Accessibility Information
Colour Schemes
Font Size
Close
NEXT FIERCE FESTIVAL 15-20 OCTOBER 2019!

Blog

Tuning in: Rosana Cade on Moot Moot

In the run up to Moot Moot coming to MAC Birmingham on the 23rd of January, we caught up with renowned artist Rosana Cade on the process of creating this ‘dark mirror for our current existence’.

 

How was the concept for Moot Moot formed?

 

In 2017 I was commissioned by Fierce Festival and The Marlborough Theatre in Brighton to create a new work. At that time, I was keen to develop my collaborative practice with my partner, artist Ivor MacAskill. Up until this point we had mainly collaborated in a more DIY fashion via our band Double Pussy Clit Fuck.

 

We entered a process that began as a queer exploration of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, questioning the ways in which these concepts are used by the media and those in power to control and divide communities, in a time of increasing political polarisation.

 

  • Do you have a mission statement for Moot Moot?

 

There isn’t a mission statement. This isn’t a work that is trying to solve something. It acts more as a dark mirror for our current existence, and is read in many different ways. This is something we like to encourage.

 

  • On your website, you talk about liveness as a potent site for connection. How does Moot Moot explore the connection between audiences and performers?

 

Whilst a lot of my work actively engages with connection and intimacy in its form – often involving interactions and participation, this work talks about connection from beginning to end and yet the performers never connect directly with the audience. As an audience member you are looking in on two people in their own void or bubble, a witness or a voyeur. There is almost a fourth wall between the performers and the audience, which is a departure in style for me as an artist. In this way it deals with the difference between talking about connection and really connecting; it sits with loneliness, desperation, the hypocrisy of the gesture over the real action, the emptiness of someone looking right through you.

 

  • Do you believe the performance would be as effective without Yas Clarke’s sonic soundscape?

 

The performance wouldn’t exist without Yas Clarke’s sonic world. He came on board as a collaborator about halfway through the process and this is where we really started to build the show together.

 

  • What appeals to you about collaborative art?

 

Learning to collaborate means learning how to share, learning how to exercise your boundaries and how to respect other people’s, considering your own needs alongside other people’s need.

Also, I much prefer doing things with other people, I find it a lot more fun! I think ideas can progress faster with different input, and can be taken in unexpected ways that never would have occurred without multiple people in the room.

I think art making can be quite a vulnerable process, particularly performance where you literally put yourself in front of people in presenting your work. I find it so strengthening to feel like I am part of a team, especially when touring around quite a lot.

 

  • What appealed to you about taking on the characters of radio talk-show hosts in particular?

 

In some ways the act of embodying this older straight male character was an attempt to place ourselves in their shoes, and to begin to understand their vulnerability. It is something more complex than othering them and blaming them.

 

  • What are your plans for Moot Moot in the future?

 

We have some more tour dates which will be announced soon, and we might be bringing the show to the Edinburgh Fringe.

Fierce Festival is recruiting: Production Coordinator and Marketing Coordinator

Fierce are seeking applicants for two new job roles for the run-up to the festival in October 2019; a Marketing Coordinator to lead on promoting the festival and developing audiences and a Production Coordinator to deliver on the practical side of the festival, liaising with artists, producers, venues and technical teams.

Download the Job Descriptions here to find out more about the roles and how to apply.

Marketing Coordinator Job Description

Production Coordinator Job Description

Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form

Deadline to apply for both roles: midnight, 3rd February.

Interviews: 11th February.

Artists Behind Bars: Call for Applications

Following the huge popularity of Birmingham’s first Artists Behind Bars event in 2017, we’re doing it again on March 1st as part of Digbeth First Friday – and we need you to propose ideas for bars to run!

Artists Behind Bars is an event concocted by Kitty Finer that brings together artists to build, install, host, and run their own bars. For one night shift only, the bar is the work of art, the artist is the bartender, and the spectator is the punter.

Long before the term “pop up” popped up, Kitty’s many and various makeshift shops, bars and galleries have appeared under the influence of interim interventions, the oftentimes illicit social spaces of raves, fiestas, carnivals and beach bars.

