Thursday, 19 November 2020

You Are Here @katmapped - Review

 

Part I

It’s a long time since I’ve reviewed an exhibition. It’s an even longer time since I reviewed an exhibition in which I have a piece of my own work.  However, I have never reviewed an exhibition that I haven’t been in the physical presence of. This changes everything - you can’t walk around the works, move close in, step back, see them from across the room or from different angles. You can’t directly perceive colours, textures, shapes and even smells. This makes it much harder to have that physical and emotional response that can occur when you are directly exposed to a work of art.

 

There is also the factor of that solid gallery environment itself - the design and atmosphere of it, the light and how the works are placed within it. None of that applies here and the tool for leaning in and stepping back is a digital zoom. This means that the key factor in the presentation of this exhibition, and indeed any online exhibition, is the quality of the ‘gallery’ website, although the size and quality of the device you are viewing from is also a factor.

 

Over the past few Covid months I have looked at several online exhibitions and have become quite irritated by the way in which many of them are presented. Those that try and replicate the gallery experience are the worst. Your focus is inevitably taken up with often awkward navigation through virtual rooms and corridors. This makes the experience more like an estate agent's website, or a very dull game and just compounds the frustration of not being in an actual gallery space. Some sites seem to scroll with a life of their own and others try to jazz things up with unnecessary animation, either of the work or parts of the site. Don’t get me started on inappropriate musical accompaniment.  

 

So the first thing to say about this exhibition is that the design of the website is really good. It is clean, with a simple layout on a white background, absolute stillness and zero visual or audio distraction from the large images that stand out with crystal clarity as a consequence. It is organised into loosely themed groups but all on one page rather than breaking it up into separate gallery pages. This makes it very easy to navigate and easy to dip in and out of because it’s all in the same place. Furthermore, the information is kept to the delightful minimum of just what needs to be said about the particular work. There is no superfluous text or imagery and this enables instant immersion in the entire show. So that’s a big thumbs up from the get go. The exhibition also unfolds on Instagram over the course of the month, putting the focus on just a few participating artists each day.  


Given the amount of work in the show - 50 artists in all – it is hard to make this review comprehensive. However, I had a cunning plan. First, to go through and pick the pieces that were highlights for me - tricky exercise given the outstanding quality of the work and the fact that I really do like so much of it. Second, to ask a few people to look at the site and send me a couple of lines about works they particularly liked and why. So I am effectively crowdsourcing part of this review!

This should enable a wider appreciation of the show because people’s perceptions will be different so it is likely that they will choose different works. If everyone chooses the same work then that’s just testament to the appeal of that particular artist. So it works either way. Furthermore, all the comments I receive will then form a kind of digital visitors’ book.

 

I will begin with contextualising this show using part of the press release:


YOU ARE HERE explores how the concept of maps and mapping, internal and external, has informed living artists works and thoughts. This online exhibition presents a stimulating and visually striking grouping of works and spans drawing, video, sculpture, photography and installation from artists around the world. 

The ‘You Are Here’ exhibition has been curated by two practising artists: Kate Trafeli, working out of London, and James Stewart, working out of Devon. The selections were chosen after evaluation by the curators, working in tandem remotely, from 400 submissions received in response to an open call request made by @katmapped. The works on show have been selected by the curators on the basis of the strength of the work presented combined with their relevance to the show’s theme. 

Unprecedented times have changed how and where artists work, show their art, and what they are creating in an uncharted world. This online exhibition presents an avenue for artists and viewers to collectively participate in the arts while many museums, galleries and shows remain closed. This exhibition showcases living artists making engaging works around the world — and which when viewed together are thematically cohesive. Here, far flung geographies and lockdowns do not constrain us. 

 

The exhibition opens with the three artists who received the curators' choice awards: Henry Burnett, Jon Halls and Tahira Noreen. I think all three are very well chosen. I particularly love the idea behind Henry Burnett’s Last Map. It works on so many levels that assemble themselves into layers of thought as you gaze in wonder at the sublime and delicate objects in front of you. Tahira Noreen’s work are other sublime pieces in which the originality of the idea tells a complete story of time and humanity, embodied in complex and beautiful wall sculptures. These work as exhibits online because you can get a sense of the entirety of them and see them close up. Jon Hall’s illustrated geographical story of London’s Green Belt, Drawing a Modern Myth, on the other hand, really needs to be seen in a gallery. It is very hard to appreciate what would be the impact of its scale in space, and to see its remarkable detail.

