Fierce Festival 2019 / Birmingham, UK / 15 – 20 October

Fierce Hello

Texts by Harun & Laura

Our journey began here. In Kitchen Café. On Saturday September the 19th. It was recommended to us by our friend Ben Pacey. We were reliant throughout the day on the recommendations of others. Guided by the suggestions of strangers, we drifted from one place to the next. Sometimes breaking our own rules, sometimes following the rules to a dead end.

We are full of breakfast and the mood is buoyant. The plan is to discover Birmingham. We’ve banned maps – instead, we’ll use people. We’re going to talk to people, ask them to tell us about an interesting place somewhere close and be guided to their favourite spots. It’s a psychogeographic adventure!

We are Fierce! flaneurs, we’ll leave no stones unturned. We will discover, we will uncover.

Mr Khan is very suspicious. He doesn’t like our line of questioning. He says there’s nothing interesting around here. He says the rent has gone up so he had to move away. He says there used to be a McDonalds and a Woolworths but now there’s nothing. Just a pound shop and a charity shop. He says really, there’s nothing interesting. He says ‘I thought you were going to buy something’. He says he doesn’t go into town any more, his son was a doorman in town and he got shot. He says he goes to the mosque (but not round here) and he sees his family at home. He does say he’s looking forward to tomorrow, because it’s Eid and he’ll be feasting after a month of fasting. Then he says ‘If you really want to go somewhere you should go to the pet shop down the road’. More shopping.

A plastic frog and natural grass. The two don’t belong but co-exist. Look at the frog’s eyes. He seems shocked. The frog seems alarmed at the spectacle of natural grass. As though he had assumed that only fake grass or Astroturf existed, and is now having to reassess his entire vision and understanding of the world. Certain artworks can have this impact. Puncturing the logos and billboards that swamp us. Making our eyes bulge at the sight of a new reality.

A good performance ruptures reality and takes people to a different place. We believe that the life of a performance resonates far beyond the actual live event – it leaves a ghost of itself. We decided to trace the origin of our business card, which features and image of Benjamin Verdonck’s project The Great Swallow, from Fierce 2005. This was one of the ultimate, mythic Fierce moments.

The memory of the birdman is imprinted on the landscape for us, and many others. The temporary architecture of this artwork has left a more permanent trace. We are very interested in the effects we can make, the questions we can ask with transient, guerilla or pop up interventions as part of our programme.

Here is a dovecote, formerly used to house doves, for their eggs, meat and feathers. Still standing but not used. It seems strangely out of place with the news builds around it. Like a fragment of a half remembered dream. We are fascinated by the legacy and potential of old buildings. What they might suggest and the histories they tap in to, how they can bring history alive in a way that a text book cannot when complemented by performance.

A Zimbabwean band play on a bandstand in an English botanic garden. There is also a wedding going on. The band are called The Trumpet Echoes, the highlife guitar, and harmonies are drifting out across the grass and mingling with the guests from the wedding party. In the café, other people are having cream tea in the afternoon sunshine. Three events layer up on top of one another in a shared space and coexist beautifully.

This is a photograph of a Wardian Case, invented by Dr. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward in the mid-19th century. It is displayed in the botanical gardens. It was designed to transport plants from warm or tropical climates to Britain without dying on route. It is a reminder of how tricky and vulnerable you can become when displaced, not everything survives the journey, things are lost along the way. Special compensations may be needed. You find yourself substituting what usually surrounds you with the local equivalents. How a newly arrived community might engages with aspects of a future festival is at the forefront of our minds. Ideas and art may need Wardian cases of their own.

Music is drifting across a concrete car park. The accordion player standing on a sunny corner is an optimistic talisman. When we speak to the man, he instantly phones his friend on a mobile phone – a friend who spoke better English. His friend tells us: he can’t tell you anywhere interesting, he’s just as new here as you are. I ask him where they are from. Romania.

Anthropologists at Birmingham University have been speculating for decades about the existence of ice cream man, here at last is the evidence. Local folk historians recounted a man who leaked ice cream, the pressure of his step causing ice cream to ooze from the sole of his foot. This is the photographic evidence. Ice cream man creates his own trace, documenting his every step without distancing himself from the moment in which he is in.

The Midland Arts Centre is under lock and key for safe keeping, while it is refurbished. But it returns in 2010. “Hit it Luke”

Change, fair, very dry, stormy, rain, CHANGE.

The back of a clock, a wilting plant. Time is turned away from us. The past is cloudy. But we are aware of it. The future is coming into focus. You’re making it with us now.

The word hello was invented for the telephone. A reminder that technology changes things. We invent new language. We change our behaviour. We’re more connected, we’re less connected. Social etiquette is transformed. Possibilities open up.