Artists are invited to make a bar which can be as simple or extravagant as they wish as long as all artists take in to account that this is not a money making event. It is not guaranteed that the bars will make a profit but one can usually cover expenses from drink sales if the bar is built with a resourceful and (financially) inventive approach (cutting cloth according to your means) using whatever you have to hand. However on this occasion Fierce will provide each artist with £150, a small gesture, but one that should limit the risk on any ingredients purchased in advance and hopefully cover a small days wage too. You keep all bar takings!

This event curates itself whilst it goes along like pitching up tents in a camp site- we will all pitch up and if certain bars don’t work alongside each other then we can work together to shuffle around- All designated bar areas will have a power supply so each bar can light itself up as all main lights in the space will be turned off so that the bars provide the illuminations. We also advise that being a bartender can be a lonely business so do think about getting someone to run your bar with you.

Artists can chose whatever drink they wish to serve. All bars and drinks will vary.

Furthermore each artist’s bar will have a 30 minute slot to select their chosen playlist/DJ or live performer.

We will have a morning and afternoon to set up our bars in the space – we will also take down our bars at the end of the night and you can choose when you do this- it is fine to pack up your bar during the event.

We will provide a PA system and ice for bars who need it.

Examples of past bars include French Riviera’s purple rain bar (tribute to Prince), Brian Catling put himself behind literal bars – held himself prisoner whilst serving sprits, Benedict Drew served drinks from the inside of his jacket, Tai Shani served shots of sambuca, sans toga from a greek column and Marcia Farquhar hosted a champagne speakeasy where punters could sit and hear a story or two.

Fierce is looking for proposals from artists who are interested in the spontaneous structures of hospitality and the (part-time) role of bar-tending. We are particularly interested in hearing from artists who have a performance element to their practice, whether this be from a theatre, dance, visual art or other background. Proposals should reflect the the DIY nature of the event and the small honorarium offered. (In 2017 all bars turned a profit).

How to Apply

Please send proposals to contact@wearefierce.org by midnight on Monday 28th January 2019 with the subject line ‘Artists Behind Bars 2019’. Proposals should be 100 words on what you want to do with the bar and 50 words on what drinks you want to serve, you may also include one link to your website or a copy of your CV.

Fee: £150 to cover material costs, artists keep the money they make on their bars. This £150 is inclusive of any travel or accommodation and so it is presumed that this opportunity will be predominantly for artists in the Birmingham area.

Deadline:  28th January 2019

Event: 1st March 2019

Donate to Fierce through easyfundraising!

Good news!

Donating to Fierce Festival is now even easier with easyfundraising.org. Simply online shop as normal with one of easyfundraising’s online retailers, then watch as your everyday shopping turns into a small donation to Fierce’s causes.

The best part is, it won’t cost you an extra penny – the retailers (including big names such as Sainsbury’s, Amazon, and Ebay) will make the small donation to say “thank you”.

This way, you can support Fierce’s cause to support overlooked and unusual live art performers from around the world while ticking your weekly shop off your to-do list.

Donations are pivotal to Fierce’s work enhancing local artist communities and improving Birmingham’s cultural offer, as well as helping us to bring more provocative and exciting live performances to unusual spaces in the city. £20 would help to subsidise festival tickets for someone who would otherwise be unable to afford them, while £2000 would fund an artist through Fierce’s FWD artist development programme.

You can donate through easyfundraising here.

It is the end, it is the beginning.

It has come to the end of my time at Fierce. For the past five weeks, I have been interning at the festival in their small windowless office in Digbeth. Despite the lack of sunshine, Fierce has been a great place to work, especially when everyone is in the office it can be a real laugh.

I was given a range of tasks to carry out including editing the website and taking over the social media. Despite recently graduating with a first-class degree from Warwick University, working at Fierce made me realise I had few office skills. I can put on a decent play or write you 10,000 words on Checkov no problem. But show me an excel sheet, and I have nothing. This internship helped me quickly learn how to do those sorts of things which I’m very grateful for, I will not be quite so green in going into the world of work. I was allowed to work things out on my own but if I ever needed help the team was there to lend a hand. James mentioned this in his blog, and I think it’s worth reiterating, social media is actually hard to manage and something I hadn’t necessarily considered. It was beneficial in showing me how important and how much time you have to put into it if you are an arts organisation or artist. As an aspiring performance artist working at Fierce has helped me in understanding the production side of things, things that I would personally like to ignore but I can’t. Most importantly it has shown me that I can do it, it has given me the experience which will greatly benefit me in my next steps.

