One of many reasons I've never been to Glastonbury is that I fear that the experience would be defined by what I miss as much as what I see. I have similar feelings when looking at list of 40 artists involved in this year's Emergency, will I be looking the other way when something exciting happens or is it all part of the experience.
Whatever my concern I arrive at Blankspace I find myself going up some stairs to be greeted by heavy black curtains. Performances must be underway; I am cheerfully guided to two open alcoves where I'm greeted by Jojo Townsend and her piece The Wow Project where she asks participants to use Google maps to identify a place where they lost something. It sounds like a slight idea, but looking at the maps left by others it surprising how honest some of them are. Some of the things that people write are quite touching, dealing as they do with the loss of people, some are funny and some are trivial. I don't think about at the time but I relate it to the way people are willing to give up something personal as long as it's part of a communal expression.
In the next alcove there awaits a woman dressed in white sat in front of a projector, well not a project a kind of drawing machine. It's the best description I can make, where invited to use the machine to 'draw' on her face. Which I do, once I've completed my doodle the figure in white takes the picture from the machine, examines it and then reproduces it. Once the picture is pinned to the wall she selects another piece of white clothing and then returns to her starting position. I'm not entirely sure what just happen, maybe I've witness some kind of process of which I was the instigator, like feeding data into a computer so it will perform some unknown computations.
Leaving that piece and finding the other alcoves full, I find myself with a torch exploring the planet like orbs which make up Miyuki Kasahara's installation. There strange planets as each one have an ear and by looking into the ear and shining the torch at the back you get to see an image. These images relate to memories of the people who had their ears casted. Looking directly into someone memories, it could be twee but somehow it avoids that, it's whimsical and I don't know if the artist would appreciate this comparison it's similar to the work of Yoko Ono.
After this I find myself in waiting for Kitty Graham's The Bare Earth and apologising to Juileann O'Malley for leaving a man behind. Gathering in front of a tray full of earth me and the audience wait for something to happen. The earth begins to move and I begin to think about the artist Charles Simonds and his Body>Earth films. This begins I line of associations from a scene from the Wrath of Khan to the J-Horror of the Ring films. The latter comes as the figure emerges from the dirt; we see a body, a human body which isn't truly human but something other. A body transformed by its germination in the dirt.
I work over to the second site of this year's Emergency the Castlefield gallery, where Clarissa Sacchelli is allowing members of the public to immobilise her with red sticky tape. I watch the slow build-up of tape as I wait for Platt, Birchall and Hussian's piece The Dreaming. There are elements in the piece I like, the use of the space, a good use of materials and costumes. After an interesting opening featuring a dance within a cloth womb her movements amplified by contact mics, I find a 'emotional' element missing, something to draw me in, something to make me think 'this is interesting'.
I forgo the other performances at the Castlefield gallery to catch Moreno Sollnas's URANUS. I don't know what to expect when I enter the space to see a man in his pants with his back to us. Once the audience is settled he lays on a table and starts to, well it can only be described as 'arse puppetry'. Look some raunchy act from a working man's club Sollnas's bum crack begins to mime Nessun Dorma. After this he performs a delicate love story using his fingers as the characters, then he slips into a bawdy, song about fucking. Finally he spits into his hands and slips into the audience; sliding between us he reaches out his spittle filled hands threatening to touch people's faces. It's a moment which seems to express something about a fear of intimacy.
Once this piece is over I find myself back upstairs and being asked the question 'Would you like a 6 minute lecture on Dirty Dancing?' Why not. Burrows + Lee present us with an assessment of Patrick Swayze's time bending abilities. Being a fan of nutbag theories I really enjoy the idea that someone can derive such a theory from any piece of popular culture.
Next I find myself sitting in a corner of one of the alcoves next to Alice Malseed, listening to her or rather listening to a recording of her. Her recorded voice begins to speak about her farther and a loss of innocence. As the narrative unfolds I begin to look at Alice and start to consider the validity of the story that I'm being told, and if that matters. I also wonder about why this woman I've just met would share this information. It's something that could be considered intimate but the headphones distance me from the person sat next to me, what is she really thinking? Why I'm I being given this information, in essence what is my role in this narrative?
It's a piece is delves into the ideas of public and private spaces and the role of the participation within a fiction. It shares at lot with the next piece Between Us (you and me) by Sturgeon's Law. I sit across from the performer as she speaks of a story of a fractured love story. It's odd but like Malseed's piece there is a question about my role within the unfolding fiction being presented to me. I take a passive role imaging myself as part of story, while not wholly becoming part of the story. Isn't that often the case? We only become so involved with the stories of other people we meet?
This turns out to be the final piece I see at Blankspace, and how do I feel, do I feel that I've missed out? While I didn't get to see every piece I don't have a sensation of having missed out, the pieces I did see where engaging. Of course as what happens with this kind of event I did find myself just hanging around waiting for the next thing to happen. That is a criticism which doesn't solely apply to this event and I don't know whether to consider those moments as part of the whole experience.
Maybe next time.