Archives for posts with tag: Tino Sehgal

The pleasure of live performance.
It can have the feeling of a fiesta or a therapy group or a sinister encounter, there is so much to experience.

With Punchdrunk’s ‘The Drowned Man’ it was like being dropped into the middle of a David Lynch film.

Punchdrunk's The Drowned Man

Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man

Bewildering yet sexy and beguiling.

Punchdrunk's The Drowned man

Punchdrunk’s The Drowned man

If there was a linear plot I didn’t follow it. Stories were told through dance and physical theatre with a little dialogue and a fair amount of miming to sultry soundtracks,

The dance was extraordinary, fast and furious as characters appeared, flung each other around and ran off before you could catch your breath.

I spent a lot of time wandering around deserted corridors, entering mysterious rooms labelled prosthetics or suchlike, seeing other masked figures slide into the gloom.

Suddenly a door would open onto a scene, sometimes disturbing, descending into violence as we stood anonymously and silently circling the victim.

Punchdrunk's The Drowned Man

Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man

Through some subtle kettling the audience were amassed in one vast space for the final explosion of dance.

Separated at entry we were able to meet up in the bar with our friends to share impressions and find that we had all experienced something completely different.

I missed a whole floor of this vast space – maybe two even.

It’s running for a bit longer and I would love to go back.

Timepiece from Conrad Shawcross at The Roundhouse was a more controlled affair.

Conrad Shawcross 'Timepiece'

Conrad Shawcross ‘Timepiece’

Seeking to reimagine our experience of time passing through the mechanical movements and shadows passing across the huge dome.

I wanted to try to make the familiar the peculiar again; to turn
time and the clock back into the celestial, primeval experience that it once was
for us all.

Conrad Shawcross

It was kind of meditative.

Siobhan Davies Dance Studio performers responded to the space with a reworking of Rotor.

While wheels and arms shifted above the four dancers mirrored the movements of a clock hand walking in concentric circles.

Siobhan Davies Dance ROTOR

Siobhan Davies Dance ROTOR

The concentration was intense.

There was a follow up wonderful idiosyncratic piece Songbook composed by Matteo Fargion. The performers stood in line making expressive sounds with accompanying physical expression.

1309 Siobhan Davies Dance
Like a human instrument. An investigation into how and why we make sound. It was fun and slightly ridiculous.

The complete giving over to the production of a sound, feeling its shape as it leaves the body.

Much like Bjork sings. Every nuance is felt.

Amazing to see the very last performance of the touring show Biophilia at Alexandra Palace.

Bjork Biophilia

Bjork Biophilia

In a dress that looked like a multitude of breasts, Bjork charmed us with the intense beauty of a performance that makes you cry it’s so perfect.

‘This is kind of without humans and both zooming out like the planets but also zooming in into the atoms and in that way aesthetically sympathising with sound and how sound moves and physics of sound and how notes in a room behave, how they bounce off walls and between objects and its kind of more similar to how planets and microscopic things work.’ Bjork

Each section is introduced by the familiar tones of Sir David Attenborough giving insight into the infinite connections of the biosphere.

With bolts of electricity triggering sound and handcrafted instruments that ranged from a combination fusing the Celesta and the gamelan, a traditional Indonesian percussion ensemble to a giant pendulum contraption designed and programmed by musical robot maker from MIT, Andy Cavatorta, the ancient crafts collided with futuristic  technology.

The spectacle was completed by the soaring voices of her Icelandic choir drumming their bare feet like frenzied maenads.

Bjork Biophilia

Bjork Biophilia

Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson stages large scale durational performances which can become feats of endurance for his performers and audience.

Ragnar Kjatansson

Ragnar Kjatansson

At the Venice Biennale he turns an old fishing boat into a floating stage carrying a troupe of musicians sending plaintive notes across the water. It has a rather comedic appearance as it traverses slowly back and forth across the docks at the Arsenale.  A deflated sort of pomp and circumstance.

A more introspective performance is seen in Tino Sehgal’ s Golden Lion Award winning piece at The Venice Biennale.

Tino Sehgal

Tino Sehgal’s perfomance piece

We witness communication from a new perspective.

Animalistic, primeval it takes us away from our known language of words. The performers were immersed in the dialogue between themselves.

Using song, beatboxing, humming the piece develops freely between the participants like any conversation might.

Tino Sehgal

Lizzie Sells and Frank performing for Tino Sehgal in the Central Pavilion Venice

It was like watching someone being massaged by sound as one body responded in movement to the sounds from the other.

Tino Sehgal

Lizzie Sells performing in Tino Sehgal’s piece at the Venice Biennale

Speaking to Lizzie Sells afterwards she explained how she becomes so involved in her performance that she is unaware of the audience around her, even when they are being loud and intrusive.

An oasis of calm.

Illusion, as in the romantic notion, suggested in Ibsen’s play The Master Builder, of building ‘castles in the air’ as a refuge from reality is something I am trying to capture in new work.

I have not settled on a title yet but the work involves an urban roundabout scene and a tear through reality to a paradise behind.

The first few prints from a collagraph are not very successful as the plate must settle and mature so I have used one of the unsuccessful prints to test the tear.

1309 roundabout tear

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Who gets more visceral than Matthew Barney.

Matthew Barney 'Cremaster'

Matthew Barney ‘Cremaster’

I went to hear him in conversation with Jonathan Bepler. Together they are developing a new film project ‘River of Fundament’.