During the internship, I was fortunate to help out and attend two events that were co-presented by Fierce. The first was Club Fierce: Dance Amnesty. In the lead up to the event, I was able to interview some of the artists and help with its publicity. On the day, the previous interns (Ellen and James) and I assisted in the set-up of the venue, and we blew up and made two substantial balloon banners which looked great. The party was a really great night, alongside some front of house duties, I had my fortune read by Ginny Lemon which was very funny, watched some great performances and danced a lot.

Secondly, Fierce co-presented two shows by Ivo Dimchev with the BE Festival. Again, I helped out in promoting the event on social media and put the events up on the website. I was able to go to the second of the shows; P-Project. It was a great show, Ivo had me in stitches from beginning to end. Also, I got £50 for getting on stage and making a bed so I couldn’t ask for more.

I have attended the two previous Fierce festivals and I’m a big fan, I’ve appreciated this opportunity to see how art organisations like Fierce work. It has clarified that I want to pursue a career in the arts, knowing the production side of things is great but really, I want to be the one creating and Fierce has given me drive to go and do it. Thanks to the Fierce Team, for the advice, the experience and an all round good time. See you at the next festival.

Maud

xx

The Fierce Interns

Club Fierce: Dance Amnesty

Birmingham International Dance Festival is upon us, inspired by themes of imagination, body, mindfulness, and digital art, showcasing great choreography and opening up new and surprising ways for you to experience dance. For the finale to the festival, we’ve teamed up with BIDF to bring you Club Fierce:Dance Amnesty. This will be a night of spectacular performance and DJ’s through which you can throw down your own notorious moves. In preparation for the club night, Maud (Fierce’s latest intern) asked Last Yearz Interesting Negro/Jamila Johnson Small and Brian Lobel some questions about their upcoming performances for Club Fierce and BIDF.

FuryZ Last Yearz Interesting Negro with Rowdy SS. Photo by Ayka LuxFollowing her sold our World Premiere at Fierce 2017 LAST YEARZ INTERESTING NEGRO/JAMILA JOHNSON-SMALL presents new performance Fury1 in collaboration with Rowdy SS who plays a live sound set. They are coming straight from performances at the Palais De Tokyo in Paris.

Does your piece inspire new ways of seeing dance? What new ways of seeing would you like to inspire? Or participation; how would you like an audience to respond or participate in your dance?

To be honest, I am always very sceptical of this idea of ‘new’ and wouldn’t want to claim that for anything I might be trying to propose through my work. Of course there are things – behaviours, expectations – that have become conventions in regards to watching ‘contemporary’ dance that I think can limit potentials of experience, exchange and thinking, that I work to disrupt…but what happens for anyone in that gap the disruption might create, I couldn’t say! We could say that Fury1 is an ongoing experiment, a live formulation or unfolding of our responses to/ experiences of the different environments (including people) in which we come to perform, and each other.

You like to keep your dancing flexible for the time and space in which you perform, are you looking forward to dancing in ‘Club Fierce’ what vibes do you expect to feed off of, how do you think it will affect your piece?

I don’t know that I would use the word flexible! I think it might be misleading in the way it suggests an openness and adaptability for someone else’s purpose. I think it’s more that the dancing happens in relation to the choreographic score as it meets each environment or context and tries to find a way to inhabit those spaces. We were definitely excited to experience this work in a club context. No expectations!

BRIAN LOBEL’s Hold My Hand and We’re Halfway There; links Depression- era Dance Marathons, where contestants danced until they dropped in pursuit of fame and fortune, to young boys dancing in their bedroom after school, where they too dance until they drop, often hoping for fame and fortune. For this performance, Brian recreates his childhood bedroom and invites us to watch or join in with the marathon.

Have you tried ‘Hold My Hand We’re Half Way There’ in a club setting before? 