 

There is much in this exhibition that is delicate and beautiful and this certainly applies to the work of Rihanate Bigey who took the emerging artist award. Houses: the map of the houses (deconstruction), is a sculptural installation of porcelain and plaster engraved with traditional African/Burkinabes houses  amidst cut out spaces that could be doors or windows or just aspects of disintegration.It communicates very poignantly the fragility of dwellings that for whatever reason, can be easily destroyed or erased, and the consequent dislocation and necessary reinterpretation of the notion of home itself. 


The next piece that strikes me strongly is Mountains by Monika Ruiz.  I love the perspective in these works and the way in which the contour lines overlay the aerial image. I particularly like the distorted hexagons that seem to wrap and constrain the mountains like discarded plastic packaging. 


Teresa Hunyadi’s Current consists of a piece of birch wood carved with contours representing the internal life of the tree as it absorbs water and grows. Presenting a piece of wood in this way takes your perception of it, and by extension the entire life of the tree, into a totally new place. Similarly in Kate Lyons-Miller’s Earthfast the viewer sees not just a piece of shaped ceramic, but the constantly reactive substance of nature. The content in this work transcends the form, becoming simultaneously a macro and micro presentation of a geological landscape. It is sad not to be able to be in the elemental presence of these works.

It is in the nature of the show’s theme that many pieces feature grids, gridlines, underlying structures and patterns and objects and things mapped or overlaid with other things. I particularly like A Sea by Liz Griffith, in which she transforms a decaying wall into a map, and Moscow XXI, Keri Millers superimposition of computer graphics onto a poster. 

 

I also like Justin N. Kim’s piece in this show and how it suggests, to me at least, another level of relationship to the theme. It may be called Modern Age but it seems to map out the visual history of how it got there at the same time. I suppose it depends how you define ’modern’ but there is something about this work that encapsulates a longstanding and rich seam of American creative culture.

 

Chloë Natalia’s colourful and mesmerising Australia is another piece that is very hard to fully appreciate online. It has a depth to it that makes it frustrating to see online only. Definitely a piece of work that you want to look at sideways as well. Henryk Terpilowski’s Fragile is a simple but quite profound idea, that at this point in time could easily be extended and applied to an entire map of the world.  

There are several textile works in this show all of them completely different and beautifully conceptualised and expressed but the one I like most is Karena Ryan’s The Great Hill of Queen Maeve. I do love the contrast in texture, depth and content between the two sections of this piece but really I’m just a sucker for any harmonious use of the colour green. The gently overlapping shades in Lisa-Marie Price's Naturally Artificial are another lovely display of green's diverse spectrum. 

 

Scrolling down the show and reaching Mark Clay’s A Crack in the Record took my breath away. It was like standing on a cliff and looking down at a beach just before sunset when the light is low and picks up every golden glint of water on sand. Absolutely zero connection to what the work is actually about but thanks for that experience, which interestingly would probably not have happened in an orthodox gallery environment.


This is a necessarily whistle stop review and there is so much more to be said but a few concluding mentions - either for the work or the idea or both - Russell Hughes, Chris Wilson, Tracy Davidson, Romina Cristi, John Cowen, Helen MacRitchie. 

Thank you @katmapped, not only for including me in this great show, but for inspiring me as a consequence to put fingers to keyboard. 

You are Here 12 November – 12 December 2020 online at www.katmapped.org.


Links to all participating artist websites are on the exhibition site.
All images courtesy of artists and @katmapped 


Part II - The Crowdsourced Review Book


COMMENTS BY:
 
Roni Ben Porat, Flickering Street
I like this work precisely because, as the artist says, it’s ‘ready-made’. This work is testament to the fact that art is everywhere, is in the eye and ear of the beholder, and can be as much about atmosphere and attitude as fine lines. In its geographical melding it also says something about a disparate city of difference where sometimes paths don’t cross or aren’t appreciated or understood when they do, other perhaps than by those who are, as the artist mentions, on the outside (literally or otherwise).

Liz Griffiths, A Sea
This is an absolutely stunning and, it seems, a largely ‘as found’ wall. It’s beautiful. It looks part moon shot, part map, and it’s in Peckham and Peckham’s quite near to Penge, which is where I grew up.

