Friday, 17 November 2017

Under Cinema. Wu Tsang @ FACT, Liverpool

I’ve not been to FACT for a while. The last thing I remember enjoying seeing was Lucy Beech’s film which formed part of 2016 Liverpool Biennial. Having course to be in Liverpool for an afternoon, I check the FACT website to see what’s on. What I read there doesn’t really fill me with a great desire to see it.

There’s a little paragraph about how the current exhibition Under Cinema by Wu Tsang is based around a essay from a set of essays. It’s hardly inspiring stuff, it makes going to see the exhibition might be very hard work.

Anyway, despite any reservations, I’m in FACT watching, mesmerised even by Wu Tsang's film “We Hold Where Study”. Sat in front of the cinema sized screen, actual cinema sized like the screens they use for Marvel blockbusters.

Watching two overlapping locations (one exterior, one interior) two overlapping sets of dancers, fall and roll. Occupying there space, occupying the screen, occupying my space. We as audience are granted access to this space through the camera. The camera is performer, through its performance it allows us as viewer an unique level of intimacy and connection with our performers.

Often when I see performance presented as film, I feel that I’d rather experience that performance live. This is the exception, here the sense of the performers physicality is powerful. The camera also gives you access to this physicality where in the real world you’d be ejected from the performance.

If this where live and you approached the performers as the camera does. You be violating the rules of performer and viewer. It’s not the presence of the camera that allows this presence into the performers space. It is a result of a melding of action, locations, lighting (both real and artificial) and music. Which collide perfectly to create a heightened experience.

At the heart of this experience is the notion of motion as identity. That these two elements share the same fluid properties. That both are malleable, shifting and adjusting. Conforming and reaction to the environment and the individuals that occupy it.

Its how you hold yourself at a bus stop, how that apparently simple act can uncover you. Exposing a version of yourself to the world. Until you become aware of the perception of others.

Wherein you adjust yourself to the architecture of others. This space is sometimes comfortable and familiar, often it is not.

All these ideas seem to spring directly from watching the film. Who’s 19 minute run time flies past. Which is not always the case when watching film installations. I even consider staying to watch the whole thing again. But I have constraints on my time. Once I leave the gallery I’m slightly resentful of he outside world’s encroachment into this experience.

But as my identity merges with the dances of others, I know I have had this experience.

I’ll just add that this in one of two films by Wu Tsang presented at FACT. The second is “Under Cinema”. A kind of documentary following the pop star Kelela. Throughout she speaks thoughtfully and elegantly about her music, her identity as a singer and the use of black identity in the music industry. It’s an involving portrait of Kelela and the difficulties of expressing your identity as an artist while negotiating the needs of the music industry.

What stops this being just a promo film is that was as you watch the film. A film of Kelela watches you. Again asking questions about who identity is formed by the gaze of another.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Some stuff

The New Observatory, FACT
Trying to formulate what I thought about this exhibition. I can’t really. It felt too much going on, too many audio elements mixing together, too much to read. A head scratcher and not in a good way. More like reading a complex instruction manual while waiting for the penny to drop.

Which has me wondering “has contemporary art stopped being intuitive?”

Coming Out, The Walker
This exhibition featuring art from the art councils collection which explores sex, gender and identity. Has familiarity working for it and against it. To a degree, being work taken from a single collection you’re bound to have seen some of the work, somewhere before. It never hurts to see it again.

For me the highlight was Steve McQueen’s film Bear. Projected in what appeared to be a infinite raven, two naked male figures grapple. There movements go from aggressive to tender in a mesmerising fashion. It is something to behold. If you don’t mind the giggling at willies.

Abacus, The Bluecoat
Those sculptures look fun, but I’m too big for them. Same for the little barrister wigs.
Though this is exhibition aimed for children it doesn’t mean it can’t be approached like any other exhibition. One thing that strikes me, especially when looking over a mini courtroom, is how many playsets are steeped in historical references.
We probably overlook this, perhaps due a certain ubiquity or just to the idea that it’s all 'just for kids'.

Maybe we forget that play is a remix of the systems that control and are controlled by 'grown ups'. This naturally includes history. Whether directly or indirectly. Every child at some point creates a microcosm of historical events. How many times have I lived out the Second World War, with pillows become pillboxes or foxholes?
The idea of building a gift or a den, or even inhabiting the space behind the sofa, is about the child creating a world in which they have control. To experiment with ways of navigating the wider world. Or to have a space apart from that other world where a different set of rules apply.

Do we actually abandon these ideas when we enter adulthood? Or do we merely encase them in ideas call architecture, home ownership, money. You can only speculate what the world would be like if left these concepts behind and began to play again.