The first major installation of Hold My Hand was at Shunt and ran from 10pm-2am every night for 4 nights.  On bare rock floor. In a club. Where everyone was drunk. So I’m used to doing it in such an environment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Vcv-8GF69M

I’ve performed the work in public squares (in Italy and Thailand), fancy dance venues (Sadler’s Wells), as a 5 day installation in an abandoned shoe store in Lower Manhattan, White Nights all night parties in Brighton and Brussels, and lots of different places… I like when the crowd is different but I am basically doing the same thing, it changes the energy of the piece in unpredictable ways.

Do you think, in this setting, you’ll ever really be dancing alone? 

I usually dance alone for about 60% of the time. People do join me, but very often, people do their own thing on their own tv sets.

Has dancing ever become a chore for you through doing this performance? – do you think you could join the dancing after your performance?

Yes, the dance always becomes a chore, and this is the purpose. While it’s fun, it’s exhausting, and smelly, and sweaty, and draining and thrilling. It’s the kind of exhaustion which is really difficult to tell whether it is worth it or just painful. This is the tension which I’m trying to bring forth in the world, and the metaphor that I think connects the work to the isolated queer body in a bedroom – are they alone, are they lonely?  Are they isolated from others? Or are they isolating themselves?

What’s your favourite dance move you’ve learnt from copying the musical routines? Could this be done on the club dance floor? 

My favourite dance I’ve learned is Rich Man’s Frug – https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=39&v=3YS0ENmt9lE – which is probably the most amazing dance scene of all time. And yes, of course any of these moves can (and are) used on dance floors.  Ugh. I love it.

What advice would you give to the Fierce clubbers?

My advice? Focus on the camera shots, not just the moves. If you’re watching Muriel’s Wedding (Waterloo Scene), or Jesus Christ Superstar (the Superstar scene) you’ll find the dance moves even more fun if you think of playing to an invisible camera capturing the sickest angles. 

Other performances at Club Fierce include SAFFRON and JAMES BATCHELOR. DJ’s include JONJO JURY and TE TE BANG. MC’d by the fabulous YSHEE BLACK.

Tickets are £5 advance from HERE

Club Fierce: Dance Amnesty is a part of the BIDF’s Saturday Session Special Offer which is a full day of events and performances for tickets and info please click HERE.

The Fiercest Time Ever

Since January I’ve been interning at Fierce as an assistant producer, but now my time here comes to an end. *pause for sounds of sorrow* Looking back at my time here; I’ve found that my experience has been eye-opening to the background life of running a festival. Even though I was taught so much at university about the business side of being an artist; it’s not until you’re actually doing it all the time that you realise how much work goes into it.
When I joined Fierce they were just coming back from not only Christmas but the 2017 festival at the end of the year. The festival had been a lot of work but the performance wasn’t over – it was time to work on the aftermath of the festival. SOCIAL NETWORKING! Even though the festival was over; there was still a need to hype up the festival as much as possible. This included all things social media. I was left in control of advertising on all social platforms about everything Fierce and anything related. It wasn’t until I took on this task that I understood how essential social media was in a career such as this.
This was just the icing on the cake though.
A lot of my time at Fierce has been spent gathering, organising and presenting all things documentation. I’ve had to collate all images and videos of artist’s performances at the festival together before arranging for them to be presented in some fashion. This task included getting permission from all artists for their documents to be used.
Over the following weeks, I was tasked with various research tasks for numerous funding opportunities; collating information together for already accepted applications and analysing audience information of the previous festival. All of this allowed me to fully appreciate the effort and commitment that each and every person put into the festival to make it such a success.
Part of my job was to create an upcoming page for the website from scratch. This took a lot of investigating into how to edit the website and scouring our archive for all of the appropriate information that was needed. Having created a website previously I went into this task with confidence; as even though Fierce used a different system to what I had previously used, the two were very similar. It didn’t take me long to understand the system and a page was created that gelled with the rest of the website ready to be published. Every task I have had as an assistant producer at Fierce has taught me something new about the way this role works – for which I am grateful. I have enjoyed every task and meeting I have been to in a variety of ways. It has allowed me to further develop and hone skills that I already had; whilst learning, even more, to take on into the future. Thanks to everyone in the team – stay FIERCE!

oznor

The Live Art of Sociology

We’re delighted at the publication of a new book by Fierce trustee Cath Lambert that draws heavily on Fierce’s histories and methodologies.

