V&A Dundee

Blue VS Green: What is ‘I am Curious, Orange’?

Our Digital Learning Coordinator, Aiesha Duncan, explores the influences and religious significance behind Michael Clark's iconic 'I am Curious, Orange' performance.

Written by: Aiesha Duncan

As someone who grew up in “orange country” it was a wonder to witness the presentation of Celtic and Rangers struggles being brought to the forefront with Michael Clark and his performance of ‘I am Curious, Orange’. But what if you aren’t Scottish? Who is Mr “Curious Orange” himself?

Willam of Orange was born William the third in 1650. He was the son of the Dutch ruler William the second and his mother, Princess Mary of the English royal family. His infamous title “of Orange” comes from the Dutch sovereignty and was seen as a title of honour back in the day. He rose to fame, particularly, for his role in overthrowing his uncle, the Catholic King James the Second during what is named ‘the Glorious Revolution’. James wasn’t an awful ruler, but people didn’t trust due to his faith after the English allegiance to Protestantism in the 16th century. The standard man or woman didn’t want a return to the corrupt Catholic Church of before and with the country steeped in tradition, it was common for a country to follow their leader in every way. In an echo of this, Protestantism became affiliated with the colour and name of orange into the modern-day.

And in Scottish culture, it can be found everywhere. As mentioned, I grew up in ‘Orange country’ named because of its deep roots in the religion. Orange walks happen every summer with parades and marching bands full of songs. This is done around July 12, the Battle of the Boyne where William took the throne. But in the modern day, we don’t talk about the battles of the past or the kings and queens that followed. Oh no, now it’s all about the 'beautiful game’ of football in a little city known as Glasgow.

The whole Protestant and Catholic thing haven’t changed much in 300 years, has it?

Michael Clark

Although not decorated in orange, Ranger's football club is widely accepted as a Protestant football club due to its connection to Britain with the red, white and blue colour scheme at once. Whilst Celtic, their arch-rivals, are seen as Catholic due to their origins in Irish immigration and their green colour scheme. This deep-rooted religious connection between the two clubs has continued the strength of William's legacy into the 21st century with every match they have. Most recently was the arrest of 15 fans from both sides after the Scottish Premiership win for Celtic on 1 May 2022. Despite the match itself ending in a draw, people still fought over this deeply ingrained hatred for each other started hundreds of years ago. Which despite the Scotland-wide match bans for such unruly fans, doesn’t seem to be ending.

A dance performance, the stage floor is chequered and there are two large heinz tins of beans behind the dancers.
Michael Clark & Company with The Fall in I Am Curious, Orange, 1988 © Richard Haughton

So where does Michael Clark fit in? The performance “I am Kurious, Oranj” was made to commemorate the tercentenary of William’s rise to the English throne in 1689. With Michael Clark applying and receiving funding to put on such a show (the performance that would later be put on wasn’t known at the time). Clark played the tentative character of William himself as he passes through a story highlighting the sectarian battles in their modern-day context with even a football game being played on stage with the renowned King. Despite the backlash, the performance is now viewed as one of the best representations of 1980s Britain artistically and helped to bring notice to how the past of religion still plays a massive part in our culture today.