Monday, 16 May 2011

Me and the Machine – On Ways to Disappear Without Leaving a Trace, FutureEverything, Manchester

On the sixth floor of a blank looking office complex there is something going on, hidden in the a empty office space there is a story, for the last four days Me and the Machine have been coxing this narrative out of the space and make it part of the piece 'On Ways to Disappear Without a Trace'.

The piece is a site specific, performance installation to be undertaken by one person at a time by themselves. People arrive to be placed in front of a set a double doors and be given a set of headphones which will provide the narrative which they will wilfully follow. This is where it starts for me, as I was 'working the door' again, I manage to sneak in. So I don't get to know if their sense of expectation feeds into the work I would like to think it did.

Walking into the space the exotic voice which appears in your ear (should that be in your head?) begins to guide you through a noirish tale, her story becomes your story, her footsteps becomes yours. As this narrative of red shoes and mysterious rooftop strangers unfolds you become more involved, in a sense you become like a child developing its own little play world.

This is a playful piece; it requires the imagination of the participant to make it fully work. It's this action of engaging the imagination that seems to make the title a bit of a misnomer, it feels that rather than disappearing you become more solid, you become the main focus, and you become the star of this narrative. Even though there's a part of you which is aware that other people have been here before and the narrative would still play out the same way without you, that is all over ridded and you feel that you are pushing the narrative along as much as it pulls you. This might be where you truly disappear into your own mental state, away into whatever world you choose in order to 'deal' with the real world.

You could question why a piece like this would feature in a festival which celebrates digital technologies, the first reason which springs to mind is the changes within playback devices, a few years ago a piece like this would require you to carry a CD player probably in a cumbersome backpack. Other than that the other reason I could think of is that this piece, and the current crop of pieces like it, also seems to raise questions regarding how we interact the world, whether the technologies we develop are enhancing our experience of the world or do they take away the need to experience the world physically?

It's a question I can't answer, but with pieces like this I am willing to be part of the research.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Warpaint – FutureEverything/The Ritz Manchester

The overall feeling of the night, is that finally plucked up the courage to tell 'that one girl' how I feel, only to notice she spent the whole time looking at someone else.

Or they were great and not even the drunk screaming 'I LOVE YOU JENNY!!!' right in my eye throughout couldn't spoil it!!!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Bryony Kimmings Sex Idiot, The Bluecoat

I'll be honest I don't understand sex, it's never really been part of my life, it has always seemed to exist in some kind of parallel universe. Like skydiving or visiting China something other people did. Maybe it exists in this way for most people an expected shared experience that is kept private, like going the toilet or masturbating.

Last night I was privy to have brief access to this strange and baffling parallel universe through Bryony Kimmings's Sex Idiot a grand burlesque, inspired by her contraction of a STI and in a disarmingly honest and sincere way details her sexual history, with some of the most glorious hats I've ever seen.

I have to honest (again) I missed the first half (I was working the door) but I walk in to see Bryony half dressed in a speculator Matador uniform staggering around the stage surrounded by faux romantic trappings, flowers, paper hearts and the like. She speaks of the dangers of lusting after the 'other' which goes in a mini performance where she puts lipstick on each of her hands and then proceeds to 'kiss' herself. After the kissing is over she quietly wipes the lipstick off and is left alone, she manages to convey the sense of loss and regret in pursuing the things you think you want and losing the things you had.

There are a number of these 'quiet' moments in one section of the performance she invites the audience to donate their pubic hair and they oblige, scissors are handed out along with Jack Daniels to 'provide' an excuse. After the snipping is done and the tools are handed back Kimmings informs the audience that the scissors have never been cleaned nor have the bottles, they have had unprotected contact with multiple partners and now you have exposed yourself to God knows what. It's a canny way of highlighting that given the right circumstances people would do the stupidest things, without thinking of the dangers. I believe that this echoes a common sexual misadventure one which I've missed out on.

It's within these moments, and throughout the show, Kimmings exposes not only her own vulnerability but everybody's vulnerability there's a scene towards where it's revealed that the source of Bryony's STI was her then boyfriend whom she genuinely cared for. It's a shocking and heartbreaking moment. This is such a loaded moment the whole reason for her to confront her past, came from some form of misplaced guilt. There's still a contradiction out there where women are expected to be having sex but are limited by some undisclosed number of people they can sleep with and if they are unfortunate to catch an STI, (or suspected to have one) the supposed onus often seem to be placed on the woman.

I can only speak from secondary sources (mainly drunken late night chats with actual real life females!) but clear that there concerns and experiences have been reflected in Kimmings performance. She also playfully mocks the way these experiences, and feminist theories, are earnestly expressed throughout performance, and all, art. As ridiculous as some of the acts performed by Kimmings are I've seen performances which pronouce their feminist credentials which come of much more ridiculious and less serious for it.

Have I learnt anything about the mysterious world of sex? Well it's a confusing mess which can in part define you and at the heart of it all there's a human attempting to control and understand at all.

For now my time in this parallel universe is over.