River of Fundament

River of Fundament

The starting point for this project is Norman Mailers 1983 novel ‘Ancient Evenings’ which tells stories of reincarnation, mythology, violent and hyper sexual gods from the age of the pharaohs in Egypt. I haven’t read this book but it is described by readers as anything from a literary masterpiece of astounding brilliance, the greatest gay love story ever told though to disgusting grotesque violence and simply masturbating shit onto the page.

Matthew Barney, Ancient Evenings: Ba Libretto, 2009, Ink, graphite and gold leaf on paperback copy of Ancient Evenings by Norman Mailer, on carved salt base

Matthew Barney, Ancient Evenings: Ba Libretto, 2009, Ink, graphite and gold leaf on paperback copy of Ancient Evenings by Norman Mailer, on carved salt base

Matthew Barney always appears so serious and deliberating. He doesn’t give the impression that the work he will produce will be messy and sticky and barely possible to look at.
Unphased by a question from the audience about his feelings regarding an afterlife he replied in the same thoughtful manner giving respect to an off the wall interjection from someone recently bereaved.
We were shown unedited film excerpts from the work so far. They get under your skin.
There is beauty and majesty in shots filmed at a steel foundry and there are the basest bodily functions performed as ritual celebrations. It is operatic in conception and mixes the filming of live performance with more choreographed staging a scene to be filmed.
His response to why he chose such a character as Norman Mailer as inspiration is that he prefers to work with a subject that repels as well as attracts him.
He believes this dichotomy of feelings gives his work an edge, a challenge – like the artist Andrew Salgado explained when asked why he chose to paint a serial killer.
Don’t make it easy.
Those feelings are translated in to the work and the audience becomes challenged too.

Matthew Barney 'Cremaster'

Matthew Barney ‘Cremaster’

The definition of visceral – relating to deep inner feelings rather than the intellect.
So a deep spiritual experience could be visceral but not unsettling.
I think ‘River of Fundament’ will be intellectually challenging and visceral and quite unsettling.
There will also be moments of wonder that will be the reward for having to watch some of it squinting through your fingers.

Also as part of The Manchester International Festival was a Tino Sehgal performance piece ‘This Variation’ which tapped into the visceral.

Mayfield Depot

Mayfield Depot

Directed into a dark space of the Mayfield Depot the first reaction is to reach out – when these tentative approaches touch another body the reaction is to pull back.
The lighting level is so low that on entering the space the new participant is blind. In the space are an unknown number of performers beat boxing, singing, or calling out questions.
In the pitch black I decided the best policy was to remain immobile. Voices chanted and bodies began to move, dancing and stamping and sweeping past so close the air was alive, brushing my body so close while I stood, not believing they could see me, waiting for a major impact. I imagined I had been captured in the forest and was at the mercy of a wild and uncontrolled people, unable to escape. It went on long enough to worry how I would ever get out but eventually my eyes or the light levels adjusted and I was able to witness more people stumbling into the space before I left feeling I had truly been transported elsewhere.

In Venice at the Biennale there were more artists who delivered work that also had a visceral impact.
The most unsettling was perhaps at the pavilion of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva was ‘exploring the effects of the silk route and how mobility can spread disease as well as commerce.

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva  'Silentio Pathologia'

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva ‘Silentio Pathologia’

A route through the pavilion was mapped out in curtains made from the flayed skins of albino rats and the woven cocoons of silk worms.

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva 'Silentio Patho;ogia'

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva ‘Silentio Pathologia’

It was the smell that was most powerful and also the sight of some live rats in wire cages trapped amid the stench of the death of their own kind.

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva 'Silentio Patho;ogia'

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva ‘Silentio Pathologia’

Another but very different bodily impact came from Poland.

Konrad Smolenski created a sound installation which was so loud as to be unbearable to approach.

Konrad Smolenski 'Everything was forever, Until it was no more'

Konrad Smolenski ‘Everything was forever, Until it was no more’

Kimsooja in the Korean Pavilion also plunged the visitors into darkness but it was not a threatening space, aware of the other people who had entered the small space alongside you by number system it was not isolated or long enough to develop any real sense of displacement.

Korean Pavilion

Korean Pavilion

The entrance however was a more alarming experience, supposedly a kaleidoscopic light diffraction experience it was in fact an embarrassing realisation that the mirror flooring showed right up your skirt.

Petrit Halilaj for Kosovo used memory to dig into the psyche of everyone who grew up able to dig and play in the soil.

Petrit Halilaj

Petrit Halilaj

He created an earth tunnel inspired by memories of a rural childhood before displacement, destruction and exodus reshaped his world.

Petrit Halilaj

Petrit Halilaj

Able to enter this dark space sprouting with twigs and roots like the lair of some large beast I was glad to exit without encountering some living thing to make me shriek.

I might have had a rural childhood too but now I am firmly urban and terrified of those tiny creatures that inhabit the wild.

Ali Kazma for Turkey explored the reactions we have to our own body in his video installation ‘Resistance’.

Ali Kazma 'Resistance'

Ali Kazma ‘Resistance’

A line of body builders flex their muscles on the giant screen; a group of young girls in the audience squirm in disgust.

Ali Kazma 'Resistence'

Ali Kazma ‘Resistence’

Not sure how I would bring these sorts of feelings into my own work but it is an interesting exercise to think about.

These feelings which are so fundamental, so deep within that to stir them is to feel alive, be conscious of mortality.

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work in progress