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Fierce 2014: Press Selection

Car Deconstruction, Dina Roncevic, Fierce 2014, photo James Allan.

Car Deconstruction, Dina Roncevic, Fierce 2014, photo James Allan.


We’ve had a wonderful range of media coverage this year. Here’s a selection. . .

There were preview mentions in the Guardian for Tania El Khoury’s Gardens Speak and Miguel Gutierez’s HEAVENS WHAT HAVE I DONE in the  New York Times. An insightful Guardian feature on Dina Roncevic’s Car Deconstruction . Dana Michel’s Yellow Towel featured in The Voice and Narcissister in Vice.
There were also great overview pieces for both Fierce Weekends ( 3 – 5th October) and (10 – 12th October). Donald Hutera writes warmly on Fierce’s own blog here. Dorothy Max Prior outlines weekend 1 too for Total Theatre Magazine. Weekend 2 was sensitively responded to by Andy Field on Exeunt and Simon Holton for A Younger Theatre.
Finally you can see specially commissioned texts for each Fierce performance at online contemporary art magazine This Is Tomorrow.

Posted 23 October 2014

Personal Fierce Thoughts by Donald Hutera

Narcissister, Fierce 2014 - photo James Allan

Narcissister, Fierce 2014 – photo James Allan

“There’s a dedicated informality about Fierce Festival that I find very appealing. Here are some words about my 24+ hours in Birmingham tracking

Saturday Night October 4

I arrived in Brum on Saturday night only semi-adequately prepared to wend my way to a venue (The Edge) new to me in a part of town (beyond Bullring in a southerly direction?) to which I’d never been. Thank you, man behind glass at Moor Street station, and, even more, woman at info desk at National Express for helping me find the fest hub on Cheapside in Digbeth. Nocturnal streets, mainly deserted save for the skateboarders just outside the venue doing their thing on a fallen-down bit of wall. A chicken factory nearby, too (I could tell by the smell) and, later, a rat scurrying across the road…

What I happily witnessed at The Edge was New York soloist Narcissister. The peculiar and politically-charged joy of transformation. Film routines alternating with two live ‘turns.’ A lithe, shapely-skinny woman whose face we never saw. A mask-wearer in voluminous costuming. A quick-change artist. The garb bulks her up. The masks-upon-masks hide as they reveal. She’s all-woman but also, when she wants to be, all-man. (Nothin’ like a prosthetic penis or a cardboard cut-out scrotum…) The basket as a symbolic container. Vaseline to grease the possibilities of expression. She’s young, she’s old, she’s kinda perfect… She’s black, she’s Arab, she’s white, she’s everything and anything in-between. She’s a living doll(s. The climax: nearly-naked, she sports a giant Afro containing bangles, heels and a smart little yellow purse while pulled from lower ‘orifi’ is a transparent tube top, skirt and scarf. All of which she dons and is this ready to face (or not) the world!

HEAVENS WHAT HAVE I DONE, Miguel Gutierrez, Fierce Festival 2014. photo James Allen

HEAVENS WHAT HAVE I DONE, Miguel Gutierrez, Fierce Festival 2014. photo James Allen


Sunday, all day, October 5

Officially I start this leisurely yet replete day with Tania El Khoury’s Gardens Speak in the A.E. Harris Factory. I don’t want to give away too much about this installation-performance, especially because it continues right through to the end of the festival. What can I say? It’s an earthy, quiet quest. This touching work will, I suspect, stay with me. It carries with it an aura of grief; a sad anger about the effects of injustice on the ‘other side of the world’ is brought that much closer thanks to the experience. Someone died on November 28, 2102. That story is in my head now; a life no longer lived was/is on my skin. I got to write something, and I got to lightly cleanse a part of me…

A resonant work, then. As was Sarah-Jane Norman’s Concerto No. 3 in the (hard to find, I have to say, at least by me) Birmingham Conservatoire. I almost gave up on this. (Would better signage have helped?) Glad I didn’t. What I saw/heard: a portly man at a piano in a low-lit recital hall. One of several players, as it turns out, taking it in shifts to ‘tackle’ the ivories. The music – Rachmaninov, although I didn’t know this having read next to nada in advance – was halting at times, and at others lilting. There was a mike dipping into the body of the piano, catching an echo from the playing. The effect? Timeless, as in somehow out-of-time. And sort of sleep-inducing although I didn’t really nod out, meaning I kept listening as my head and upper body fell into a slumberous position. I so liked this listening. What quickened my appreciation was reading the hand-out afterwards of Norman’s brilliantly written musings on failure and family and her own would-be child prodigy status, and fear and fearlessness and (my interpretation) the present-day scaling of a difficult piece of music as some kind of warts-and-all Everest. A reclamation. I also enjoy use of the term ‘post-virtuoso.’

