The Island, Old Bridewell police station, Nelson Street, Bristol, BS1 2LE

Crossing the Line, A Performance Take Over

Bean, Daina Dieva, Emma Dixon, Jurgen Fritz, Laura Murphy, Jonathan Rogerson and Zejing Liu

Presented by Bristol Biennial 2014 at The Island, Bristol

14th September 2014

Review by Bob Gelsthorpe

A moment of attention please!”, an eager French accent exclaims, “the first round of performances will begin in six minutes!” Setting the pace for the evening, an enthused audience begins hurrying into the cell spaces of this former police station…

The first resonating voice is heard from the cells, London-based artist Bean uses chants that vary and warble, “tah-um, zah-urm, zha-uum, ha-uum, tah-uum, zha-uhm”. The aural resonance of the contrasting syllables of the chant, one high pitched and sharp, the other deep and humming, fills the space and the entire basement area, leaking out into the courtyard at points. Ears become turgid with these sounds, becoming sickly with reverb. She gradually becomes more naked, lifting her costume over her head, making the inhale and exhale movements of her lungs apparent. The audience becomes aware of the labour of the performance, and her tattoos serve as a physical archive of past works, a powerful way to dictate a history of temporal work.

Daina Dieva lays out newspapers as boundary between audience and artist; they are articles arranged neatly, a display of political and revolutionary unrest, upheaval and outrage; ‘Ukraine’, ‘Putin’, ‘America’ and ‘Agenda’ are common titles. These recent articles, being folded and crafted into origami cranes demonstrate a possibility of an abridged version of the folklore dictating a granted wish to the foldee of a 1000 cranes, a futile act in the given time period, connecting the title, ‘Therapy IX’ , an ongoing activity for purposes of aforementioned catharsis.

Furthest cell down the corridor Zejing Liu performs ‘High Shoes’, a balancing act of Liu on top of two towers of pristine white tissues, the gentle rocking coming from the equilibrium in her ears, she connects with the locally sourced materials.

In stark contrast with the basement space, Laura Murphy performs ‘Life Jacket for an Economic Crisis’ in a false-walled white cube. Described as a ‘performance-lecture’, it unfolds as a repetitive routine of monologue, action, engagement with objects, and movement. Lines of un-inflated balloons mark out the track, they are followed to the points, a balloon inflated and attached to Murphy’s dress - a clear demonstration of a political insurgence saying: inflation is becoming unmanageable. The routine continues until the track has been completed, and the now balloon-clad dress is borderline unmanageable. A schmaltzy statement at the end of the performance serves to cheapen the whole activity, unfortunately wrapping up something that should be left unraveled.

Returning to the basement, we’re brought to Jonathan Rogerson, standing poised, looking like an El Greco painting. Different words, tunes, and lyrical suggestions throughout pop songs are being used as the trigger for Rogerson to lean, before collapsing. J-Lo & Pitbull, “On The Floor” comes on the speakers, to a huge burst of laughter, he collapses again, but not before a bit of music-appropriate dancing. The costume deteriorates throughout the performance, gathering appropriate dust marks. Humourously providing a great interaction with the audience, the work allows a consideration of the ‘image’ of collapsing, akin to how James Richards explores a similar notion of ‘image’ in select films. In the performance, Rogerson, by using variations of the same repeated action, declares his interest in the deteriorating body.

And so to the final performance of the evening – ‘Ringing the Bell’ by Jurgen Fritz. “Can you shut the door please?” he asks. The audience is in the captive environment that the work needs. Fritz begins to swing the bell, without chiming, and a choir stands still, in wait. A subtle beginning from the choir takes the form of a dim hum, the flow of their humming is then punctuated by the first ringing of the bell. The choir follows into the score, powerful and shamanic, addressed by the now forceful ringing. Deep undulating motions, tidal in their flow, are being applied. The bell and choir both fill and shatter the room, before the latter is cut silent. Fritz is in full effect, engaged in a total trance, ringing with such conviction he appears to be striking down a foe in battle, such is the rehearsed, yet never forced action. Nothing escapes the bell’s ringing now, the sound refracting and pounding against every wall, before the choir pulls in slowly again.

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