Action Hero’s Smoke and Lights at Supersonic Festival

Over the course of the Supersonic Weekend, the tiny Source Gallery in the Custard Factory was temporarily transformed into a micro gig space all of its own. Fierce Festival Caravan artists, Action Hero, comprised of James Stenhouse and Gemma Paintin set up their performance-installation ‘Smoke and Lights’ with a special nod to Supersonic’s past.

Curious festivalgoers were invited to select a recording of a past festival performance. A Polaroid snap was taken. You were then led to a small room with a silver seat, crouching in the corner was James. Headphones are placed on you; your track begins to play. Loud. A smoke machine is pumping for its life and four coloured lights bathe the room in a frenetic rainbow.

The work has a strange and knotty logic. One of the strongest compulsions to attend a gig is for the communal experience: being roughly barged, toes trod on, catching the eye of a companion after an indelible unrepeatable moment, the spilling of a beer while awash in sweat and music. This is exactly what’s being removed… and what was happening outside the installation, despite these ‘removals’ aspects of the typical physical experience remain: the dark, the sound, the portentous smoke. But having created this gig-for-one environment they deftly activate the triggers that evoke one’s memories of other gig experiences. Perhaps the artists ask ‘What is the line between re-enactment and the real thing? Can an experience be authentic without being imitative?’

These are questions asked by other works of Action Hero (in particular A Western and Watch Me Fall) … and a question to be asked by their new work Frontman, which will feature in Bristol’s In-Between Time Festival and Birmingham’s Fierce – a work that explores the cult, mythology and aura that tacks itself to frontmen and our role in how we relate to them. We are eager to see how the experience of presenting their work in Supersonic music festival, immersing themselves in the likes of Swan, Hallogallo and Napalm Death will enrich this new work…Will we need ear plugs?