Sunday, 3 April 2011

Fierce Festival: Covet Me Care for Me – Shelia Ghelani

Weirdly this that last week I was returning from Birmingham, so this might be a good time for a recollection of the last thing I saw as part of my brief interacting with the Fierce Festival. That being Shelia Ghelani's performance Covet Me Care for Me.

I'll be honest I don't really know what to expect as I head towards the space where the performance is being held. As I do enter the space pass the free drink and another cheery hello I attempt to take in what's going on. Which at first appears to be a group of people milling in front of a large red curtain while a delightfully soppy 50's pop song fills the air (the song is Frankie Avalon's Why? ). There is something Lynchian about the scene albeit without the sense of violence, even when I try to recall the events of the day Bobby Vinton's Blue Velvet comes crashing into my head.

I drifting here, but the Blue Velvet connection has already bought to my mind associations with love and violence, the risk you take in allowing yourself to become an object for someone else putting yourself in harm's way (well that's what I am told). My thoughts seem to be reflected at the centre of Ghelani's performance where she invites members of the audience to select a glass heart containing a nurse's watch and ribbons. They look like the tin man's attempts to make a heart. The participant is adorned with safety gear, given a hammer and asked to break the heart, once this has been done the watch and ribbons are given to the participant who disappears behind the curtain, while the shattered remains are gathered and placed in the space left by the heart.

I want to take part in this and after some confused politeness, I get my chance. I select a misshapen heart I've had my eye on, Shelia asks why I chose this one it's because it was misshapen I say which leads her to ask 'So you want to put it out of its misery?' no I feel an affinity with it an answer which Shelia likes. I place my heart on a mound in front of the curtain a note of the hearts number is taken and I sign a receipt, formalising the savage act I am about to undertake on the delicate heart. I am dressed in the safety gear and given the hammer, I kneel in front the curtain in front of the heart and with one hit it satisfactory smashes. I have to ask myself am I taking small satisfaction in symbolically breaking a heart and not having my heart broken. Once the act is done Shelia begins to disrobe me of the safety gear, just before removing the gauntlets she pauses and says: 'This is my favourite part, as I get you look in your eyes.' It's a startling moment akin to when that girl/boy you like smiles at you, a quiet personal moment for you to treasure.

Perhaps this is the underlining point of the performance, it's about the way we transfer these temporary fleeting emotions into something tangible. If we look we all have those objects connecting us back to those moments whether they be scrawled messages on a tatty bear mat or that e-mail you haven't deleted, in an attempt to preserve that spark of possibility of love. So with my memento I am sent behind the curtain where I hand over the items to a lady who will wrap the 'mongrel objects' in some fancy trappings. This is undertaken in coyish silence perhaps she is complicit in what has just occurred, they understand how and why I have come to possess this object, who knows she ain't telling.

I have my charming object, which I will care for and I think I will take up the invitation to meet up a some future point.

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