Sunday, 23 October 2011

Up the Wall – Chester

Up the Wall an outdoor live art event has been running for 5 years I've been in the North West for 3 so it's about time I actual attend one of these events. It's off to the Socialist Republic of Chester I go. I find myself in the car park of Chester Castle milling around with the rest of the crowd waiting to go in. I wasn't sure what to expect but the crowd seems to be made up from middle aged people with families, this isn't a criticism, it's just something I don't usually see.

While waiting sashes and info sheets are handed out, handed out to groups and being a group of one I hesitate in taking one fearing that I would miss out on some unknown performance experience later. We are let in I have no idea where to go (I haven't looked at the brochure) so I just wander towards the people dressed in quasi-futuristic clothes where I am invited to go on a journey, ok then. This is a piece called A Journey of a Home, more here

Were back to the start and I'm off to look for a another experience so I wander around and come across three miniature theatre sets built into suitcase, the sets have narration coming from them but every time I try to concentrate someone comes along and sticks there face into the set It kind of breaks of my concentration. There is part of me that is restless expecting something to happen, especially when a Teutonic sounding language comes booming from the dark but nothing seems to be happening. I stumble into the back of a crowd and basically push my way to the front. This is Denis Buckley's piece and the gap between audience and performer seems huge, I've come towards the end and I can't remember much about the piece other then he sets stuff on fire and storms out dragging his metal suitcase behind him the crowd stand where they are.

I turn around and see people gathered under a neon sign looking at some kind off I don't know but there's a candy floss machine and a steward cheerfully trying to encourage people to move on this isn't that kind of piece. I wander around they are some installations on the wall they don't really capture my imagination, they both seem to about the English/Welsh border and having lived on both sides of the border I don't really care. Although I do wonder if I should break out into: Sosban Fach ( Also on the wall is Marcus Orlandi where behind iron gates a character sits hunched on steps trapped by the physical space and the pleading female voice that haunts the castle wall, there's something effecting in this simple quiet piece.

After a little more wandering I begin to wonder if I'm doing this right, I don't seem to be engaging with the work as much as I thought, not as much as the boy who leaps out of the way of the projected people of Andrew Bindley's Crossing which makes the piece more alive somehow makes a better connection between the intersection of real and imagined. Then I join the queue for the Lab Collective's piece where there's a lot of complaining about having to queue, and I see what must be Laura Cooper's Inside the Line, which is why I think we were given the sashes at the start. Watching a small group of people form lines I wonder if there civilians or performers, I mainly wonder how to engage with the piece because there's something there I think I like.

It isn't long after that I leave and I have the feeling I haven't truly engaged with it all, or haven't been given an opportunity to do, sentiments which have appeared on Up the Wall's comment board. I left feeling that I had missed out on something, but I don't know what.



Two Destination Language – A Journey of a Home, Up the Wall

I am being prepped for a journey by Two Destination Language as part of their piece showing at this year's Up the Wall. First my male guide and I go through some warm up lunges (always fun) I am given headphones and a purse around my neck the guide takes my hand and we're off. In tradition of Janet Cardiff sound walks a softy accented voices play in my ears, they speak of childhood memories and airports but I drift away from this and think about holding this strangers hand. This is the most interesting aspect of this piece having to trust a stranger to lead you somewhere, thinking back on it the audio seems to act as of a way of distracting you from this distracting you from why you're holding this man's hand and how much of this journey is predetermined. It's not as immersive as Symphony for a Missing Room ( ) but it does offer something.

I wonder what the group of cadets who marched past thought of it.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Six Colourful Tales from the Emotional Spectrum (Women), Jen Liu and John Balderassi – Ceri Hand Liverpool

It's actually a nice day, which makes the walk to Ceri Hand quite pleasant. Once I'm there and I've been let in and given the appropriate pieces of information I enter the space part of which is given over to the curtained box which means there's a video piece playing within. Instead of pushing aside the curtain and only partly ignoring the female American accent I stand in front of one of Jen Liu's collages. Already the dim process of my mind has picked up on the floating geometric shapes, primary colours and washy figures, so I take a closer look and see watercolour impressions of glamour girls leaning against blocks of colour along with orbs of colour full of sinister shadows. I don't feel I have anything more to add to my initial impressions.

