-  a game in which players guess a word or phrase from an acted clue

-  an absurd pretence intended to create a pleasant or respectable appearance

Charade is a video by David Birkin filmed in collaboration with the human rights organisation Reprieve, together with over 50 actors, artists, musicians and performers. The work is a response to the British Prime Minister's attempts to conceal a secret directive authorising military intelligence agents to engage in criminal activity.

Two previous directives issued in 2014 and 2015 have been made public: the first relates to the use of torture and other extreme forms of interrogation; the second to the bulk collection of people’s personal data such as banking and medical records. The third directive remains classified. In 2018, the government admitted that this “Third Direction” authorises intelligence agents to engage in illegal acts within the borders of the United Kingdom. Civil liberties lawyers believe it may provide protection for MI5 operatives involved in the abduction or detention of individuals, or in committing violent or lethal acts. Yet its true purpose is unknown.

Charade was commissioned by Reprieve to support their legal fight for disclosure, and their ongoing campaign to protect people of all nationalities from abuses of state power. It is also about using gesture to articulate ideas around censorship and secrecy, as well as the repression of people’s personal and political voice. For the video, each performer was asked to mime whatever crime they believe intelligence agents may be licensed to commit, using the rules of the game ‘charades’ to convey each syllable silently.

Charade, 2018  Single channel video, 8 min.

Filmed and Directed by David Birkin

Edited by Trevor Tweeten

Featuring: Abbey Shaine Dubin, Adam Broomberg, Adelita Husni-Bey, Benedict Cumberbatch, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Chitra Ganesh, Conrad Shawcross, Cressida Trew, Dan Fox, David Birkin, David Levine, Edmund Clark, Eloise Fornieles, Emily Apter, Izabella Tzenkova, Jen Liu, Jeremy Hutchison, Jeremy O Harris, Jill Magid, Jodhi May, Jovana Djuric, Juliana Cerqueira Leite, Kate Church, Katiushka Melo, Kentaro Ikegami, Khalid Abdalla, LaMont Hamilton, Lika Volkova, Mamie Gummer, Mariam Ghani, Martha Rosler, Morgan Spector, Myles MacInnes, Nana Oforiatta Ayim, Nathaniel Mellors, Nina Katchadourian, Obi Abili, Patricia Hitchcock, Patrick Kennedy, Peter Kennard, Poppy Simpson, Rebecca Hall, Sierra Pettengill, Sina Najafi, Sophie Hunter, Sultana Tafadar, Tom Beale, Trevor Paglen, Tyler Coburn, Vladimir Yavachev.