Stage 4
19:00 - 19:30
The Passing

Short thesis

“Unlike anything I had seen before. Part performance, part lecture (and parody) it was like watching a live TED meets ‘Black Mirror’ Live special. Terrifying as it was refreshingly original.“ - Forbes


The Coalition ballroom was packed with four hundred noisy fifteen-year-olds. Johnston hated every single one of them. His brand had been slowly slipping for years, and this once successful education influencer had been reduced to giving the adult introduction seminar to children on the eve of their Passing. Had he not be loyal? Had he not consumed double, no, triple the recommended dosage of Brandsulin and Flucermol? Had he not tried harder than anyone to build his personal brand? 

Johnston stepped out onto the stage and remained quite motionless until he was quite sure that he had their undivided attention. 

Set in 2059, The Passing is a performance that explores a society designed by advertising executives, biochemists, spies, startups and fashion bloggers, the worst possible people to take on building a better world for us all to live in.  The Passing describes a future where too much time and trust have been placed in the products of middle-upper class white men: The Coalition.  

These men came for us: first, they came for our labour, then they came for our money, then they came for our attention and now they’re demanding our obedience. They teased us with the tools for fame, fortune and influence but they hooked us up to compliance and control. In their world “shopping is freedom”, and influence is king, currency and law. They’ve built products such as Hot Homes, Bradnsulin and Flucermol to sedate us and created a nanotech chemical algorithm called RACHEL - the one algorithm to rule us all. It sounds like science fiction, but it is all very close to what we’re experiencing today. We’ve become addicted to being controlled. 

The Passing asks the audience to imagine a much better future than the one the performance describes. Marcus genuinely wants us to have a long hard think about the trajectory that our society is taking and how our relationship with technology, media and the never-ending cult of influence is propelling us towards something darker than we have ever known.


The Black Operatives Department/ Collective

"Control the hearts & minds of billions by putting dystopian thinking at the heart of communications".

The Black Operatives Department is a fictitious advertising agency. Founded in 1956, it works solely for government organisations and has been responsible for clandestine marketing operations such as the Bay Of Pigs, Nixon, the Cambridge Five and Snowden. Marcus uses the agency to describe the world seen through the eyes of an advertising man: it's a dystopian world. 

The Snowden Pitch - 2014. Marcus introduced the Black Operatives in his 2014 re:publica talk "The Snowden Pitch". This talk was set in 2008. The audience: 4 senior members of the NSA. The Pitch: The Black Operatives Department, had developed the advertising campaign "An Everyday Bond". The proposal: unleash a whistleblower into the world and guarantee the NSA and their surveillance products maximum visibility within the espionage community.  The talk explored the Snowden case as a communications campaign and the world described, defined and manipulated by data. The talk predicted a cold war renaissance, cyber war and post-factual media manipulation. 

Purpose of Entry - 2015 Set in 2018, "Purpose of Entry" explored future Europe's political shift to the right.The Black Operatives had been briefed by "the Coalition of the Right" to produce an algorithm that could control the newly developed, sovereign national internets and fulfil the terms of the "Wasteland Act". The product they developed was called the Real-time, Algorithmic, Chemical, Hallucinogenic, Enhancement, Lady, or R.A.C.H.E.L. for short.  R.A.C.H.E.L. turned the human body in a tracking pixel, spoke directly to the user and permitted access to certain parts of the digital world. What could possibly go wrong? Written pre-Brexit, "Purpose of entry" explored the idea of Neo-Orwellianism and predicted Europe's shift the right, e-borders, Brexit and the rise of Bots.