Ivan’s Dogs, We Provide The Smiles


Reactor invented a fictional art collective from Derry in Northern Ireland, and presented the closing event of Sideshow as this controversial alter ego, Ivan’s Dogs. It’s no walk in the country to conceal the true identity of a group that doesn’t really exist. This explains why one of The Dogs' primary characteristics was that of never being seen, or for that matter heard. Covert site visits to Northern Ireland, created false identities and constructed numerous elaborate and subtle smokescreens back home. All this activity and secretive planning was central to an experiment, which sought to discover something fundamental about an audience’s perception of the artists who entertain them.

As the sun set on Sideshow, Ivan’s Dogs arrived in Nottingham to challenge Reactor within the medium of ‘the audience as artwork’. A covert group, working via proxies or disguised by masks and voice changing equipment, they publicly humiliated Reactor during a live ‘in conversation’ event – tricking Reactor by controlling proceedings from video, asking ‘difficult’ questions with no possible comeback. The Dogs then led participants a merry dance around the Nottinghamshire countryside, seven-person crews chasing their own tails, setting up situations for one another on the remote instructions of their mysterious hosts. Logistics as art? Maybe, but Reactor’s deeper interest in the role perception plays in interpretation and in an ‘expanded field’ of activity were revealed along with The Dogs' true identity at the end of the project.

“Ivan’s Dogs, on the contrary, had used the active participation of their audience to make up a work that was remarkably unspectacular – in the sense that no-one within it, and this most likely includes The Dogs themselves, was in a position to experience (or impose) a single totalizing perspective, and thereby fully commodify and consume the event. … ‘Ivan’s Dogs, We Provide the Smiles’ presents a highly sophisticated and intelligently ambiguous exploration of the possibilities of audience involvement within a work of art.”

Pretty soon we were suspecting the general public and each other of being part of a sinister plan.

Our crew seemed obsessed by the ideas that you were going to trick us at any point.

I wasn't happy when I heard you instructed them to cut off a swan's beak.

I was really looking forward to the end of the event and was a little disappointed when it was just a man under a flyer-over with a light-sabre.

I think the smiles were on us rather than with us though.


Sideshow Publication (.pdf, 46 KB)


Additional resources

Audience Responses (.doc, 29 KB)

Ivan's Dogs Website

Ivan’s Dogs, We Provide the Smiles was a Commission for Sideshow Festival (Nottingham - UK) in 2006.