Sunday, 31 July 2016

Franko B, Milk and Blood - The Bluecoat

if I’m honest I’m not excited about this. Not as excited as you might think, seeing as one of the major figures of performance art has come to Liverpool. Franko B, is here to premier his Milk and Blood piece.  So far everything around the event feels low key. Not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe this lack of hype is feeding into my sense of underwhelment, a suspicion that somehow where not getting the 'real deal’.

As they say the proof is in the pudding or the performance.

It feels subdued as we are let into the performance space, where we are greeted by a ring formed out of chairs. Within the centre of this arena hangs a punching bag. Golden it glistens in the dark of the performance space.

Once we are all seated, we wait, in tense silence. It’s a small space, dim but light enough to see the other members of the audience. We wait, as does the punching bag. Are we expecting violence to break the silence?

Soon Franko B appears, with his second who places a golden stool into the arena. Franko, dripping in gold, his vest his shirts, boxing gloves shine like the sky in a painting of a saint. He takes his place in front of the punching bag. That sense of expectation again.

A cold metallic bell rings out. Franko B stands and sets about the punching bag. As he does so the bag begins to swing, threatening to invade the audiences space. Drag them into the arena. Where close to Franko B, as he clobbers the bag and milk begins to leak from the bottom of the bag.

All along he gasps out sayings like “Artists, insignificant” or “love, significant”
the sound of the bell, means the first round is over. Franko returns to the stool. In this pause the bag swings. Which makes me think about that law of Newtonian physics.
Every action has an equal and positive reaction.
The bag swings because of the actions of Franko. I also consider Franko's words, throughout the the piece he chants, speaks, mumbles phrases. They cover everything fro war to love, family and art. They are massive subjects, insurmountable subjects. Yet passive, like the punching bag.

It would be impossible to pinpoint which punch had an effect on the bag. Like trying to quantify your effect on the whole of humanity.  Leaving you to ponder how helpless you feel in the face of everything.

Yet you still keep punching, still you resist.

Like that Newtonian law, things can only happen if you act. Perhaps this is the ‘moral’ of the piece. To do, to act in the face of the immoveable, in the face of a huge and indifferent Universe. Maybe that’s why at the end Franko takes a lap around the audience. Taking stock, perhaps, as he looks into the faces of the people gathered here it would seem as he is offering a challenge.

“what about you? What will you do?”

Franko B leaves. A new tension builds broken by the first to leave the performance space.

What I’ve written here probably doesn’t reflect the actual intent of Franko B. But what he has given up, here tonight. Though the relatively simple action of punching a punch bag, has enabled me to consider ideas. Released me from, the day to day and pushed me to consider something beyond myself.

Which is the mark of great performance art and art in general. I leave with whatever gauge misgivings I had hours ago, quashed.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Katie Paterson SYZYGY - The Lowry, Manchester

Time is a factor.

That is time as a measurement, time as a way of arranging, time as a way of shaping meaning.

This that is also interwoven with space, the time it takes to walk from there to here. To travel from town to city. The time it takes to arrive from the impossible destinations of the Universe.

The time who’s functional ubiquity provides a unique paradox, that keeping it is simultaneously mundane and yet offers up a infinity of beautiful opportunities.

The essence of earth’s  revolving around the Sun and of the moon’s encircling of us under the dictates of gravity. Despite this having been going on for eons upon eons, it still generates an amount of imagination. Whether that be poetic of a desperate need to measure, to calculate, to observe.

Is this need inherent within the human race? As products of nature we have existed in the rhythms of a turning world. Responded to the growth of the world. Was it a increase in satisfaction of the methods we used in response to natural patterns that prompted us to name and differentiate in indiferentiate?

To place import into ephemeral things, to give meaning to spontaneous events that occur around us. Then is this just in order to create a level of comfort or to convince ourselves we understand the world.

All these thoughts come from my experience of Katie Paterson’s Lowry show SYZYGY and in particular her Totality piece. This is a mirrored ball which has images of past eclipses. Watching these points of light run from my hand and then fly down the wall I think about spending more time here. Spending my time in this exhibition. Then it occurs to me the similarity of looking at the stars and looking at art.

You don’t have to spend hours gazing upon the night sky in order to gain to understanding of it. Your appreciation of it can flash across your mind, allowing you the sensation of understanding, setting of a cascade of associations.

A sensation of being at once separate and a part of a great whole. A sensation of the sublime, not the sublime that will overwhelm and consume you, rather a sublime that forms part of you. That your presence is adding to it.

The is evident through out Paterson’s work. Be it a recording of the space between stars, a direct line to a melting glacier. Or the letters written to mark the death of stars which have a beauty of their own and also disprove cLOUDDEAD there is a search party for stars gone dim.

I find something affirming in Paterson’s work, even if it’s a solipsistic idea, that this is your time to exist and your time to witness the Universe.