Posted 4 July 2018
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.
Posted 12 June 2018
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.
Posted 27 March 2018
Posted 8 March 2018
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.
Posted 21 February 2018
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted 9 February 2018
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
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.
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.
Posted 6 February 2018
Welcome to Unrestricted View, a series of written responses to Fierce 2017 from local writers.
Response to Saturday 21 October, Fierce 2017 by James Kennedy
This Ritual Was Not An Accident
I was invited to review the performance of Andrea de Keijzer & Erin Robinsong’s “This Ritual Was Not An Accident” as part of Fierce 2017.
After dressing appropriately and braving the West Midlands edit of Storm Brian, I arrived to see that the performance had moved from Stryx had been moved to Rogueplay Theatre within Minerva Works. Inside the venue, we were greeted by the director and asked to fill in answers to the following questions on a piece of paper:
Name; Date of Birth; What are you wearing? Accident history; What’s the last thing you remember; What’s a song that you know?
I was mystified why they wanted this information, but I complied, and we were led into the main theatre space. Sitting on chairs there was a great triggering smell of damp bedsits in Moseley.
In front of us, one of the artists was lying down on a bed, her head sticking awkwardly up facing us. She read out the names of those who had handed in their notes in, sharing our personal and private facts with each other. Nervous laughter of recognition came out from us as she went through the register.
When she finished, hands grasped the side of her head from an awkward angle. Her head slowly rose up from her shoulders. In fact, another body was underneath, dictating the movements, until they settled down, so all you could see were their hands. Joined together, these hands made movements to simulate copulation, to a sperm meeting the egg and fertilising in the womb to make an embryo, alternately making imitations of flowers blossoming and blooming. Their hands touched the senses on their bodies, to smell, to hear, to touch, to taste and to smell. Bodies were formed, and the information was to be digested.
De Keiljzer and Robinsong sat down, and started to transcribe the notes that we had given them earlier. They were written onto a laptop which we could see projected on a screen, and as they were projected, they were shredded. Our shredded lives and rituals appeared as a snow drift in front of us, sprayed out over the projection, burying them. A copy of what they had created was printed out, and sealed nside a red box with many padlocks.
Our society’s sensory bombardment with memory and sharing information was prevalent in the performance, and, in the next recital, what was more noticeable was the fact that the most vivid memories were associated with the weather. The shredded memories were emptied out on the space in front of us, and blown with a leaf blower onto a black drape to the right of the stage, our case studies and discarded memories buffeting into the artists and sticking to them.
These shards of memories becoming ever fierce as the storm breaks gave the impression of a separate entity manipulating every moment and decision. As humans, we talk and communicate with this inner entity, mimicking its movements and following its instructions. De Keijzer and Robinsong construct a house and get in together. These are our homes, full of rituals and memories that we have built, providing adequate structure before the storm breaks. The house collapses, and all that was left was us and the artists amongst the rubble. Forming a circle, we are invited to take part in a ritual, to blow up a balloon and place a pin, next to it, moving it ever closer. Some of us pop it quickly, others let it go. Our fears and rituals within this situation, and within life, dictate what we do.
Be the Change
I was invited to review the event with Fierce in collaboration with Free Radical “Be The Change” at the Edwardian Tearooms as part of Fierce 2017.
Free Radical are an art activism platform created from the Beatfreeks Collective who formed in Birmingham in 2013. The collective are working towards the mission of “Fuelling conversations and concepts that dare people to challenge the way of the world. “ Free Radical who want to “Engage; Empower; Educate and Equip.” With Aaron Wright’s opening salvo at the Festival Hub that Fierce 2017’s mission would be to “Provoke; Politicise and Party” it would seem that the combining the two would be an excellent collaboration
That evening was certainly very busy, with the delightful Edwardian Tea Rooms in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery being used as the central hub. The soundtrack was certainly set to “party” with 80s brilliance such as Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and drunken singalong classics from Oasis and The Beatles, interspersed with more up-to-date tracks by Nicki Minaj and Princess Nokia, who I remembered from her performance at Supersonic 2017 where she told us all off for not being her usual sort of audience, advised us not to look at her, and disappeared off the stage after only 20 minutes leaving us all in a state of puzzled bamboozlement.
Several of the booths in the room were used for “Artist Speed Dating”, where those present could chat to inter-generational experts in their field such as the rapper, poet and musician Dizraeli; Gabbidon, a founding member of the legendary Birmingham reggae band Steel Pulse, the acclaimed graffiti artist Mohammed Ali, and the poet Shagufta K Iqbal.
