Sunday, 13 October 2013

3AM: Wonder Paranoia and the Restless Night, TheBluecoat, Liverpool

I ask you this can you imagine a world without a night. What kind of world would that be? One where time has no hold on its inhabitants, do they toil under eternal sunshine. Would they be happy with enough hours in the day to get things done, or would a world without a night means a world without the space to dream, without the need to invent demons or the gods that protect us through the night. What I think I’m trying to get at is that the night is an indelible part of life. A liminal part of everybody’s existence, part of our society, and part of what it means to be human. The time spent, thanks to gravity’s pull, out of the influence of the sun has inspired artists, poets, lover and thefts alike. Probably before we had the terms ‘day’ or ‘night’

So when the current exhibition 3AM : Wonder, paranoia and the restless night poses the question do the still quiet hours of the night reflect the zeitgeist, it seems that the answer would be yes. The answer is of course more complex than that, one that forms part a continuum of culture and reflects individual responses. To paraphrase that famous Nietzsche quote ‘Stare in the night and the night stares into you’

There is something about the night that reconfigures the normal modes of human activity, free from the distractions of routine the mind at night will wander through aspirations, guilt, resentments all from the supposed comfort and security of your bed. If you’re in bed at all maybe you’re taking advantage of the cover of dark to create a set of new rules and behaviour like the figures in Sophey Rickett’s – Pissing Women or Palm and Darner’s film of teenagers taking hold of the night by using their bodies to fill in the spaces left by daylight pedestrians. Not unlike the mysterious figures in Anthony Goicolea’s Code shining torches in patterns unknown to daywalkers the people in these works have the night to create their own nocturnal language.

The night has a power to make things uncanny, to transform familiar landscapes and objects and behaviour into something else. Something strange emerges from the dark even commonplace things like clothes can appear hostile as the figures in Danny Treacy’s Them. Treacy’s figure tap into something that is at once ancient and contemporary they could be figures that haunted the medieval mind, while they echo the image of a more modern idea horror of the slasher movie.

Not that the night is the sole reserve of ghost, goblins or weirdoes, the night has been marked for having a good and even sexual activity, apparently.  Often the two coincide as in Tom Wood’s photographs of groping drunken teens receiving their reward after hours of behaving under the sunlight codes. I can leave anything about sex and the night to Wikipedia which says Night is also considered the best time for sexual intercourse. Though you don’t actually have to have sex you can be or most likely be thinking about it, thoughts of possible lovers, should have been lovers mingle together with other thoughts of bills and who played that guy in that thing. These shifting thoughts seem to have a physical presence in Rachel Kneebone’s sculptures which offer a blooming mix of shifting forms. It also reminds of a line from a song, by 13&God, which goes: you'd set your eyes off one the ceiling all night in the dark think of a song or maybe breasts or missing body parts

Do these works address the question about the wee dark hours being reflected of a zeitgeist? Well yes, I said that earlier, one of things this exhibition highlights is the fact that the world doesn’t stop when we go to bed. The world carries on when where not about, which is quite disquieting. This feeling is now expatiated by the existence of empty chain store car parks and the 24 hour communication system that is the internet. It can threaten to overwhelm us, gives us a sense of alienation in what could be termed a contemporary sublime

To stop falling into this pit of despair we can embrace this night taking the freedoms its alloes, to change, reconfigure and challenge our other illuminated selves. To carry on what we’ve been doing for millennia use the night as a space to be filled with ‘poetic imagination’ and continue to use the night as a dark mirror for our hopes, dreams and nightmares.


Friday, 11 October 2013

Mark Boulos, FACT Liverpool

There’s a current slightly disturbing trend within contemporary curation at the moment, that beginning the complete darkness galleries appear to be willing to plunge us into. Maybe I need better eyes, anyway shuffling hand against the dry MDF partition I make my way into No Permanent Address  Mark Boulos’s , documentary installation you could call it. Where across three screens I’m introduced to various members of a communist militia living in the jungles of the Philippine’s.

It’s a pretty absorbing account of individuals who seem to be living in their own world, of a self-contained society perhaps some of the last Marxist society’s outthere. The dedication of the members of this group (the New People’s Army) as they detail the sacrifices they’ve made to follow the course while causally clutching M16’s is obviously real. Though my ignorance of the wider aspects of the political scene in the Philippines’ makes me regard the information supplied to me across three screens with a kind of neutrality.  

I do think more about that device of using three screens, which has become quite a common device within video installations over the last decade or so. For me it doesn’t add much to the narrative and I wonder if it was employed simply to change a ‘documentary’ into ‘art’. Still it doesn’t distract from what I’m seeing, so yeah.

Another Boulos’s installations (All that is Solid Melts into Air) which offers reflecting narratives across two opposing screens. One is filled with fluctuating digital numbers and aerial shoots of Chicago and the bullpit of a western stock exchange. The other offers images of oil platforms in the Niger Delta, more important it offers the voice of members of a group who are, quite rightfully perhaps, have taken to violence at the fact that they as Nigerians receive nothing while their countries resources are taken.

I know that there is political point being made here, but one scene strikes me. When one of the anti-Shell organisation performs a ritual to turn his body into stone, to make himself invincible to bullets and is then joined by his colleagues in a chant to call upon the spirit of a ‘thunder god’ . I begin to see I connection between these rituals and the rituals being performed on the other screen. The stockbrokers do seem to be casting symbols, raising their arms to catch the spirit of the numbers to call on the god of commerce. Both actions, both rituals are as equally abstract but it does raise the question which one of these abstract acts is the more dangerous?

