Who is this creature staggering into St Luke's Church, Holloway, on bejewelled, blue high-heeled shoes, bearing a body-sized cardboard box and flashing a radiantly eccentric grin at the congregation? No, it's not the vicar, but Bobby Baker, performance artist extraordinaire in Box Story, the fifth and final piece in her LIFT-commissioned "Daily Life" series.
This housewife superstar has a self-mocking genius for finding the sublime and the ridiculous, the tragic and the transcendent in domestic banality and for forcing us, through her use of local sites, to view the familiar through fresh eyes. She's also heavily into subverting the apparent security of food. Early in her career, she invited the public into a Stepney prefab to see her life-sized An Edible Family in a Mobile Home (most of its members got eaten) and recreated the history of modern painting in sugar (the pictures, she reveals in Box Story, "were exhibited in the Louvre in Paris and they came back all licked – how French!").
A decade ago, the "Daily Life" series began, appropriately enough, in her own North London kitchen (a symbol, for her, of both creativity and constriction) where audiences picked up such useful tips as which household paints are easiest to clean after a frustrated fruit-hurling session.
Foodstuffs feature in bulk again in Box Story, Baker's idiosyncratic and heartening take on the Pandora myth, which is performed to the droll accompaniment here of specially commissioned heavenly choral music by Jocelyn (Eyes Wide Shut) Pook. Given the church setting, the long fridge-freezer cardboard carton (which is the main prop) takes on overtones of both altar and coffin. But all it is found to contain, in a lovely touch of seeming bathos, is a mundane selection of 10 smaller containers, ranging from cornflakes packet to matchbox to Black Magic chocs. Each of the items gives rise to a story from Baker's past and contributes, when ripped open and trodden on and sloshed around the church floor, to the construction of a visual art work, a huge map of the ills of the world – replete with a broken ozone layer drawn in a sprinkled circle of detergent.
There's lots of loopy humour in the piece, as when Baker demonstrates the delights of drinking from a wine-box plonked on top of the head or when, like some motherly dominatrix, she crushes the mound of cornflakes under her brutal heels and casually remarks that "this is almost as good as walking on berries and popping them". With the excellent choir offering liturgical-sounding reproofs, she takes us on a catalogue of hilarious calamities.
But it would not be giving too much away to disclose that, at the centre of the evening, there is a deep emotional shock that is all the more devastating for being so lightly handled, or that, in its wacky way, Box Story illustrates how the Pandora story is a myth carefully engineered to make women feel responsible for society's misfortunes. Her version does not forget, though, that the one spirit that remained in the box was Hope. To see how Baker gives the piece its wonderfully ridiculous yet very moving redemptive twist, you will have to head to N7 for one of the remaining performances. Her show proves that LIFT is a well-named festival in more ways than one.
To 30 June (020-7863 8017)Reuse content