Coming out the Tea Room, I made my way to observe the first performance, which was an installation by Reetu Sattar entitled Sokol Dukher Prodip: the unsung song. Participants were invited to walk up to Sattar and place their hands on hers, which she had coated with henna. In joining hands with Sattar, we would be sharing strength, and on finishing, our own hands would be stained, creating a memory that would live on. This action would generate a sound blasting from the installation. We would stand in silence until the noise was over.
Going back to the Tea Room I noticed that people were getting ready to take part in Noemi Lakmaeir’s We are for you because we are against them, which saw eight diners fitted inside a sculpture based on the Weeble, a 1970s children’s toy. I had tried to fit in one before the dinner, and found it incredibly restrictive; my head and arms were fine, but my legs were squashed and crossed, and it would have been remarkably difficult to eat a delightful three course meal with excellent matching wine whilst stuck inside one of these contraptions. In this way, the audience analysing and watching the diners eating filled me with anxiety. This was exactly what Lakmaeir intended; to raise important questions about the body and voyeurism, and also attacking pre-conceived notions of disability.
We then were invited to see what I thought was the most powerful piece of the evening; Vivian Chinasa Ezugha’s Ghana Must Go and Britney Spears. For me, it was very difficult to imagine this performance occurring at any other time, yes, this was performance art delivered using the body as the medium, but I certainly haven’t seen such a visceral interpretation of the cultural stigma coming from xenophobia and a total shut-down of women’s rights. Ezugha stumbled onto the set wearing an over-large shopping bag for a skirt, and began self-flagellating in front of us, all positioned safely behind the white lines. Rubbing her face-paint off in tears she clutched the two bags onto her head and sobbed silently in front of us, all the while the staccato blasts of noise depicting respectful silence and unanswered questions from Reetu Sattar’s installation peppered the intimate, uncomfortable performance.
Finally it was time for the much talked about Reverend Billy & The Stop Shopping Choir, who had come from New York City on their Trump Depression Hotline Tour. Combining urban activism with evangelical preaching and a gospel choir, their sound was perfect for the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Reverend Billy had the audience in the palms of his hands, as he pleaded with those present to take their individual agendas and activism and join them collectively in a global fight against consumerism and militarism. This performance wasn’t just a one-off, they regularly occupy spaces around the world and have been thrown in jail for their cause many times, which seems hard to fathom given the love and inspiration they preach.
Posted 17 November 2017
There’s nothing we love more than an impromptu party and we’re thrilled to be throwing one tomorrow night for SHOUT Festival at AE Harris.
Get down to see Rachel Clerke and the Great White Male’s fab gig/show Cuncrete, then stick around afterwards for a very handsome all-female line up of DJs and performances.
We’re delighted that Lucy Hutson will be bringing her performance ‘Grindr vs The Women’s Institute’ to Birmingham for the first time and winner of the UK’s premiere Drag King competition ‘Man Up’ Manly Stanley (pictured) will really get the party started. The perfect soundtrack will be provided by Cassie-Philomena Smyth and it’s all included in the cost of a Cuncrete ticket. Show is at 8pm, party from 9pm. DON’T MISS IT.
Saturday 18th November, AE Harris. Get your tickets here.
Posted 31 October 2017
Welcome to the first Volunteer View, a series of written responses to Fierce 2017 from festival volunteers.
Response to the Opening Night of Fierce 2017
by James Kennedy
As a volunteer for Fierce 2017, I went along to the opening night at the Festival Hub (Quantum Exhibition Centre on River Street in Digbeth). Even as a long term admirer of performance art, getting back into the scene at 38 was going to be difficult. It was an opening night, and I was in the very essence of haute couture, green fisherman’s jumper (with elbow patches), best jeans (M&S Autograph) trainers and big coat. There were a lot of very fashionable people about; but I must say that the speeches did their best to relax the entire audience and encourage them to bloody well enjoy themselves.
Indeed, it was a rousing speech by the artistic director Aaron Wright, adulating the team that had helped support the vision for Fierce 2017. He set out the agenda for the weeks programme: “Provoke: Politicise: Party”. A week filled with some of the most exciting international live art performers of today, this would be an opportunity to audiences to examine what they get and don’t get about performance art, and make them ask why.
Erin Markey (image by Manuel Vason)
After Aaron left the stage, the audience was treated to a performance by Erin Markey, who is debuting her UK show “Boner Killer” at the Festival l on Thursday and Friday night. Tonight, we’d hear the story set to music from her previous show “A Ride on the Irish Cream” about the story of a girl refusing her mother’s orders to follow the predestined route into tap class, and the different ordinations of tap that there were. The story was excellently told, and made me fully want to launch into a closer study of Amercian folk culture, ritual and carnival.