Daniel Felipe Polania Title n#10
I understand from the description that this work is one of several that the artist has done that incorporate a painted depiction of what he’s photographed. It’s an inspiring idea, especially when the ‘micro painting’ in this case is placed directly on the depicted object.

Liz Clifford, Wheatham Hill - Byway 745, Observatory
Very zeitgeist. Artistic recycling of the highest order that makes its own point very effectively and looks great.

Tahira Noreen, Baradari and others
I don’t fully understand how the artist has created these three ‘sculptures’ from cut-up hand-compressed paper but the effect is wonderful and highly imaginative.

KATE GRITTON 
What a range of interpretations!  These are the ones that grabbed me:
 
Last Map by Henry Burnett
A strong emotive piece that almost cries out 'Walk in my shoes.' The delicate fabric and the fragile plant collected along the way tell of the casual stroll as much as the epic journey.
 
A Crack in the Record by Mark Clay
The artist's exploration of sound and silence is intriguing.  Pauses in speech or music are as important as the words or the notes themselves.  In visual art too, it is often the negative space that completes the image.
 
The Everyday by Ruth Selig
Eerily reminiscent of the brilliant blue skies of this year's Spring and Summer during the long lockdown. The convoluted form is as of one swimming in an uncharted sea.
 
AMANDA BIG BELIEVE  
Russia XXI by Meri Miller.
Having always loved Russian Propaganda posters, this work jumped out to me even though that is not what it is. The Russian alphabet always looks good in print, whether you can read it or not & sometimes better if you can't. In that way I see the whole poster as abstract.  It works in the way the artist has intended it but also, for me, I enjoy seeing it as electrical charges fizzing out from a circuit board. It feels live. I love the limited colour palette. Striking red & black. The veins of a city. The white detail of the circuit board slightly muzzy & appearing as an aerial view of streets & buildings.

PETE SADLER
I don't remember seeing so many excellent works in one exhibition, real or virtual. I would quite happily take them all if I had the money and a long enough wall. However, two pieces caught my eye and stayed with me. The first is Millenium which is a clever adaptation of the world map, satirically exposing the folly of mankind's determination to destroy itself whilst attempting to rocket its way to new worlds on which to live and destroy in the neverending cycle of stupidity. The second is Wheatham Hill which is a topographical piece carved and cut from everyday materials  representing a terraced landscape. There is a hint of Hepworth about this but without using the highly polished expensive media the latter indulges in. Two worthy pieces in excellent company. Well done all.

In an exhibition as eclectic and of such high calibre as this it's perhaps invidious to pick out 'favourites' but, looked at from where I am currently on the map (Tenerife in the Canary Islands), the works that most speak to me are Mountains by Monika Ruiz and Australia by Chloë Natalia. Both works are aesthetically pleasing, of course, but also have, for me, profound emotional depth and political resonances. I'm thinking particularly of the spiritual connection of pre-colonial indigenous peoples - the Guanches of Tenerife and the Aboriginal Australians - to their landscapes via their 'mental maps', and the calamitous impact of European colonisers drawing their own lines in paper maps. I must also give a shout-out to my friend Val Grove and her two Millennium pieces. I've long admired her work and would love to see her update these maps in light of current global events.

EVELYN REISINGER
Henny Burnett, Last Map
I really like this quasi-footwear, which looks like a set of an ancient culture’s shoes. The patterns and colours look delicate, and you can imagine yourself wandering through the villages and their surroundings.

Lisa-Marie Price, Naturally Artificial
The colours and patterns in this are beautiful. The fact that the pattern looks abstract but is based on real mapped landscapes is intriguing.

The two pieces that caught my eye, as well as much of the remainder of my being, are:
 
Ria Bauwens Z.T. 
seems evocative of a dreary, by-gone industrial era and forbidding with its unpeopled landscapes, fractured and frozen. The urban and the open land, photographic moments, present a fleeting surface over a geological rainbow resting in unfathomable time below.
 
Martha Oatway’s Standing Stones Walking Maps make me want to walk around and experience them as real objects; quite an embodied response. Uneven shapes defy any sense of tidiness or symmetry and the earth colours feel deep and connecting, like stories of our human collective experience. I think of songlines and dream times, journeys, shields and arms raised, maybe dance or something more sinister. This is exciting and has an otherness that feels slightly dangerous.