The Live Art of Sociology attends to the importance of ‘the live’ in contemporary social and political life. Taking existing work in live sociology as a starting point, this book considers some of its aspirations through unique empirical investigations. Queer and feminist theory and methods are also employed in exploring the challenges of researching live experiences and temporalities. With case study examples ranging from the work of live body artists to experiments in curating sociological research, Lambert successfully demonstrates the diverse ways in which art can provide the aesthetic and affective conditions for social and political disruption.

The book reflects on Fierce’s work – there’s something of its history in here, and discussion of Fierce projects by artists including Graeme Miller, Monica Ross, Mette Edvardsen, Ron Athey, and many others.

Cath Lambert is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick, UK.

Buy it here.

Unrestricted View: Launch Party and Director’s Q&A

Welcome to Unrestricted View, a series of written responses to Fierce 2017 from local writers.

Response to the Launch Party and Director’s Q&A by Lexi Wardle

Introduction

Hello everyone!

How are we all?

As promised I would blog about being at Fierce Festival. Katy, Fierce’s Volunteer Coordinator asked me to write two blog posts. This one is just a taster. The first proper blog post will be about the first night: the launch party.
Can I make a confession? I’ve never been to a launch party of any kind. I know, I should really get out more. In all honesty, I’ve never been invited and not really the partying kind.

Picture this: it’s ten to seven on a Tuesday evening. The sun set fifty minutes ago as the cold nights start to rush in. Still within the confines of the city, the route stretches to a road called ‘Floodgate Street’ that feels like it leads to a deserted place nowhere in particular. The third left down this road is a short street and you wonder if you’ve come to the right place. Just before the end of the road (literally) is a place that is easily missed when you are looking for it. This is the Quantum Exhibition Centre its entrance is deceptive, inside it looks more like a cross between an SU bar and a common room you see at school or college. Then there are two massive rooms behind that one resembling the size of a standard nightclub, the other, a school assembly hall and let’s not even mention backstage! I wouldn’t be surprised if you found the wardrobe to Narnia somewhere here too.

We met each other, were thanked profusely for giving up our time, and given the tour. The scheduled events were laid out on the table and this was where I discovered I was not a volunteer at all, as my primary role would be as an online writer for the event. There wasn’t any disappointment in this discovery. The events we would see would be quite full on and designed to make to you think and feel something about them. What those feelings will be is difficult to gauge right now.

So being entirely unfussy about things, I had to choose my events. I chose the launch party because I have never been to one. The second one was the Director’s Q&A on Sunday at noon. It was chosen because I’m curious about what it takes to put a festival like this on, the challenge of bettering it every year, what acts you have in the programme etc. I’d love to have been a fly on the wall whilst those decisions were being made. I was surprised to hear that this festival has been going for the past twenty years. Not being a local I had obviously never heard of it, but across their social media it is waiting for that big viral hit that puts it on the map and brings millions from around the world flocking to the city.

That’s enough from me for now.

Speak soon,

 

Lexi
Xxx

Launch Party

Hello everyone,

Hope you are well.

When I walked into the Quantum Exhibition Centre to watch the launch party the Artistic Director of the Fierce Festival Aaron Wright was already giving his speech to kick festivities off. He spoke of his admiration for the acts, his respect for his team who had helped put the festival together and his hope that this festival would be the best that Birmingham had put on to date. Aaron’s fellow director’s aught to take a leaf out of his book in the way he spoke of his team.

The first act of the evening were part of another act performing later on in the festival. Aaron described it as a musical extract . Although it was 9 minutes long there is much to talk about the performance. It was musical but was not a musical as we know it. I’d much rather describe it as spoken word put to music interspersed with sung verses that did not sound remotely musical-esque. The words uttered, spoke of a nostalgic childhood full of humour, based on one decision to quit a dance class. It was thus followed in quick succession by the rest of the clubs previously joined. However, it was the recounting of the conversation the singer’s mother had with the relevant individuals, that was most receptive to the audience with laughter bouncing between the walls. The singer graciously stopped mid-song on occasion to let us laugh before continuing, something reminiscent of a comedian. I’m not fond of musicals but this was funny and I really enjoyed it.

