Tether - Sanctuary
In an ethereal piece by artist collective Tether congregated at the All Saints Church for Sanctuary, a bi-located event which transformed the working ecclesiastical space into a dreamy netherworld. The approach was marked by the familiar British sound of church bells as if we were simply attending a family wedding or Sunday service. We were warned by someone about the low visibility but still did not know quite what to expect before stepping in.
Simply enough, the church had been filled with a smoke-machine haze, which entwined with the twilight streaming through the stained glass windows to blur the line between holiness and horror. It was reassuring to see parts of the familiar church structure amid the madness, the organ pipes emerging from the darkness like an iceberg in the pitch-black winter sea. The aural accompaniment was a typically abstract, David Lynch-esque splice of long deep bass notes and mechanical brutality, which worked well with the dark smoky church.
Candles lined the church windows, giving again both a religious and macabre feel to the dark space. Everything becomes shapeless until physically approached and recognised. Even run of the mill items begin to emit a sinister vibration, a lectern with a bottle of water and a box of tissues taking on all kinds of darker meanings, although people walking about taking pictures with their phones ruined the effect to some extent. What I thought was another dark, mysterious shape by the door turned out to be another volunteer, who gave us cryptic instructions for the second phase of the night's event. “Follow the Ankh” she said.
We trailed outside, searching for the elusive symbol, before being guided towards the sky, or rather a turreted building opposite the church. In the window looking down on us, like an alien foetus in neon, was the Ankh, the Egyptian symbol of life.
Crossing the road and ascending a flight of very old stone stairs, we entered a typically structured flat. All of this opened onto a large open room lined with foil, with another new age soundtrack giving the feel of the bar in A Clockwork Orange. A spiralling wooden drink holder directly from the Star Trek canteen held small, see-through conical plastic glasses containing a dark, indeterminate drink, stirred with a smoking spoon.
As we drank it, we begin to feel odd, almost as if sipping something hallucinogenic, although this feeling came as much from the surroundings as the drink itself. This second part resembled what I imagine a house party will look like in about twenty years: rumpled space carpet, flowing shiny wallpaper that gave off a noise like a contracting balloon, crystals on the table, small groups of disconnected people having quiet middle class conversations together.
In the end it was all free of charge and engaging, smoke and mirrors certainly but also a window into both the past and future, darkness and light, life and death and so forth. If young artists week is about the possibility of creating something social and interesting on a relatively small budget, then Sanctuary was a triumph, if only for one day.
Andy Field - Whose streets? Our streets?
What would you do with a fiver? Can you make art with a fiver? Can you protest with it? Is bigger always better? Can only rich people make art? What are you passionate about? Am I angry? Are you angry? Are we angry? I’ve got a fiver let’s do something about it. These were some of the questions raised in a talk by Andy Field at WEYA practice sessions, originally titled Whose Streets, Your Streets?
The talk was broken down into headings - anger, love, dreams, big, money and little - and discussed the potential of performance as an art form which can be used to protest existing as it does between the point where you might imagine a life and the point where you live it.
Andy quoted from a book by Rebecca Solnit which describes how communities set up utopias in disaster situations, and also how the activist is sometimes seen and portrayed as mad or juvenile for following their passions. But to engage people in your protest and make your point you will sometimes need to move away from quoting books and instead turn to a popular film, or more accessible point of reference.
In this talk Andy chose the film Big, where a boy makes a wish to be big and becomes Tom Hanks, he designs toys and is great at his job, even gets a girlfriend, but begins to realise that the burdens of being an adult and being big are not a match for the enjoyment of being a kid. So bigger isn’t better?
Andy Co-runs Forest Fringe a festival put on in Edinburgh and discussed, how Edinburgh Festival suffers from the same ideals, that each year it encourages and promotes itself as being even bigger and better than before, following the same blind faith in unlimited exponential growth that led to the downfall of one of the festivals sponsors The Royal Bank of Scotland. Sometimes you need to think small and a poem, Les Deux-Sevres, was read describing the idea of how a little thing can have a greater knock on effect.
So to the fiver, and after much audience discussion and a video of a Mariachi band playing to a Whale – a Political Artist has to find some time to relax. We were offered the chance to decide what to do with Andy Fields artist fee, which I felt gave us the opportunity to get to grips with the value of money and the value of art. Each audience member now has a fiver, that seems loaded with the significance that another fiver might not have, to find out what people did with the fiver you could visit Andys website.
There’d been plenty of anticipation about Ashley Peevor’s human sculptures (check out our preview from our last issue) and it came as a gentle surprise to find him wandering the grounds of the university park on arrival. Surrounded by crowds of freshers and school children his performance was, crudely speaking, a new-wave of the living statues that spread out from Covent Garden during the mid-90s. Crucially, Peevor’s costume (a willowy suit of garden matter) shadowed his small movements, allowing him to conceal himself into the greenery of the university’s park.
Breaking the illusion for the odd pose or to spook some young ‘uns, it was more of a cheerful aside than proper conceptual art but there was something moody about seeing a faceless human topiary stalk round the park. Fitting in so seamlessly among the other fauna and flora, its deceptive nature made the grounds hum and spark with a lightness of feeling as you enter. We hope that it won’t be Peevor’s last appearance here.
Dominating the outdoor plaza elsewhere was a twenty foot long, blow up tunnel named the Sound Spiral. A rumbling tone shook from its synthetic casing, like the drumming from a nightclub even though it stood open as a gazebo. Moving through its front orifice, volunteers instructed us that we could record and provide a set of sounds to play from its dozens of speakers.
It was confusing idea until we wandered inside the Spiral where a swarm of voices and music blasted from the speakers as if you were stepping through every party you’d ever been to. Languages and ambience spilled into a mass of noise. For a while, the clutter of frequencies felt like it was echoing through you, instead of at you, engrossing as it was surreal.
Dizzying us into a stupor we retreated into the hushed vestige of the indoor gallery, where Sammerian performer Marina Conti’s Reading Sculpture was taking place. At a polar opposite to the vibrations of the Spiral, Conti’s piece was at first glance, a standing assembly of students, eyes down studying novels. The clincher however was the tight, precise movements between the players, taking the odd moment to glance from the page or make a small gesture.
These were too precise to be accidental, each capturing an aspect of the restless energy of study. While they strode through the gallery, exchanging stares at one another there was an odd intimacy and a relatable joy to watching this movement. It had sounded little else other than a trumped-up book club but Conti had captured the subtle mechanics of what goes through the mind in between the lines of a page.
This along with Peevor and the Spiral seemed to be delighted in making a strange pull at your senses but in doing so becoming a disorienting and funny surprise for this day of the festival.
WEYA ran from the 7th to 16th Sept. Part 3 of our coverage will be posted later this week.