TERESA PERSIGHETTI
Tahira Noreen, Touchdown
Vivid, lively, engaging. Simultaneously delicate and strong. I know I’m not ‘supposed' to look for images in abstract art, but I enjoyed the impression of flight, foliage, filigree and fish. Touch of the Vorticists about her work.

Tracy Davison, When is Daddy Coming Home? 
This piece had an emotional impact on me that I feel uncomfortable about, because of its elements of rather sentimental Victorian melodrama: the snowy innocence of a beautifully-made small child's dress, on its little wooden domestic clothes hanger, with its stark and jarring decoration of a very harsh prison, plus embroidery reminiscent of chains or barbed wire. But it tugged at my heart strings!

Chloe Natalia, Australia 
I enjoyed the organic quality of this piece, with its sunny bright colours, reminiscent of coral, or of tropical flowers. The folds and pleats are fascinating to follow, and I am always impressed by flat images that look so thoroughly three-dimensional. I wanted to grab hold of the whole country and fold it into another shape entirely, before it collapsed in on itself into that orange chasm in the middle.

Nerissa Cargill Thompson, Milkshake Series: Broken Britain & Political Weapon 

For me, litter is a finger on the pulse of mass consumption; yet we consume not just physical artifacts like drink cans and milkshake cartons, but ideas and opinions too. In the same way that we often eat food from a box or packet rather than cooking it from scratch, we also import ideas and mainstream media narratives ready-cooked, with little regard for or awareness of the ingredients, a fact that politicians are keenly aware of - hence the weaponizing of discourse through the use of barely-concealed or crudely constructed fictions and dissimulations. For me, this work speaks to the decay of intellectual rigour in public discourse,  the consequent erosion of trust in political and social institutions, and the discarding of ideas and opinions as they are displaced by the latest media-generated fad . 

 

Daniel Felipe Polania, Title n#10

I have always liked work that celebrates the mundane, and particularly the no-frills, matter-of-fact aesthetic of objects such as this - a traffic barrier on what appears to be an industrial estate. The implied implacability - lent added power by the low-angle of the original photograph - and the refusal of design elegance, is offset by the blue sky, the light and space suggesting optimism and freedom from cares contrasting with the utilitarian brutality of the barrier. 


JOHN CHISHOLM

Monika Ruiz, Mountains,from Borders without Limits 
Lines on maps usually denote man-made borders, encountered when passing from one territory to the next. The contour lines in Monika Ruiz-B’s work remind us of the natural borders, extreme terrain that people pass through to escape the ravages of their homeland. ‘Borders without Limits’ does not attempt to prettify the landscapes, but rather draw our attention to each hard square mile of a traveller’s journey on foot.  

Mark Clay,
A Crack In The Record 
There’s a beautiful warm light caught in this image. The copper ink drawing allows for ambiguity and interpretation by the viewer - the work is indeed reminiscent of rings on a fallen tree, grooves on a melting vinyl record, or plough lines in a sunlit field.

Touchdown and Promised Land by Tahira Noreen are probably my favourites, find the  shapes, form and texture very pleasing on the eye, not to mention the colours....also quite like the idea behind the images, namely a way off following her husbands journey and his safe return to her ..a tad cubist which is always appealing to me.  

Zones by Ronald Gonzales appeals because it very much reminds me of my friend Jolyon's work with found objects ..simplicity and solidity, very appealing ....recycling into art ..perfect. 

Day in Day out 4 by Bethe Bronson very much appeals to the photographer in me. The work involved in creating such an image via a pinhole camera reminds me of the time and effort required to creating a photograph back in the pre- digital, pre photoshop days ......end result is very pleasing on the eye. 

Standing stones-walking map by Martha Oatway. Lovely idea and very beautiful and delicate looking ..kinda reminds me of animals skins/hides or dyed fabrics stretched out to dry in the sun..... perhaps a Native American encampment or an African tribal village.  

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Lockdown letter to a friend...

Dear you know who you are

THANK YOU!!!! Got your little package of delight this morning. Really cheered me up.

After good start with this whole situation (see post below) I have pretty much crashed into total gloom and apathy over the past week. Sick of gardening, cooking, and cleaning and can no longer even get off the starting blocks of anything creative. Spending a lot of time in bed watching stuff on Netflix and Iplayer.