In between these two substantial slivers of Fierce came lunch courtesy of a project by Mammalian Diving Reflex. The latter is a Canadian company I first heard about in connection with a performance piece in which one lends one’s head and hair to child barbers. Eat the Street, by way of contrast, is a meal – in this case at a friendly Mexican restaurant called Bodega – in the company of a group of school-age food critics. I sat beside 11 year-old Sofian, and across from I-didn’t-ask-his-age Jacob. Various other adults were in our midst too. We dined. We talked. The boys took notes. There were several tables of boys and adults. I’m curious what the former will write, and if Bodega will nab any of the awards to be bestowed upon five possible winning eating establishments at a ceremony this coming Saturday. Socialisation between grown-ups and kids is a good thing, as is developing a shared sense of discernment among people no matter what their age. It was a fun and certainly tasty adventure.

Back to Digbeth area. Another hunt for a seemingly elusive location. Again, signage might’ve helped but I trusted my instincts and also referred to the map in the big pink-hued Fierce programme. I found Harry’s Taxi Repair not long before Dina Roncevic’s Car Deconstructions was due to end. Didn’t mind that, nor returning to this gritty part of town in daylight to cursorily observe girls in mechanics’ onesies taking apart a car. Evidence of their efforts littered the floor. The task was left incomplete. (Very subjectively I was reminded of ‘60s girl-next-door bombshell Ann-Margret in the Elvis Presley race-car flick Viva Las Vegas, a key not-guilty pleasure from my childhood…) The atmosphere at Harry’s was pretty good, albeit low-key. I picked up a few brochures advertising all the wares on offer, my intention to pass one of these to a visual artist pal who might be amused or diverted by the organising principle.

Last but not least, Miguel Gutierrez’s Heavens What Have I Done at Patrick Centre, DanceXchange in the Hippodrome. He’s a restlessly engaging performer, and the piece itself deceptively shambolic. Talking a mile a minute, Gutierrez appears to make a mess but is actually in total control of everything that happens on that bit of the stage he shares with us (most of the audience, that is, seated on the floor). Political comments and asides about the economics of art-making are tossed out, rather like the coins that he lets fall jingle-jangle to the floor. Things – costuming, equipment (including a looping device that he plugs into a speaker), books he claims to have only half-read, if that – spill out of suitcase or backpack or even the datebook he shakes out onto the floor, letting loose taped-up sheet of notes or postcards. Meanwhile mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli can be heard singing via a laptop. (The music credits say ‘Vivaldi and others.’) Gutierrez, eventually got up like a gay pride float (his own description) in Machine Dazzle’s rainbow-coloured bits of fabric topped by a less-cheap Marie Antoinette-style wig, talk/sings along with her. This was the loud bit, although I’m not sure quite why it needed to be at quite that volume. Flashing lights ensued, and a kind of helter-skelter breakdown/bursting of bonds that had Gutierrez hurtling to the other side of the space before returning to the mike and collapsing slowly to the floor with its phallic tip pressed to his lips so that he could coo his (‘dying’ or undying) gratitude to us for being there…

I didn’t have much time to digest Gutierrez’s pretty fiercely entertaining one-man show. There was a train to catch. In retrospect I wonder about the rest of Fierce, and who the festival attracts (already converted art-makers and punters alike?) and what the aftereffects of each work will be.”

Donald Hutera


October 6, 2014

Posted 23 October 2014

Let’s Dance. . .

Could dance be an antidote to lives played out increasingly online?  We’ve never programmed so many dance works in our festival before.  Typical to our tastes, politics and interests it’s not necessarily dance as you know it. . .

* * *

New Yorker based Miguel Gutierrez appears in the UK for the first time with ‘HEAVEN KNOWS WHAT HAVE I DONE’ an autobiographical monologue that could as easily be a confessional stand-up routine.