Is this my failing? In retrospect I have trouble in reading them, whether to see them as part of a classical tradition of collage, throwing disparate pieces together to create new meanings, or as a conceptual appropriation of those techniques. Maybe it's wrong of me to think about them in that way, I could be taking this all too seriously equally they could be a sense of humour here as the piece Blue Balls suggests ( I can't bring all this together and I wonder if all that time at art school was worth it. Along with the smaller piece there are larger watercolour pieces in which draw on the lurid and titillating paperback covers and the over excited movie posters of the 70's and 80's. Like those posters the larger watercolours have seem to taken elements of a narrative and inflamed with titles like 'Caught in the Act' and 'Green Horn – Guerrilla Warfare School' of course they make promises they don't have to deliver.

Then I push aside the curtain and enter the film box to be greeted by an uncomfortably framed head on a TV screen backed by a lurid red background, this is the source of the female voice that has been accompanying my time here. This Balderassi's Six Colourful Tales from the Emotional Landscape. The disembodied head is providing a narrative for a kaleidoscope of images of stuffed birds and reflections in polished marble, which leads to images of a woman being stalked through grand corridors. Having read about the exhibition info before coming I know there are references to the Italian horror film movement of Giallo and I do wonder if these are scenes from Dario Argento's Suspiria ( there's no bikini clad woman cavorting in front of a woolly mammoth in Suspiria!

Anyway while watching these vignettes I can see, or at least I assume that these are the images that have sprung into her imagination while listening to the confessional tales from the emotional spectrum. This throws up more interesting images then the drawings, for example Jen Liu being led by lace rope through empty night-time city streets. Watching the film I begin to understand not only the source of the Liu's film but of the drawings as well, the exhibition can be considered to a work in itself rather than a collection of smaller pieces, not seeing the film first meant that I didn't make that connection, that all the pieces on show where part of a singular process.

Which raises the issue that would the individual pieces have an independent live away from the process they were created through. I don't think any art can.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Level 5, Brody Condon - The Bluecoat Liverpool

Ok how this all begin?
I saw callouts for people to become involved in this performance called Level 5 and immediately my curiosity was peeked, seeing some of issues I had previously attempted to explore in my own work only better thought out.
Time passes and on several occasions I visit the registry page on the website and chicken out of signing up. I attend an informal (yet informative talk) in a little room, as the small group of people leave there is talk of cults.. For me I know that this isn't about cults but what is it about I haven't explained what's going on here.

Level 5 ( is a participatory performance using the large group self-awareness seminars of the 1970's ( as a framework to critically access the motivations of people like Werner Erhard and the people willing to give themselves over to something else, to leave their pervious identities and break free of the generations which preceded them, the generations that created two world wars. I can see in this as an exploration of the underlying themes which have defined the post-war world, especially the cultural shift that began in the late sixties. The change from We to Me to I, where say the New Age movement began to attempt to collectively change and better the world (We) this became individualized and it was the betterment of the self which would lead to a 'fairer' world (Me) which then became the individual's right to better themselves and only themselves (I).

I won't say if this assessment is correct, I can't remember where I got the We to Me to I phrase from but whoever you are please credit yourself!

After a month after a lot of anxiety about getting involved I sign up, perhaps I've decided to look it in the eyes and say 'I trust you'.

The way we will be exploring this will be through LARPing ( we will be creating a character in which to experience Level 5 through. This element may of effected my indecision as part of me wants to experience Level 5 as myself. Anyway once I have signed up Kit Danes is born. This prompts I a flurry of activity where I build a world around this name, he's a writer ( I try to draw on references which I feel reflect the vague image of the Kit Danes in my head, I even create a playlist of music I think he'd like. (

So it comes to close to the event and I and the other participants gather to hear more about Brody and the LARPing guys, it's during the break between lecture and workshop I confess to our coordinator that I am Excited Shitless. The workshop held by Bjakre and Tobias two big Swedish bears of men, who guide us through this good natured workshop. Where we excitedly talk about our characters what we will where and what we expect from tomorrow.

There's a sleepless night, I go through what I should do tomorrow, how Kit will act, and I wonder if Kit is sleeping soundly or worrying about the morning.

Dressed in my 'costume 'which are basically my street clothes I enter The Bluecoat I am Kit now aren't I? That's what I write on my name tag as far as anyone is concerned that's who I am.

Rules are read out, and rules are broken it begins where introduced to our seminar leaders Steve and Nikki (or Nikki Is) all easy going charm with a faint sinister air, as you might expect. It's actually hard for me to pick out individual moments and when they take place, but we start with a lecture. After the lecture we start the process I think I can't quite remember maybe Kit knows better. During the first break I am having an argument with 'Aaron' about why we are here and I realise Kit wants to be here, and he's a little bit of a suck up. Returning back to the room we begin the processes during these processes I realise I am not completely making things up I am just relying on my life experience to give a convincing performance? Or I am just lazy? Of course I have no way of determining the 'truth' of what's being said to me.

