The last 6 weeks have been rich and stimulating with the Brighton Festival, the Fringe and various end of year shows and exhibitions so I decided to write about a few highlights. Thanks for inviting me, thank you artists and thanks for reading!
- Clairière Urbaine aerial performance
- The Lamellar project, trans media show
- House Festival: Oska Bright short films
- Radical Craft: Alternative Ways of Making
- Hysterical, Fringe performance
- The Phoenix Artists Open Studios
- The Last Resort, dystopian sound walk
- UOB Degree Show & CCB FDA Shows
1. Clairière Urbaine aerial performance
Put on by French company Retouramont this aerial dance performance was one of the most stunning shows I have ever seen during the May Festival. 4 female dancers dangled from a huge tower housing block and danced suspended from wires in the most elegant and mesmerising ways. The music was equally sublime and I believe it included a rarely heard Nick Cave song. Despite the weather being poor this show has everyone in awe. There is not much else to say -you just have to see for yourself!
2. The Lamellar Project
A stage play by Grant Watson about the near-future and the changing eco system.
We are drawn in by several disjointed Skype conversations between a scientist couple both arguing for the best ways to save the world. Convincingly played by Gideon Turner (UK) and Emma Gibson (USA) the conversations move around different views of saving the world and are regularly interrupted/supplemented by seemingly “factual” (or were they fictional?) reports about our animals and eco system in the future. The set was presented as a box surrounded by a fine mash screen with high quality projections giving the play a contemporary feel. I went with Jason Eade from Carousel and we were quite bedazzled!
Some of the sound effects have really captivated me and drawn me into the story, so much so that I took some notes of the animals to look them up later on! The only negative I can identify is that it was perhaps a little bit slow pace and could have been packed tighter with perhaps 1 or 2 more characters appearing e.g. son and lover? The trans-media element was also not obvious to me and the play could involve the audience a little more? Overall a really enjoyable experience though and the set up and plot were inspiring.
“The play explores the most pressing and crucial issues of contemporary global life – the consequences of climate change and the possible ramifications of genetic modification.” pursuedbyabear.co.uk
3. House Festival Brighton- Oska Bright Screening: The Sea Reminds Me
I was delighted to see that House Festival has made the fine decision to show disability arts alongside mainstream artists throughout their festival. This included Gillian Wearing participatory project “A Room With Your Views”, Felicity Hammond’s photo works, Thomson Halls glorious paintings at the Regency Townhouse as well as several Carousel/Oska Bright film screenings, one of which I was privileged to see from the front row!
The screening was introduced by a short Q&A with Becky Bruzas and Matthew Hellett from the Oska Bright Film Festival committee. The way they bounced their questions & answers back and forth was refreshing and the film itself was a contemporary contemplation on the loss and memory of a loved one.
The Sea Reminds Me, Ray Jacobs, Jonathan Tritton, Mervyn Bradley, UK, 2013, is wonderfully filmed with a beautiful play of close ups and depth of field creating a sense of space and time. The main thing it did for me, however, it had an emotional resonance with the viewer. To see the work on a large screen in a popular lecture theatre also added to the success of the event.
The film was selected to fit with the feature film Mirror, Andrei Tarkovsky, Russia, 1975 which followed- unfortunately I had to leave as I had a Chinese visitor who needed my help in the city. However, a birdy tells me that the matching was a great choice and reflects the two committee members’ Becky and Matthew’s growing programming experience. I have a feeling they were not very pleased when we asked them more questions then they wished for!
Both are about to embark on the prestigious “Guiding Lights” mentorship program at Lighthouse and I can’t wait to see their skills coming through at the Oska Bright Film Festival 2017! Stay tuned and put that in the calendar!
4. ‘Radical Craft: Alternative Ways of Making’, Pallant House Gallery
Work by “artists who define themselves as facing barriers to the art world for reasons including health, disability, social circumstance or isolation”
This show was so well curated and presented I wished I would have had a few more hours to dwell in it! We were greeted by a knitted courtyard- even the pipework was honoured with some thread! I went with the wonderful Sarah Watson from Carousel and we were so lucky to have a guided tour explaining some of the pieces. It’s always good to go with someone to exchange thoughts. The stories are truly fascinating! The artwork is stunning!
We got introduced to one of Judith Scott’s wrapped objects- no one knows what’s underneath – some objects have been x-rayed before but this piece- you can see it below (looks like an upside down heart suspended) was never and keeps people guessing! Our guide thought it may be an office chair back.
Judith’s art has fetched $50000 previously! We also got to see Railway Jim and the “Gallery of broken Strings” as well as Venice biannual artists Shinichi Sawada. I was particularly taken by the works engraved into pencils, the artist I cannot remember now! and “Jeans” by Michael Smith, no one knows what the work is saying but it is so bold and beautifully presented!
Two pieces were submitted to the Royal Academy summer show and I can’t wait to hear if they’ve been accepted! They truly deserve it! I think one of them was Railway Jim- you can see it below, it’s the one with the suitcase. I am really not sure what I could suggest for improvements? It took us a little while to find the venue and we had train trouble but once we got there, wow. All work was wonderfully presented and I enjoyed it! I need to check out the cafe next as that looked quite good too!!