Have been a few other things in the mix as always, including another episode of the long running, sibling-suicide PTSD drama, ‘I'm a sensitive, loving human, Get me the Fuck out of Here’. It’s like Netflix, only in your head and you have no idea you’re watching until about half way through the episode. This was a particularly harrowing episode called 'Missing in Spain', but I have not actually revisited this one before so am tentatively concluding it’s the last of the series. All the others are now repeats so I can generally switch them off as soon as I hear the opening tune.

It's not all shit tho... my birthday was actually great. We had a really nice day and night involving a takeaway from the pub and dancing in the vinyl room til about 1.00am. I think we concluded that Fear of Music by Talking Heads is the greatest album of all time. Mind you, on another occasion I think the conclusion was Tattoo You. Anyway I can't remember the last time we were up that late and we were very pleased with ourselves.

However, as much as I love my husband I am desperate to see and talk to another human being. Video chats and phone calls are now becoming more depressing than not having them. I just want to get on a train to an urban environment and hug random passers-by at this point.

Being so close to the station is also now frustrating.  I hear that lonesome whistle blow .... and I think of Evangeline and how I’ll see her in my dreams. And how I see K** and M** and Z** and S** and P** and D** and L** and T** and J** and other friends in my dreams too. Then I hear another train a-coming, it’s rolling round the bend and I ain’t seen a human since I don’t know when. If they freed me from this self isolation, if that railroad car was mine I know I’d take it on a lot further down the line. Then I could go shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die. Maybe not. Flights to Reno probably won’t be available for a while.

See I'm raving... song lyrics are increasingly replacing what used to be coherent internal dialogue. Maybe the best way to read it is as a scene-setting script for a new, dark comedy.... 

I love your new painting by the way. Really has an impact. Will look forward to seeing it and you in the flesh. I may get on a train soon. I could sit outside your house and talk to you through the window.

Really THANK YOU for prompting this communication.

See you soon.
Lots of love 
Xxxx

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Coronavirus/Covid 19 and the Crowhurst Art Garden

I am kind of enjoying Covid 19. In fact I feel better than I usually do. Crisis? Excellent - I know exactly how to behave in one of those. No choice? Excellent - I know exactly what to do without a choice. Official sanction for doing nothing has removed my normally intense anxiety about not having enough to do while feeling I really should be doing something which, combined, render me incapable of doing anything anyway! 

So this period has given me pressure and anxiety free time in which I am getting things done. Creative things. I am particularly pleased to have two new additions to the Crowhurst Art Garden. This garden is a project created on a small piece of land adjacent to my house.  It was started in 2017 with 'Bonehinge' which was a pillar of stone, topped with a bone and a rusty hinge, all of which we found when we were digging over the space. These finds and the fun of putting them together gave us the initial idea for the garden. 

A call went out to friends and we then received the generous donations of Mantis by Martin Adams and Julie by Esther Neslen. Mantis began as golden plywood in 2017 but underwent a metamorphosis to forest green in 2019. 

Beautiful Julie is weathering wonderfully, displaying various mottled shades of moss and algae in the winter and then returning, more or less, to her original colour in the summer. 
The next addition was in 2018. Three cast iron radiators removed from the house during a new boiler installation were given an entirely new life as Sheepish.  

In March 2019 we received Jolyon Dupuy's Duchamp's Step- Ladder. Not only does the wheel spin but it also has its own original music video put together by Jolyon and Peter Schofield.  Thanks to Tim Vine for photos of this. 
Now here we are in April 2020 and I happy to present 'Flying Fish' and 'Still Life'. In the course of doing the 2019 Crowhenge project I met 92 year old master carver Ian Gordon. As well as contributing the carved title piece to the Crowhenge Project, he also gave me this piece of found wood which has now become 'Flying Fish'. The shape is just as he found it so all I did was sand and oil it and give it some eyes.

'Still Life' consists of an empty picture frame suspended between two trees on thin wire. This gives the illusion that the frame is floating in space.  What you see through the frame changes as you walk around the garden and will also change throughout the seasons. I found the frame dumped in the street in Hastings several years ago so am delighted to have finally transformed it into a less random public artwork.



(Lucky photo taken just as sun started filtering through trees). 

