'Dancing in Peckham' is a production still from Gillian Wearing’s video piece of the same title (GAC 17286/1), in which the artist is seen dancing for 25 minutes in a shopping centre in Peckham, south-east London. She dances to a silent soundtrack by Gloria Gaynor and Nirvana that only Wearing can ‘hear’ inside her head.
The still image captures Wearing immersed in her dance, eyes closed, hair flicked up as she moves completely absorbed in her dance. In the unremarkable setting of the shopping centre we see glimpses of other people in the background. Closest to her is a young boy in shades and sports gear; his mid-stride stance provides a formal counterpart to the artist’s dancing legs.
Wearing often explores ideas of what is considered normalised behaviour – how a person is perceived by society through their actions, and the related conflicts between private and public life. For 'Dancing in Peckham', Wearing appeared in the work herself, commenting that: 'There are some things you can’t ask of the public… For instance, the original idea for ‘Dancing in Peckham’ stemmed from seeing this woman dancing wildly in the Royal Festival Hall. She was completely unaware that people were mocking her… Asking her to be in one of my videos would have been patronising, so I decided to do it myself'.
Exploring aspects of private and public identity, Wearing frequently places herself as the subject of a work. Masks have also frequently featured in her work, their ability to instil anonymity allowing wearers to express themselves freely, or to reveal a truth or secret.
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