Now on to the centrepiece of the exhibition Echo, which promises an almost magical transportation of physical and mental states. One entering the space you see an disc of yellowish light on the floor, this is for you and entering it starts the experience. On doing so, and not surprisingly, I’m very aware I’m standing in a spotlight, in a gallery, I’m very aware of myself. I spend a few moments nervously fidgeting with my clothes, trying to present a better image to my future self not really paying attention to the cityscape being projected. It’s only when the image begins to recede I begin to pay attention and to feel a little woozy. After that I begin to pay attention to the projection, in which I appear as a relfection of a ghost quite aware that I’m not in that projection I’m in front of it. Very much aware of the bright light making the rims of my specs glow amber.

On the whole it feels like an academic exercise, especially when filling out the questionnaire afterwards. A piece to tickle the intellect rather than to pluck the heartstrings. Which leaves me thinking about the experience, I’m glad to have taken part it feels like I’ve done the right thing, done something beneficial, like attending a lecture.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Emergency 2013

Due to the bendy nature of the perception of time it doesn’t feel a year has passed since I was last at Blankspace for the annual day of live art that is Emergency. I wonder what’s ahead of me, crazed hectic performances or something more quiet and thoughtful. It’s hard to judge as I’m the first viewer to arrive I have a go at generating atmosphere but soon enough the final adjustments are adjusted and this is a report of the things I saw in the order I saw them. Just a note I’m going to see these pieces ‘blind’ and not reading the notes provided.

In a little alcove awaits a golden man in a bowler and a suit (I’ve already since this figure before marching in and out of the space) sat behind a small desk he finishes making a print of his hand. He introduces himself in an accent that comes from an imagined Eastern European he briefs me on what’s about to happen. Which is a kind of psychic reading part interview. He paints my hand in golden paint making guesses about my occupation, as he presses my hand against the paper, he says I’m involved in films I tell him I’m a writer. He asks if I lean to the French or the German, French naturally, on this prompt he mentions Paul Vrillo (that’s right I’ve read his stuff) and for a moment I’m amazed by this incredible insight. Despite my knowledge of cold reading there’s an element of me that sees this as an amazing ability. It is a piece of mentalism which relies on given the viewer what they want to hear.

Nearby there is a figure rowing in a sea of gossamer fabric, though it seems there’s a fine line between rower and ‘sea’. She rowing, moving nowhere is she where she needs to be as she sings a wistful mournful song. This figure is at a point that the furthest from any shore, at the point between exertion and exhilaration, at the point where the possibilities of the journey have yet to be fulfilled. In her position in the middle of this fabric ocean she is part of a melancholic lyrical dream.

Lili Spain

There’s another figure sat still at a table which is covered in talc, as is the figure. On entering the space the figure throws more talc on herself then returns to her stillness. I stand watching wondering why, what does it all mean? What processes are trapped in that dusty head? Is there any meaning at all, is the action just a simple action, like a child digging a hole for the sake of digging. Ultimately at this point it is unknowable a set of symbols based on internal codes. As I leave the space she throws more talc on herself.

Kerry Carroll

I’m told a new piece has started and I pass behind a curtain where I discover the figure of a girl dressed in white on the floor. At just her and me at the moment leaning a sense of intimacy to proceedings.  In front of me she delicately roles and stretches and as she does I notice a strange effect. It might be the dim light affecting my perspective but the dancer in front of me seem so small lending her movements a spectral delicately. At points her shadow has as much, if not more of a physically presence in this space as it echoes the expressions of this dancers body.

This piece feels the most ‘performacey’ as it has its specially installed space, in which above a neatly set dinner table hang apples. Maiada enters the space and disrobes she begins to ring a bell announcing the beginning. Though at this point I and two other mistake this as an invitation to take a place at the table, this is a mistake, though Maiada calmly continues, picking and peeling apples despite our unwanted presence. We three interlopers are male and fully clothed what it must look like to have these men served by a figure of a naked woman. In a happy coincidence, later on reading the notes provided I read that part of aBOUD’s practice is the exploration of ‘living in a patriarchal society’  maybe I just trying to justify my blundering presence in an otherwise meditative performance.

Lotta SCAF

Outside there sits the Bank of Change… a piece which attempts to create a dialogue regarding the value of money. Normally I would find piece like this difficult to engage with but recent history has given me an opinion on the matter. So me, the artist, and the others that have gathered chat about the damn oddness of the capitalism and the like. Lotta SCAF proposal for a new economy is definitely intriguing and necessary perhaps.  

Earlier I signed a disclaimer form and instead of waiting I saw other stuff but now I’m back to see what I signed up for. As for some time now a remix of Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus has been leaking out from behind a blackout curtain. After been refreshed of the ‘rules’ of the piece I nervously enter the space into a stroboscopic storm into the centre of a circle. I note the blindfolded dark suited figure in the corner. Like something in a dream the figure is in the circle with me and this is where the touching begins. It’s an intimate kind of touching and the whole thing is pretty much like a nightmare I had once I endure as much as I can then leave. Wondering exactly what to take away from this, maybe it’s just the experience of the strange dreamlike environment.

As a welcome difference I look for a piece which offers the chance to hear the most silent place on earth. On meeting the artist she explains that there is a place in the world which well is silent to the point that if recorded it registers in minus decibels. Hard to get your head around. Though that element isn’t important to me, as there is something poetic about the idea of the most silent place in the world and in Sarah Boulton’s need to or wanting to share it with others. Having shared it, listened to I began to question the cultural importance of ‘silence’ or sound, but I’m basis to this kind of thing.

I step outside to watch Paul Hurley run back and forth and watch people join in imaging there breathless conversations, though I don’t join in. Not long after this I leave though this part of Emergency of felt quieter it has been thoughtful and I leave satisfied with the work I have engaged with, which might sound like damning it with faint praise but putting together which leaves the viewer (me) with a sense of completion, of being satisfied is hard to do.