Francois Chaignaud and Marie-Caroline Hominal’s (image by Manuel Vason)
We were then told to go into the room behind the bar, and find our places on beanbags that were scattered around in front of two small stages. When everyone was settled in the lights went off, and for the next half hour we were in the hula-hooping realm of Francois Chaignaud and Marie-Caroline Hominal’s UK premiere of Duchesses.
As a living sculpture, if you had the space and wanted to invest in some really contemporary art, you would quite happily have this pair in the corner of your living room gyrating in the nude, keeping their hula hoops in perpetual motion. At first, as spectators we were able to see their faces as they were cast in shadow, concentrating instead on the motion in front of us. Sitting on bean bags I got to think about how we must have appeared to Chaignaud and Hominal as they were locked in the moment of their gruelling performance. We all much have looked, out of the corner of their eyes like baggy rocks in a black desert.
It was a stunning feat of achievement to keep this spectacle up for so long, not only for the viewer, but also for the performer. There was no distracting soundtrack throughout the performance, and the vast majority of the crowd were in respectful silence with the occasional flash of camera, despite it being a drop-in performance. All we had was the noises of the effort that the performers were making, and the constant hum of the air conditioning around, adding to the surreal/hyperreal scene in front of us.
Ostensibly there could be a narrative, the man and the women hula-hooping repelling and attracting each other, sometimes the hula-hoops would meet each other and crash, and grunts of absolute effort began to fill the silence. In seemingly a shorter time than the 34 minute duration, the lights went out and the performance finished. And the reaction from everybody I heard said it was an absolute success.
Splash Addict (image by Manuel Vason)
Before I talk about Splash Addict, a collaboration between Susie Green and Simon Bayliss, I have to say that both the lighting and sound that FIERCE have arranged for the hub (overseen by production partners Cloud One) was absolutely terrific, and completed the imagery set by Splash Addict incredibly.
The setting was sparse yet effective for the performance. Disco lights, a stand for the synthesiser and a gigantic chaise longue in the middle. I didn’t see the performers’ entrance, but the crowd were soon enticed to get up to the front. Susie Green’s commanding and laconic spoken vocals put into a classic performance very much in the spirit of a Grace Jones, a Nico or a Miss Kitten, and Simon Bayliss’ electronic sounds assimiliated the best of electroclash and minimalist techno, through a handful of incredibly poppy songs, even finishing off with a bit of Gabber at the end for good effect.
Susie Green’s solo exhibition, Pleasure is a Weapon, examining the relationship between fetish and form, runs at Grand Union, part of the Minerva Works arts complex at nearby Fazeley Street until the 18 November, and is open from Wednesday to Saturday from 12-5pm.
Quarto (image by Manuel Vason)
I saw a circle of spectators on plastic chairs in contemplative thought watching Quarto unravel and ravel the black 1,000-metre rope over the space under them. When I see something like this, I find it fascinating to think how many separate narratives are being constructed in the spectators heads of what this all actually means, philosophical feats of thought, how long should they stay for, or indeed if they’d remembered to get milk in for the morning. Indeed, Quarto’s performance could have been seen as a representation of the way in which the human mind is constantly pulled apart, self-analysed and distracted in so many different and ever-increasing ways. Or, of course, many other things entirely.
Double Pussy Clit F*ck (image by Manuel Vason)
The stage was now set for (pause) Double Pussy Clit F#ck (nervous laugh.) I was excited to see these, being a fan of riot-grrrl in my youth, and enjoying its re-emergence in recent years with bands such as Texas’s Sailor Poon and London’s Skinny Girl Diet to name put a few. Searching on YouTube for a clip of their performance I was greeted with a lot of YouTube community approved pornography, which I didn’t think was what I was after, however I did chance across another grrrl band by the name of Clitoris Rex (from Missouri) which again were very up my street.
But (pause) Double Pussy Clit F#ck (nervous laugh) were from Glasgow, and soon they arrived on stage to rapturous applause. A three piece, all pretty much in the nude with long black wigs, save for one on my left who had a bear mask on, who I believed was the Bez (or the bears) of the band, enticing the audience to dance their macabre but brilliant dance.
Instead of distorted guitars and spiky riffage, the enticing and repetitive music was played on a child’s drum kit and synthesizer and and a ukulele, and the whole performance was that of absolute organised chaos and anarchy. A performance so in-your-face, fierce concentration was absolutely on the spectacle. The bands were totally in control and it was a great live performance, with the audience completely on side. I took a film of their penultimate song, which is all about loving someone so much you would like to make a leotard out of their skin, which is a pretty appropriate summing up of their sound.