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Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Experimentica '08

I was lucky enough to go to the annual performance arts festival based in Cardiff this year and here are five of my favourites:

Richard Bowers and Gwilly Edmondez – “Pandæmonium”
You can shut your eyes but you can’t shut your ears. Sonic art takes advantage of this; through sound, an atmosphere is created, it is translated in to a feeling within you, and in this case, it was the same feeling I got when looking at Francis Bacon’s ‘Study after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X’.
The use of a chair, the body positions and facial expressions silently projected on the wall conjured up feelings of panic and wanting to scream, but being unable to react physically.
The sound quality did this justice. Texture was created by recording sounds made by the performer, then digitally layering it, live. The sounds increased in intensity and layers as the performer became more frantic and physical; the addition of paper ripping and being crumpled, a typewriter, a pencil scratching and his blowing through a straw onto a microphone.
On the video projection, he was making violent gestures and clearly using his voice, but we could not hear it, only fragments of it were weaved into the background sound. Live, he became increasingly violent, as did the sound, then with a burst of frantic energy, he began jolting and created a new wave of hard, fast noise. Then he lay still and there was absolute silence.
I suddenly felt exposed. It all went dark and there was only silence, with some awkward shuffling. He was still lying on the floor.
I’m familiar with music effecting your emotions, where the subconscious attaches itself to a rhythm, but this wasn’t music, only a precisely layered collection of recorded sound played back. Wait – was it music?

Photo © Cathy Boyce 2008.

Tom Marshman - “Hello Sailor (Goodbye Heart)”
He saturated himself with all things sailor; your standard sailor’s outfit and handing the audience rum, but what shocked me was that he got an actual tattoo of a ship on his arm. This, unlike the sailor hat, is permanent. It raises the question:
At what point does commitment to your art become unreasonable? A performance artist relies on the aesthetics and functionality of their body. An act during one performance which permanently affects their body may hinder their next performance physically or limit their conviction visually.

Random People – “Versions 1-5” – Various artists
A very good example of collaboration; 4 different artists, each tackling a common piece of text, expressing it individually at the beginning of the piece, then bringing it together at the end as a group performance.
Because I had participated in the ArtsAdmin Summer School ’08, I was able to detect little performance techniques here and there (audience interaction, dealing with mistakes etc). At the same time, I was absorbed in the piece and constantly anticipated their next actions.
I wondered after the performance, whether being conscious of the process takes away from your experience of an art piece, like watching a horror film but constantly noticing that the monster puppet’s mouth can never synchronise with the sounds it is making, as it only has three basic moves which can never cover our lexical field. I then realised that unlike a horror flick, this performance never tried to dictate how I should feel or imposed any restrictions on what I should take away from it, so I was free to experience the enjoyment of a good show as well as have the satisfaction from my background knowledge.

Andrea Williams – “Car”
A five minute audio visual instillation of a view of the sky from outside the car and then a view across a road with cars driving past. These visual scenes are eerily familiar, I immediately recall them and realise how many precious minutes I have spent waiting to cross a road or falling asleep in a car. A major factor of this installation was its location; in the basement of a very small art gallery, G39. The space was dark and basic, with brick walls and room for only two benches to sit on. You enter through a small trap door in the floor, down steep makeshift stairs. There is nothing to distract you and no space to do quick floor exercises or a random dance if you’re the only visitor, so you are completely engulfed by whatever happens to be projected on the wall.

Adele Vye
She used the G39 ground floor space all night long and could be seen from outside putting on various outfits from her huge transportable cupboard and transforming into various characters. I saw many bewildered passers-by try to make sense of it, which was amusing, (also, it was Saturday night) but I eventually got too cold and went home.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found Richard Bowers and Gwilly Edmondez – “Pandæmonium” extremely moving. Yasmine, you are completely right you could not escape the sound in the room – it seemed to penetrate every space available, to the extent of feeling vibrations between my fingers and deep in my stomach. I was captivated for the whole piece - constantly questioning the projection and the performance, trying to unpic a narrative (not that I found one – not that I needed to) It conjured up solitary images of torture – human rights issues, I thought the performance was very strong. In my opinion its rare to see (low budget) performance work that is complimented so well by the movement / a live situation.

Phoebe Davies