Club Fierce is a regular event in the annual Fierce Festival programme wherein different national and international performers are invited to Birmingham to participate. In recent years Club Fierce has hosted predominantly electronic music and it’s continually interesting to see how experimental performance can generate a clubbing environment.
Birmingham Open Media (BOM) is the festival hub for 2015. The space is informal and dynamic. For this iteration of Club Fierce a small stage is arranged near the entrance and two overlapping projections outline the performance area. Gradually an audience gather for the presentation of Anklepants and Chromatouch.
Anklepants is the work of Berlin-based, Australian artist, Dr Reecard Farché. The artist describes the work as a combination of music, character design, creature effects and animatronics. Farché is concerned with Anklepants as an almost sculptural presence. He emerges on stage wearing a beautifully embroidered matador jacket, tight black trousers and grotesque scrotum mask with flagellating animatronic penis, on which all attention is fixed. Anklepants wades into the audience, ejaculating iridescent liquid from the appendage and altering the vocal processing through a modified microphone. An initial period of intimidation, bafflement and wonder eventually gives way to a beat that can be related to and the audiences begins to feel comfortable enough to dance. The music is an interrupted mixture of bass and dub-step and the artist intermittently returns to the laptop to change and trigger new sounds. The performance does not develop visually further than the costume itself. I reflect on the significance of the details, the relationship between the jacket and the mask, and the interaction between the character and the audience. Perhaps my reaction is so closely connected to the mask because there are multiple questions emerging around ego, masculinity, electronic music and performance. When the mechanisms of the costume are dissected, I get the impression that Farché thoroughly enjoys the process of realising the character and the various reactions it stimulates.
Chromatouch, meanwhile, is the work of Birmingham-based video artist Leo Trimble and is an ongoing collision of visual and audio effects. This set is a more humble arrangement with the artist situated onstage between two altering projections. Whereas Anklepants goaded the audience into responding to a physical presence, Chromatouch is a more sensory adventure with the artist as robotic director. Trimble attempts to generate an immersive experience for himself and the audience, where appropriated visual and audio language can complement and express one another. The audience listens to fractured notes, and watches white noise and swirling apples cover the walls. There are moments of movement and the work particularly appeals to those interested in the specifics of hardware.
Both artists rework existing ideas, transforming sound and performance with technology that is manipulated for an idiosyncratic live experience. Though it doesn’t develop into a full-blown club, I see out the night excitedly dancing. I’m still wondering what Dr Farché is a doctor of exactly ...