Playwright and performance poet, Karis Halsall, director Stephen Sobal and the Rainbow Collectors have put on a beautifully rhythmic performance at The Warren during the Brighton Fringe Festival 2016.
I felt absolutely privileged to see this performance so close up. The voices, the sounds, the set. The voices were strong and assertive, the sounds were involving. The set was humble yet so effective- appropriating the same furniture for each scene by moving it around. There was a creepy baby with a penis and Virgin Mary on roller skates!
Some critiques argue that the mentally ill brother was portrayed rather victimised and I agree it was brutal to watch at times. Perhaps this character could do with some development as mental health carries a huge stigma and has been portrayed predictably since ages? The downside for me was that you could hear noises from the outside interrupting the flow of the play.
However, the visual aspects of the performance were really interesting and the use of the space and the simplicity of the set was admirable.
6. The Phoenix Artists Open Studios
Nice to have a glimpse into an artist studio and chat to the artist about their art. We saw quite a range of works from “woman with moustache” to a floor scanning robot. In one of the studios we were offered wine and bread and we had lots of chats with artists about their art and inspirations. All this was topped with the Fringe Fireworks- which were an hour late and freaked out the pigeons who fell from the roofs!
Oh -and the creepiest thing was a woman turning up that looked like the robot!
This apparently was NOT staged! An enjoyable evening!
7. The Last Resort
With some luck we managed to get a place in this sold out show. The online booking went a bit pear shaped so we just turned up on a Friday evening after work and found that someone haden’t turned up for their spot! Well, lucky us, since it took us a while to pin point the spot! The weather was absolutely terrific for a post apocalyptic setting with the sun going down slowly and some evening fog setting over the sea.
As we got set up with our sound gear we got quite excited and we started to walk the familiar but strange terrain with a new mission: to find out what the earthlings had experienced in the future! I have to say I enjoyed the sound tremendously and found it very engaging, however I could not quite keep up with the instructions and felt like I wanted to loose myself in more thoughts.
I also felt a bit sad as the venue was not accessible to all.
There were marked signposts and a transparent pouch with images of futuristic fairground rides that had once been. The rides themselves rather fantastical, however, the clunky font and laminated visualisation of them rather 1981. If this was a 3D experience it would have blown my mind! Some pointers to match up the images with the environment would have helped but as it stands I just left the images to the end and enjoyed the surreal post apocalyptic atmosphere of the evening and the landscape.
A landscape I had already explored and photographed over the last 5 years, yet surprisingly it still had something new to offer me that evening. Some artefacts scattered in boxes to draw us into a story of a scientist survivor leaving clues. A variety of printed goods to explore.
If seen as a sound walk then perhaps then the best criteria to judge the piece is by it’s sound. The passing lorries and car sounds were amazing as we walked along the road, I almost mistook them for real!
Some encouragement to spin around and take in the full 360 view was engaging, however, some personal interaction could have left us with a more vivid impression? Maybe the participants talking to each other?
Since the walk was circular you could see others passing and it felt a little weird as they were going through the same play… Maybe we could have been asked to trade some of our finds or discuss some play related issues and this become part of the experience?
In any case we left feeling rather delighted, maybe because it was a lovely evening, or maybe because we love something a bit surreal and different! Probably a bit of both! Wished I had seen Operation Black Antler another immersive piece as a comparison but unfortunaltely I missed it…anyway long live immersive performances!
8. University of Brighton Arts and Humanities Graduate Show
As always some promising work and this time in a new building for the University photography students in Edwards Street. It was an impressive conversion from corporate space to raw gallery space with concrete flooring and large windows. The work seamlessly embedded into various suited walls and cubicles. For some reasons I kept looking at the view though!- SORRY.
What stood out was a piece on virtual reality vs. reality. A two screen presentation of two landscapes- one a virtual beach scene and the other a real landscape with a young woman strolling along. It made us talk about the possibilities and dangers of VR in health and recreation.
Downside: the staircase of the building was in such an intense yellow a NO-NO for photography students who want to retain a neutral pallet/ eye. REALLY? Who came up with this idea! Just to be cool? I think that one may change over time…
Otherwise well done, I heard it was a difficult birth with many interruptions! May you create much striking photography future students/artists!
& City College Brighton & Hove FDA show
Now this was my first visit to the College in a long time and a first I believe for the FDA courses to exhibit their final work in the main theatre! Well done for claiming the space! The photography FDA displayed greatly diverse projects including beautiful environmental self portraiture and a moving image/ sound piece.
What surprised me was the music students presentation. Each student was given a small gazebo 10 or 15 of which filled the main hall! It was a curious sight and I had to check it out! The piece that stays in my mind is the Brighton Sound Walk by Finn Bowden. What a great idea. Well recorded Vox pops in the street – asking about what sounds Brighton represent and a new music piece resulting from the research. The only thing that would bother a real Brightonian is the spelling of what should be the “North Laine”!? Oops!
Anyway! Wowser, that was quite a lot to take in in 6 weeks !
Thanks for reading if you got all the way to here!
It looks like the more immersive the show was and the more interesting the architecture, the more I enjoyed it. Looking forward to the next arts experiences!
See you next year Fringe…