(Guest Photo from Laura Cecil)
I guess it's ironic that in this weird, pandemic period I have been busier than usual and it's not just the garden. I was also part of a team that set up a Coronavirus Support Group to match volunteers with people needing help. The community response here has been great, so I’m very happy that the time I’ve had to work on the garden means it can now be open to visitors. I am leaving the gate permanently open so no one will have to touch it and am sure visitor numbers in a village make it unlikely I will need social distancing queue markers! I may put a note on the gate asking people not to fall over, break their legs and sue me though because I don’t have public liability insurance.    
Despite my normal moaning about how much I miss London (I still do), I know it is a privilege to be living in a place like this at a time like this  We can go for walks without seeing anyone else and should the tanks eventually roll onto the lanes of Crowhurst we can jog round our garden and subsist on dandelion leaves and wild garlic. We also have a veg patch. It is also beautiful to see nature in its eternal cycle, regardless as always, of human affairs. The weather is wonderful, the birds are singing, trees are coming into blossom and leaf and there is a riotous abundance of spring flowers and colours. I am very grateful that this didn’t all kick off in November. So... thanks for that universe! 

Thursday, 24 October 2019

The breakfast ritual


I've just started a creative writing course. In lesson one we learned about free writing which basically means you just keep writing without stopping to think. Interesting exercise that ended with a paragraph about how much my hand was starting to hurt after 5 minutes of non stop scribble. 

The homework was to write 1000 words on the subject of 'Rituals'.  It had to be started using the free writing method and then edited down. Mine edited down to a paltry 500 words but here it is anyway. 


Rituals
Apart from weddings, christenings and funerals, I don't do rituals except breakfast. I'm lucky - my partner gets up much earlier than me so I wake up and smell the coffee every day.

I get up, go downstairs, slice the bread and put it in the toaster. I pour the coffee into the same mug. Then I butter the toast and spread marmite on one piece and marmalade on the other. I go to the kitchen window where I sit on a stool, sipping and munching and staring out into the garden. 

Every day I see some, or all of the following: goldfinches, chaffinches, nuthatches, woodpeckers, blackbirds, robins. Blue, coal, great and long tailed tits. Sometimes a thrush, a bullfinch, a goldcrest. Wood Pigeons, ring-collared doves, magpies, jackdaws and the inevitable squirrels. 

I also see fifty shades of green emerging from the grey silence of winter. Then watch fifty more, dappled in breezy sunlight, become part of the falling spectrum of autumn rain. 

I see human rituals mirrored from that window - a constant stream of marriages, births and deaths. Some of the deaths natural, some accidental or unexplained and the occasional cold-blooded murder. 
I’ve read that crows and other birds hold roadside funerals for their fallen comrades. Sometimes, when a crow is killed by a passing car, a murder of fellow crows will descend and walk circles around the dead bird for 15 to 20 minutes.  The crow’s close relative, the magpie, holds similar services and has even been seen placing tufts of grass alongside the departed. Is this a ritual or is it only humans to which that word applies? 
As for the marriages, there may not be a formal ceremony with invited guests but birds pairing off can be preceded by violent competition, acrobatic aerial courtship and virtuoso musical performances. Then comes the explosion of chicks from early spring to late summer often accompanied by behaviours that look a lot like love. I often wonder if that first trip to the bird feeder with the parents is an avian coming of age ritual. 

My experience of the human rituals is that they provide families and friends with regular opportunities to remind themselves and each other that they are part of something larger. There is a collective unity in celebrating together, grieving together and marking time. Recognising change and its impact, not only on yourself but on those who are a fixed part of your life.

Having managed to remain a romantic, I like the wedding ritual but the births are obligations I could do without. Funerals, on the other hand are getting much more interesting as I get older. Partly because I am no longer just a spectator but often have some role in proceedings and funerals have changed. They are now equally as likely to be celebrations of a life, as a mourning of a death. It is still as painful whatever you call it. 

Marriages have also changed and can have counterpoint divorce rituals now, although I am not sure that the guests at the first party will all be attending the second.

My breakfast ritual won’t change. Not for a while at least. I will still wake up and smell the coffee. I will still look out of the window, fixed in the present and be reminded that the cycle of nature is eternal, that birds never waste time and that squirrels are fucking geniuses. 

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Coastal Currents 2019 - 'Dance Movies' at the Kino - Review

I like cinema. I like dance. I like music. So the three for the price of one ‘Dance Movies' at the Kino-Teatr as part of this year's Coastal Currents, was an absolute must. It not only motivated me to leave the house, but it also made me want to write a review.


The event was split into two halves. The first half contained three, very different short films in which performance was either the main, or integral, part of a wider visual and narrative composition.