Some of what happens during the morning has kind of blurred a bit, I clearly remember that during the breaks I am more 'chatty' then I would be as I would as Chris, I remember speaking to 'Julie Ann' about how as an author I could see the processes where going through as part of a larger machine. There's a longer break where people have already dropped out of being a 'character' mainly to express their disaffection with events so far, which leads to this 'character' to leave after returning to the room.

I still can only really describe events that happen during my time here, and maybe my thoughts which currently is running along the lines of I need to be more Kit Danes… which may of led to one event. We are asked to pair off and to answer the question 'What do you want?' I go through this and suddenly find myself adopting an 'arrogant' air just word associating at one point 'Henry' is looming over me. Once the process is over and 'Henry' is walking passed I/Kit decide to say one last thing Kit's arrogance maybe? Whatever the reason I realise I've singled myself out (Kit's ego?) I'm asked to explain why I spoke out of turn, because I was caught in the moment. I say that because isn't that what we been encouraged to do. I'm stood up and worried that I'm about to get a verbal and personal assault from 'Henry' and when it turns out he and 'Bob' just going to press me up against the wall until I tell the truth, I'm kind of relived. During this I reasonable and compliant I don't know if this is Kit's willingness to give himself to the process or myself understanding this is part of performance as an whole.

Whatever the reason, there's screaming from me and the truth from Kit Danes.

After this there is a group process, adrenalin is making my legs shake I think about going to the 'safe space' marked out at the back of the room. I don't a sense of confidence gained from going through the pushing makes me step straight into the circle in order to defend myself, which I do quite well, Kit is feeling quite emboldened by his experience. There is a feeling that Kit should be more honest from now on.

I think there's lunch and I don't know if I want to be with the group or by myself.

Then there's after lunch where things get intense, for Kit at least and me if I'm honest. I am going to boil the rest of the evening? To a few events the first being a process in which we are lined up and asked to elect who we find attractive or unattractive. Kit doesn't come out well. He turns out to be the most unattractive man in the room I don't think either me or Kit like this very much! Chris's politeness is overruled by the freedom of being in this context and Kit is quite happy in vocalizing his anger and discomfort. The results of this process feeds directly into a decision I make in how Kit should react to the next process. That process involves being place into a circle while the other members of the group tell your character, one by one, what they really think of you then they will push you to the ground and you fight to get up. It's one of the more difficult processes to go through epically after what happened during the previous process.

If I am honest I take some of the things to heart, maybe it's the immediacy of the whole thing, but one of members call me/Kit 'creepy' it sticks for the rest of the night. The reaction I decided that Kit should undertake is to once he has freed himself he should turn to the group and shout 'DON'T YOU FUCKING CLAP' for Kit this is a defensive action he's trying to claim back some of the things the feels he has lost. Or a reaction to how he is actually perceived. During this process 'Henry' pushes 'Maria' across the room, we may of expected this but it's the genuine reaction of 'Nikki' which make this moment 'terrifying' whether this is part of the performance or everything is about to come crumbling down. The event resolves itself ('Maria turns out to be a LARPer herself and this has been arranged) still it's scary to see how conditioned we've become no one questions 'Henry' and we carry on with our own individual journeys.

During the break following in this I remove myself from the group, in part this is to allow myself to calm down a little, and maybe for Kit to come to terms with his new status as a very angry person. I also eat the majority of the chocolate rice-crispy things on the snack plate, well a part of me, maybe Chris offers the final piece to 'Zoe'. I guess at this point because of the physicality of anger I still feel wound up. The final part is much quieter, as we are given the chance to be an asshole in front of group by getting up and doing something stupid which I do, actually during someone else's bit, on reflection this seems to provide a bit of relief for us all. 'Steve' begins to deliver his final at times baffling lecture where the conclusion is that we haven't learnt a thing, and he's right we weren't here to learn we were here to experience.

That why I was there to experience, to understand why and what happens when people go through this process, and I feel that it confirmed that these seminar directly appeal to the tribal part of our brains, our wanting to be part of a greater whole and how these desires and conflicted by the drive to succeed as an individual being. Both of these conflicting drives seem to be created by and supported by the ideals of the EST seminars creating a feedback loop where nothing is attained nothing is learnt all you can do is go through the process.