Aaron was right; the festival was off to a corker.

The second act I saw, ‘Durational Rope’, a swedish-brazillian collaborative piece involving the manipulation of a 1km piece of rope to the ominous rhythm of what sounded like a fingered bass guitar (as opposed to a picked bass which has a different tone). For the majority of the time, I was watching the rope and listening to the bass and suddenly this rope took on a life of its own. Once I thought it was a recognisable synchronised heartbeats like the ones you see on a heart monitor.

The next it looked like the resuscitation of a human being after being shocked. I have no idea why I thought this whilst I was watching the performance. It is described in the brochure as an animalistic ritual but I didn’t see anything remotely resembling this. Both ‘subjects’ in the piece had piles of rope dotted about the room reembling that of a clock-face, each part had something new and different to offer the audience. I saw it as some sort of weird celebratory dance to each stage of life.

 

The next installment will be posted shortly, so stay tuned.

Speak soon,

 

Lexi
Xxx

Director’s Q&A

Hello everyone,

Here is the last installment of my experience at Fierce.

I’m not sure about you but when I picture a director’s q&a, I see said director onstage face-to-face with the interviewer microphone in hand. Perhaps the reason for this was to create more of an inclusive environemnt in which everyone could share ideas and experiences.

I say this because everyone was sat in a circle and Aaron Wright (Fierce Festival’s Artistic Director) was using eye-contact to make a connection with his audience and encourage them to add to the experience. It was almost as if he too was the artist in a performance as well as the artistic director who had lovingly the co-creator of this year’s entire festival. In fact the more he spoke about the event in its context, the more I thought in terms of art, he is a modern progressive and with all things art-related, he does not want to create an ‘us-and-them’ or ‘me-and-you’ type of a setting. Judging by what he said and the sorts of artists he has brought together for the festival, he is pro-dicussion in an open and welcoming space between artist and audience and anti-fourth wall.

Wright said he felt he had a responsibility to put together a program that is as varied as society and has the capacity to reach the far corners of the globe. There is no greater responsibility than to represent the under-represented. In order to do that, he has included events that are a mixture of both low-brow and high brow art. The acts he gives this opportunity to are often within his own network or people he hears about through contacts in his network. This is a program that has been tailored beyond Wright’s tastes. He maintains an open-mind and expects the same of the audiences who come to Fierce. He provides them with a platform in which to perform their work live to potentially a brand new audience, and by breaking the mould, could potentially change both perceptions and attitudes of what mainstream live performance is all about. By breaking down the barrier between artists and audience, it’s an opportunity for the audience to watch and participate in exciting forms of new modern performances including experimental.

There have been no less than eight UK premieres and six world premieres of live performance at this years’ festival. This is important for both the acts and the predominantly UK-based audiences at Fierce as it gives the acts the opportunity to test-drive their material on us. We are well known for our dry, sarcastic black-humour according to many nations and sometimes this can come across as rude. But seeing shows from across the globe opens our minds to what art is, and according to the artists who have frequently ventured to our shores have said that we Brits are the most receptive.
There is so much more to discuss but I don’t want to harp on. Perhaps another time soon for another blog?

 

Please keep your eye out later for another blog post on CBSO after the workshop this evening.

Speak soon,

 

Lexi
Xxx


Hi there, I’m Lexi Wardle, a writer based in Brum who is keen to spread her passion for the arts whether in traditional or progressive formats.

Time is a valuable commodity these days and I would like to think that by blogging about my experiences in the art sector as a volunteer is a productive and proactive way to give a little something back to the world.

Although I am not currently able to write full time, I do use what time I have daily to write about the things that I love and share the conversations started in a studio to a bigger audience online. The more we talk about the current art issues of the day, the bigger and better the ideas we can create together to develop and sustain our arts sector.

You can find more of Lexi’s work at The British Storyteller’s Blog.

Unrestricted View: Opening Night and Demonstrating the World

Welcome to Unrestricted View, a series of written responses to Fierce 2017 from local writers.

Response to the Opening and Demonstrating the World by Chris Ansell

Opening Night

On an inconspicuous night in October, Fierce Festival landed. An opening night of performance and partying set the tone for what was to be an invasion of contemporary performance across the city.