* * *

Dana Michel’s Yellow Towel takes its name from the Montreal dancer/choreographer’s recollection of wearing a yellow towel on her head in imitation of the blonde girls she went to school with.

Ian Johnston and Gary Gardiner’s Dancer, asks what is it to be a dancer? They declare themselves untrained and don’t give a damn.


In this spirit comes Slow Dance hosted by Sherwin Sullivan Tjia on the same final Saturday. You don’t need to be virtuosic. It’s an opportunity to dance with whoever. . .  slowly and intimately perhaps a total stranger, a friend or an ongoing love.

* * *

Finally, Moon Ribas, leads us into a cyborg future. Her dance work Waiting For Earthquakes sees her respond to a device in her arm that notifies her of earthquake tremors across the globe. The duration and intensity of her movements are guided by these signals.

Cyborg Foundation Moon Ribas performing Waves @ TNT

Fierce Festival 2014, 2 – 12 October,

Posted 17 September 2014

Rehearsing Revolution by Authentic Boys opening at mac tonight / Next Generation Autumn Launch

“The only constant is change. This idea, put forward by the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus can be seen as an encouragement to take life in one’s own hands. Revolution means becoming active. Revolution means being informed, taking a position, forming an opinion and expressing it. Revolution means to change and to grow.” – Authentic Boys

photo (4)

Very excited about the opening of ‘Rehearsing Revolution’ this evening at mac birmingham. The exhibition is the culmination of a year-long process, which has involved the international collective ‘Authentic Boys’ working with young adults from across Brum. An incredible panoramic photograph is one of the results.

Alongside the opening there will be DJ sets, live dance and music performances from the young peoples’ groups mac and partners have been working with on their Next Generation programme.

The Authentic Boys will give a free talk on Sunday 5 October, 4pm in the Hexagon Theatre at mac (including a preview of the film made with teenagers in Nyon).

Fierce Festival 2014 2 – 12 October, 

Posted 15 September 2014

Concerto No3 Participants Wanted

Join Artist Sarah Jane Norman and Fierce Festival for a one off experience in Birmingham Conservatoire!

Of all the works in the classical piano repertory, Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 3 has perhaps one of the most fearsome reputations.

Artist Sarah Jane Norman is exploring the “post virtuosic” by organising a concert where the Rach 3 is sight read by formerly prodigious pianists who no longer play piano regularly.

We are looking for participants who were previous piano prodigies, childhood Mozarts or musicians who have changed direction and moved away from the instrument – or even from performing altogether.

A chance to play in the Recital Hall at Birmingham’s Conservatoire. A chance to reconnect, challenge yourself, meet others, have fun, have a therapeutic moment, perform and work with an international artist! The performance will take place throughout the day (11am – 11pm) of Sunday October 5th as part of Fierce Festival.

Each pianist will play in shifts. There will be a chance to meet the other participants and see the space on Saturday 4 October at 6pm.

If you want to take part email:


Posted 3 September 2014

What Happens at the Festival Stays at the Festival

Video highlights of Fierce Festival since 2011

Posted 3 September 2014

What is an Algorave? Find out at Club Fierce Sat 4th October!



If you’re looking for a new kind of raw, unpredictable night of dirty industrial/techno sounds and truly live electronic music: this is it. No DJ’s, no decks, no producers, no limits. The Algorave brings the cerebral world of live coding and the dirty dancing of raves together to form a new wave in club culture in which performers improvise their music live on stage by writing and rewriting code.

Algoraves embrace the alien sounds of raves from the past, and introduces futuristic rhythms and beats made through strange, algorithm-aided processes. It’s up to the good people on the dance floor to help the musicians make sense of this and do the real creative work in making a great party by providing the energy for the party.

Not a coder? Don’t worry: you don’t have to know code to enjoy an Algorave. Everyone who is into new electronic music and underground raving will feel right at home.

Fierce is excited to be hosting an Algorave on Sat 4th October with leading exponent Alex Mclean.  Have a peep here. The event will be complimented by visuals from Birmingham local Antonio Roberts.


Posted 21 August 2014

Would you like to take a car to bits with your friends and be part of an international festival?

We are hosting an exciting piece by Dina Roncevic at Eastside Projects as part of Fierce 2014 and we need participants!

– Email liz@wearefierce to book.

Posted 5 August 2014

100 Swimmers in Moseley! Were you there?

 Fierce aren’t the only organisation to be using the baths as a site of inspiration!

