canadian visual artists Mia + Eric.

This new collaboration between Action Hero and Mia + Eric was formed after the duos were introduced during an artist double-date in Calgary, and each realised they’d met their artist doppelgangers. They decided to work together as an artistic supergroup and create a project for public space.

Mia + Eric are a Canadian visual art duo from Calgary, Alberta who have many years of experience working in socially engaged practice and site-specific public art, spanning both gallery and public art contexts. Their work has been presented throughout North America and Europe.

Action Hero are an artist duo who live in Bristol, UK, who have over a decade of experience making work that collaborates with audiences and the public. They have shown their work in over 40 countries and across 5 continents.

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