 

Standing in the Hub, I looked around hoping to bump into somebody I knew. I didn’t. They seemed a friendly enough bunch but after a day working in London I wasn’t really in the mood for making friends. So, I got a bottle of beer and preoccupied myself by looking around the bar, waiting for the first performance to commence.

 

On the bar tables were scattered some event programmes. I picked one up and had a flick through (partly attempting to look like I was waiting for somebody rather than just being the guy who turned up to the party alone). Five performances were to take place throughout the night and each had a small mention on the double page spread that detailed the evening’s schedule. Each act was mentioned by performance name, artist name, time and a 50 word description.

 

50 words! That was it! No artist statement or exhibition text just a brief synopsis of the piece. Where was the information? How was I to know what to expect with only 50 words? I looked around as saw no exhibition labels, statements or wall literature. All I had were the 50 words in front of me.

 

Thank fuck.

 

I felt a sigh of relief.

 

For once, there was no literature or information telling me what to expect and what the work was about. Instead, I would have to wait to experience the work for myself and was given license to realise my own thoughts about each act. Rather than have the work described to me before I had even seen it, I would be free to approach the work with a fresh mind that had not been influenced by background, content or context.

 

As each act commenced I was presented with something completely new and unexpected. Each provoked a gut reaction; a thought, a feeling. I felt things that I was not prepared for. In fact, I had not been prepared to feel.

 

I had become so used to walking around galleries and thinking about each piece on display and thinking about how it related to the text that I had forgotten that art can make you feel. I had become so accustomed to reading first then looking and thinking that I had forgotten that art touches the body not just the head.

 

As performances progressed my head did engage and I thought about each piece and what it meant. But this was not just a case of connecting the dots between the artwork and the literature. Instead, I really had to think.

 

It was an exhausting experience – feeling so much and thinking so much – but it was thrilling, and entertaining, and terrifying. And I loved every minute.

Demonstrating the World

A windy day in Birmingham as storm Brian hits. A trailer sits at the top of Victoria Square, facing the iconic Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. One side of the trailer is open, its side lowered to form a make-shift stage, and inside can be seen an assortment of props and objects.

 

On the protruding stage, a man stands wearing black and a green high-vis jacket.

 

He walks around his make-shift world and goes about daily tasks: watering a plant, taking a hat off, opening a step stall. As he does he addresses his growing audience, explaining his actions through the PA system and wireless microphone headset.

 

People watch, intently. People watch as he performs the most mundane tasks at a frustrating speed.

 

Why? Why do people gather to watch, taking time out of their day to watch a man perform tasks that they see and do everyday? There is no introduction to the occurrence, no sign telling them that this is a performance and that it should be watched. Some people may even watch the event for 20 minutes and leave completely unaware that they had seen a piece of art today. So why do people choose to stand, in the wind and the gradually increasing drizzle, to observe the mundane life of a man on the stage.

 

I think they watch because it makes them feel safe. It is easy to get lost in the performance, in the actions that are simultaneously absurd and mundane. There is something comforting in observing a man complete everyday jobs, in knowing what he is going to do before he even does it.

 

Perversely, there is something strangely predictable about the performance. In a familiar setting familiar actions are performed. Regardless of the stage or the man who chooses to explain his every action, it is easy to be lulled into a sense of security by this familiarity.

 

The actions seem to belong to the world and feel much more at home in Victoria Square than Antony Gormley’s sculpture ever did. They seem to be simultaneously part of the world and a reflection of it, mirroring the bizarre world that we live it. A world that is full of so many recognisable motifs but somehow always feels strange.

 

We have evolved to cope with this strangeness and take comfort in the actions that are recognisable and predictable.

 

Aaron Williamson’s performance creates a space that is full of recognisable motifs. The stage and framing may be alien but everything upon it is known and comforting. The world that he creates is one of predictability and measured control. The world feels safe, a place for reflection and easy humour. It is a nice world to watch.


Chris Ansell is a researcher and assistant exhibition manager at Birmingham City University. He studied fine art at the Birmingham School of Art, Rome University of Fine Art and Oxford University. As an artist and curator, his research is concerned with the relationship between literature and exhibition practices.