We have had Laura Delaney and Lisa Stewart, two Australian artists on a residency in Moseley using the area and the Edwardian baths for the last week.

Then this event happened on Sunday…

An event organised by Some Cities-a city-wide social project inviting photographers of all abilities to share their images of Birmingham with the world.

See below for information from their press release:

Over 100 swimmers from across the UK took part in a one-off photo event earlier today (Sunday 20 July), aimed at highlighting the plight of one of the Birmingham’s most important community buildings.

The 100 Swimmers, a project by photographer Attilio Fiumarella, saw the empty Gala Pool at Moseley Road Baths in Balsall Heath filled with swimmers, photography fans, city heritage enthusiasts and community supporters; a reaction to the news that Birmingham City Council intends to close the historic building permanently in 2015.

A final powerful and thought-provoking image emulating the famous Terracotta Army sculpture of Ancient China was captured, also completing a community photographic project entitled The Swimmers on show at the Old Print Works in Birmingham until Wednesday 23 July 2014.

Attilio Fiumarella is a recipient of the first Some Cities bursary scheme. He has been working to document the under-threat Grade-II Moseley Road Baths building over the past few months.


Posted 23 July 2014

SOUNDkitchen Series 2014 #02

We’re excited about this coming up on Friday!

Check it out:

SOUNDkitchen Series 2014 #02

SOUNDkitchen’s 2014 series contnues on

Friday 25 July at Vivid Projects, Birmingham


Friday 25 July, 2014

Doors open 7.30pm, Performance 8.00pm

Vivid Projects, 16 Minerva Works, 158 Fazeley Street, Birmingham B5 5RS

Bringing audiences an eclectic line up of composers, sound artists and performers. For the second of SOUNDkitchen’s ‘New Collaborations’, composers Monty Adkins and Martin Clarke join forces to bring us a unique performance combining abstract spaces and environmental sound.

SOUNDkitchen are showcasing emerging artists from the Midlands throughout the series and are delighted to be presenting digital media artist Alan Brooker. Also on the bill is Australian sound artist Robert Curgenven and Greek composer Kostis Kilymis. This series is presented with support from the Sound and Music Composer-Curator programme.

Tickets £5 available from hXp://



For the second in our New Collaborations project we bring together composers Monty Adkins and Martin Clarke. Adkins’ work is characterised by slow shi`ing organic instrumental and concrete soundscapes. His work focuses on encouraging a deeper immersive listening experience and his new works draw together elements from ambient, minimal electronica, acousmatic and experimental electronic music. Clarke is a sound artist, recordist and filmmaker. His work makes extensive use of environmental sound and video material to create layered, abstract, formal spaces which are o`en representational in appearance. For this collaboration, Clarke will be performing with environmental sound and Adkins will be performing a set of abstract and ambient materials.


Robert Curgenven is a composer/sound artist drawing on the physicality of sound – not just the physical impact on the body but the way in which the auditory can shape our percep<on of space and the flow of time, from architectural to open space. His works span pipe organ through to feedback, immersive resonances via turntables and custom-made vinyl, as well as carefully detailed field recordings from remote areas in Australia where he lived for many years. The Wire surmises that “behind the music—to these ears at any rate—lurk such [disparate] presences as Alvin Lucier, King Tubby, Murray Schafer and Eliane Radigue.”


Kilymis works on audio feedback systems and re-presentation. His practice touches upon music, performance, installation work and video – developed using a mixture of electronic and acoustic approaches. He has collaborated with musicians such as Lucio Capece, Nikos Veliotis, Leif Elggren, Phil Julian, Sarah Hughes and Patrick Farmer. He also runs the Organized Music from Thessaloniki music label.

For his performance at SOUNDkitchen he will be performing a set using field-recordings, electronics and live feedback manipulations.


Alan is a digital media artist with a background in Vjing, glitch aesthetics and creative coding. His work investigates live sounds and visuals gleaned from unusual sources both digital and physical, from the sonification of computer source code, electrical magnetic interference and use of forgotten technology. With Birmingham based Audio/Visual collective FreeCode, Alan has performed at the Fierce, Superbyte and Network Music Festivals.

During his performance at SOUNDkitchen, Alan will create a collage of mangled cassette tape ambience, pulsating tones controlled by water purity sensors and live coded bleeps and beeps.

Posted 22 July 2014