Living Statues

June 3, 2009 at 9:06 am (Interview, performance) (, , )

picture: hans s

picture: hans s

A lot of work goes into standing still – perfectly and completely still. Self-discipline is the key. You have to uphold constant control of each limb, each muscle. Physically it’s exhausting. But living statues must remain unaffected by their surrounding environment even if it is a bustling audience willing them to move. No nuance of thought is allowed to register on the face. They have to hide their breathing.

For Jason Maverick it’s just another day at the office: “The worst aspect is getting the body paint off – red or black make up is very difficult to remove. It’s just a case of scrubbing.” He admits it can be tricky when people try to make him laugh. While he has never cracked, he thinks people have probably detected a smile a couple of times: “because sometimes people do genuinely funny things”.

Today living statues line the Thames or other tourist destinations in most major cities. People may stop for a look and perhaps even throw a little change into the upturned top hat. Few realise that this art form has it’s roots in Renaissance where “tableau vivants” or living pictures would be used to entertain royalty.

Jason recently performed at the Watchman premiere. He was painted fluorescent blue and was wired up so that electricity shoots out of him, Doctor Manhattan-style. Seven hundred people attended to watch Jason stand. He is used to large crowds. He’s performed at a range of high-profile events, from the Queen’s Golden Jubilee to Sting’s private party. He won’t go into detail on either: “there’s a certain amount of privacy that you have to uphold”.

picture: Carlos Lorenzo

picture: Carlos Lorenzo

Jason trained in mime. The living statue utilises those skills. “The beauty of mime is that you can cross language barriers,” says Jason. “I have performed in India, Africa, Asia. I performed in a village in Africa and I really wondered how it was going to come across but the humour travels. I was surprised actually.”

Jason does a lot of different statues. Lord Nelson is popular and his Bollywood statue goes down well. One statue has an elaborate piping system which pumps water out of an urn. But his favourite statue is the Golden Doorman. The Doorman wears an expensive golden suit with painted mannequin-style face. “You get a very strong reaction because you look like a person but the make up has blanked out all your features – you put it across your lips, over your eyes, everything. When you move people find it quite disconcerting.” It was the Golden Doorman won Jason second place in the annual Living Statue Contest in Holland two years ago.

What can he think about when he’s performing? “I do concentrate quite a lot when I’m doing it. Sometimes I’ll focus on different parts of my body, so I’ll think oh my calves are really tense, or my shoulders or I’ll think about adjusting my body position. If you’re body painted of course people can detect you breathing so I try to shallow breathe. That’s a whole other area of concentration.”

Has a bird ever landed on him by accident? “That’s the most random question I’ve ever been asked,” smiles Jason. “No.”

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