The first film I Am Weather (Rebecca Marshall/Nichola Bruce/Clare Whistler) was a triptych projection filmed at the Library of Water in Stykkishulmur, Iceland. 


The triple screens alternated between close-ups of fast moving water or spray, and dancer Clare Whistler viewed through a lighthouse lens. It appeared as if it had been filmed in an empty room in a tall glass building with a distant view of an urban skyline. The remarkable effect was to capture the dancer in a way that distorted her body, elongated her limbs and finally made her physically disappear altogether as if melting into the floor. The water sequences, that seemed different each time, provided an intense soundscape. It was a wonderful combination of the free flowing and the confined in a meditative union of shades of grey and elemental hydro-sonics.

The second film Klipperty Klopp 2 (Andrew Kotting/Yumino Seki) was also a split-screen and shades of grey affair. Funnily enough the last thing I reviewed was Kotting’s ‘Lek and the Dogs’ so it was very interesting to see this much earlier and now reinvented work.


On the left screen was Kotting’s original 1984 film of a man energetically running round a field in Gloucestershire pretending to be a horse. On the right this had been re-created with dancer Yumino Seki, more of whom later. The two films mirrored each other although the original was filmed almost completely in the rural environment, whereas Yumino Seki’s re-enactment also brought in some urban grit. This included segments in which she was quite brilliantly placed in front of a wall with the legible graffiti reading 'Take your poo…'. Given the slapstick speed of the characters and the original narration about the funny/crazy man and his horse, there was definitely humour. However, the tension between the absurdly humorous and the reality of two people running in marked, repetitive and seemingly futile patterns while negotiating relationships with their accumulated detritus, was also quite uncomfortable at times. The whole thing ended close to home with Yumino Seki on Hastings beach, barely able to hang on to her wildly flapping metaphor in the fierce wind. I so wanted her to just let it go.

Film three was Experiments with a Danse Macabre (Nichola Bruce/Patricia Langa/Daniel Hay-Gordon). Another film that dealt with confinement, Patricia Langa danced out the tension of being within ever decreasing walls, amidst a world of projected images. From a painterly perspective this film was lovely to watch. The layering of images, colour, texture, dark and light and movement made the film an ever changing and beautiful visual spectacle. The subject of death, or the ability of the dancer protagonist to inflict it at great personal cost, was told in the manner of a fairy tale. I accepted the artistic license in the telling of the tale and the beautiful package it came in, right until the last clichéd line: “we are all equal in death”, at which I sighed, possibly audibly. I'm afraid we are as equal in death as we are in life and that is not very equal at all.

The second half was just brilliant. Exspira Machina/Kwaidan AI was a combination of live music, dance and film. Afrit Nebula provided the music, Yumino Seki the dance and Mark French the visuals. The description of the pieces as ‘a ghost in the machine trapped by a scanner, unable to escape her own memory’ doesn’t come even remotely close to communicating the astounding amount of stuff that was going on here.



Musically it was a multi-layered fusion of jazz, rock, world, sacred, experimental - in fact there are all sorts of genres you could try and define this trio with but really, really good is probably best. There was a lot to it, both instrumentally and vocally, and it was very tight.

The visuals in this part of the evening ranged from a kind of ambient, spectrum loop to a mesmerising film of industrial machinery. A Victorian pumping station (I think) working a continuous and massive, rhythmic sequence of power and painted ironwork. Hard to believe this was normal less than a century ago.

From the left Yumino Seki appeared slowly and silently and the combination of music, visuals and live dance completely took over. The interplay between the three was superb. At first it was hard to know what to focus on but after a while there was a kind of emotional and sensual absorption into the whole. It was a wonderful experience.


On a personal note, I spent most of the 80s living in Japan and it was magic to see a butoh trained dancer for the first time in about 30 years. In Hastings! 


The Artists
  
Film Makers  


Dancers & Choreography  
Daniel Hay Gordon - https://www.danielhay-gordon.com/
Patricia Langa 

Musicians

Venue and Host
Kino Teatr  - kino-teatr.co.uk
Coastal Currents - http://coastalcurrents.org.uk/

Images
Images for 'I am Weather' and 'Klipperty Klopp' found in public domain. (Was unable to find an image for 'Experiments towards a Danse Macabre' (or a website link for Patricia Langa). 
Images of Afrit Nebula and Yumino Seki courtesy of Neil Partrick.