Pickpocket (2019) Card for reverse pickpocketing, silver gelatin hand print
Bresson handbag
Pickpocket Handbag (2019) Card for reverse pickpocketing, silver gelatin hand print
Pickpocket Jacket (2017) Card for reverse pickpocketing, silver gelatin hand print
Pickpocket Back
Pickpocket / Reverse of Card (2019) Card for reverse pickpocketing, silver gelatin hand print
Pickpocket, A Professional Development Workshop for Artists Poster, 2017

Drawing on my extensive experience of collaboration with professionals
ranging from the police, firefighters, TV prop makers, scientists and an art
forger, this performance directly addresses the theme of the Manifesta 11
Biennial What People Do For Money; by presenting a workshop with a
professional Pickpocket. The venue, Cabaret Voltaire, was where the Dada
Manifesto was first announced in 1916.

What people do for money is not always legal, and in a subversive act
Christophe Ambre has recontextualised his expertise to become a consultant
in his field tor the police. Christophe describes his skill as an ‘art’; and has
performed in the National Gallery in London and many other major European
venues. Christophe is good at generating publicity and expanding his CV.
Thinking of manifestations of art as amateur, professional, entertainment and
serious endeavour, the collaboration looks at hierarchies and parallels within

A pressing question implied but not addressed directly by the Biennial theme
is, How can artists make a living? In particular the possibility of making a
livelihood from performance work is challenging as there is usually no
commodity. Here a commodity is the outcome. Attendees learned how to
translate a skill into a resource to use within a transferrable environment.
They found out how to transcend the art world, earn money and make money.
I worked with Christophe on the content of the presentation, providing insight
into the economic downturn in arts funding and this decline in income for
artists provided a backdrop to the performance. Now, more than ever, artists
without financial support need to widen their skills portfolio to be market
ready. Moral choices faced by artists are at stake.

In the workshop Christophe demonstrated his skill in pickpocketing whilst
training up participants. He provided practical tips on how to creatively remove
valuable items from collectors, gallery directors and funders. Christophe
helpfully advised artists on how to avoid being a victim of pickpockets while
they are thinking about artistic matters, and he promoted the value of
generating alternative streams of income from creative talent.
This performance took place during the opening weekend when the VIPs
were in the audience along with the artists.

Alongside the Professional Development Workshop, an edition of 50 silver
gelatin hand prints were distributed into bags and pockets by reverse Pick
Pocket – or ‘putpocket’ as a gift and shy networking strategy. Neatly avoiding
social embarrassment or visibly shameless self-promotion, the limited edition
photographs are simultaneously and potentially desirable and undesired. The
prints, featuring an image of the artist’s hand, are closely based on a still from
Bresson’s ‘Pickpocket’ movie.

Sarah Pickering

‘Pickpocket, A Professional Development Workshop for Artists’ was presented to coincide with Moving the Image: photography and its actions curated by Duncan Wooldridge at Camberwell Space, Photo London and Peckham 24. The exhibition includes documentation of Pickpocket, which was originally commissioned for Manifesta 11, the European Biennial of Contemporary Art in Zurich and was performed in Caberet Voltaire in June 2016. The theme of the Biennial was ‘What People Do For Money.’ 

‘Pickpocket, A Professional Development Workshop for Artists’ was performed in the UK, by Magic Circle magician and entertainer Lee Thompson. Lee also uses his expertise to train the police.  The idea of the workshop is to train artists to acquire new skills to sustain their practice, using creative talent to generate income, and avoid being pickpocketed while thinking about their latest art project. The premise behind the performance is how can artists make a living? Skills acquisition seems like a good proposition, which is what artists are good at, and most have a second job anyway. It’s ironic of course. 

Pickpocket performer Lee Thompson attended the exhibition opening to “putpocket” playing card sized limited edition fibre based silver gelatin hand prints. The photographs are re-enactments of stills from Robert Bresson’s 1959 movie Pickpocket. The Pickpocket’s hand in each shot is the artist’s.


Moving the Image: photography and its actions
Camberwell Space, Camberwell College of Arts, Peckham Road, SE5 8UF 

Opening hours: 
Private View: 18 April 2019, 6 – 8pm
Exhibition Runs: 23 April – 1 June 2019
Exhibition open: Monday – Friday, 10am-6pm, Saturday, 12pm-4pm 
Peckham 24/Photo London Late Opening: Friday 17th May, 10am-8pm 

Artists in the exhibition include: Lou Cantor, Liz Deschenes, Discipula, David Horvitz, Steff Jamieson, Kensuke Koike, Taisuke Koyama, Louise Lawler, John MacLean, Sarah Pickering, Salvo, Dayanita Singh, Clare Strand, Dafna Talmor, Edouard Taufenbach and Corinne Vionnet.