Club Fierce: Eat My Noise
Review by Arike Oke
Fierce’s 15th anniversary programme is full of the doubt, wonder, enthusiasm and questioning that its teen-age demands. On the second night of Fierce 2013, two Club Fierce programmes are presented, both of them trembling with the uncertainty and the arrogance of adolescence.
For the first part of Club Fierce, titled ‘Eat My Noise’, the performances take place in the re-purposed spaces of an old metalwork factory, @AEHarris. @AEHarris has a story. Maybe more than one. It’s had its first life and has entered an after-life of sorts as an arts venue. Tonight three different spaces within @AEHarris host three very different performances that seek to re-imagine both the present and the past. Bob Parks is first with a kinetic lecture that takes in its scope ageing backwards, conscious appropriation of culture and a seeping through of historic influences. Bob Parks’ work spans decades and tonight he reflects on some of that time.
‘The first part I’ve got to do at the end…’ he hedges and mumbles, throwing out a loose commentary on what he might say and what he would almost do and what he had thought he could plan to talk about in his performance. The assistants stand ominously to the side holding the straps of a hoist, laughing at Parks’ deflections and wanderings.
He begins with a wall-projected diagram of circles, arrows and triangle. It’s annotated to show the appropriation of black ‘process-driven’ aesthetic by the ‘cool school’. Parks’ explanation of the diagram undercuts its academic appearance by rambling and looping and cross referencing itself until his lecture becomes what it is explaining: that culture repeats and feeds back. Everything is connected and disparate at once. Breaking away from the projection Parks wipes self-tan from his face, his ‘California’ look, and immediately reapplies it for his ‘Assyrian’ look before putting on a monk’s robe and incanting distractedly in proof of a point that this has happened before: the Assyrians knew it! Parks then strips, debunking his earlier under-breath comment, ‘Don’t worry I’m wearing underclothes.’ He re-enacts a baby Bob Parks; wailing behind cot bars before he is hauled, naked and frozen, into the air. Perhaps this symbolises a parental pick-up, a parent culture picking up on rebellious youth culture, but when Parks is lowered he slowly spreads brown paint from his anus all over his body. ‘Well, that’s it,’ says Parks. He’s said what he came to tell us. He’s given his report.
The next performance is given by international performance collective Wolf in The Winter, who stage a series of solo, ghostly, works punctuated by a gong sound. Seven works follow one another in an elliptical pool of light on the floor of one of @AEHarris’ abandoned workspaces. Wolf in the Winter’s pack of performance artists is on a pilgrimage this autumn, and Fierce Festival is one of the events they are inhabiting. These works tonight feel made for Fierce, however. They seem intimately linked to the building, as if they are potential histories of the space, memories replayed. Unlike Parks’ performance the audience are purely audience in these pieces. We are here to observe the playing out of the works and our presence is not acknowledged. The performers keep to the pool of light, even as they release noise and scents beyond its perimeter.
One Wolf ascends a steel ladder and allows cloth to unspool from her head as she descends, as though a long line of shadow of thoughts and emotions links her to her past elevated self. Each work has an element of ritual. Sometimes this manifests as a repeated movement phrase, such as the man who tapes light-bulbs to pillars and seems to be marking out the space with a plumb line. Other ritualistic elements include the smells. A man with long unkept fingernails and a mayoral shock of blond wig bandages his face, inhales from an inflated dog and pours cough syrup over himself. The unmistakeable syrup smell leads into the next work in which a penitential woman carries a heavy-looking load of star anise. She lets them drop and then crushes the dried stars with her feet before sweeping them away. The scent lingers, becoming another transitory ghost presence among the others evoked by the Wolves’ pack.
Contemporary cultures are referenced in two of the works: a woman carries a set of leg stocks as though they are a ghetto blaster. Locking herself into the stocks she plugs in earphones and head-bangs to unheard music. Another artist dressed in a more contemporary way than the other Wolves repeatedly kicks a bag, which wriggles and lights up. He retrieves a bundle of spinal cord and headphones from it: a mutant thing that responds to his abuse and is hung on a wall while the artist gurns and stamps in a post punk fit. The final work in the Wolves’ set seems to frame the evening. Caught in a strobing light the artist takes off and puts back on her shirt in a cinematic loop. She has emptied sacks of building rubble at her feet. Her work is perhaps acknowledging the looping nature of culture and history; potentially referencing @AEHarris itself whose former life as a factory surrounds us in outline while its current life as a venue throbs through it and future possibilities lie at the edge of the light: A.E. Harris are set to take back into use some parts of @AEHarris.
Eat My Noise’s set closes this section of Club Fierce. Three performers layer live drums into electronic sound structures while projections of repeated patterns and lines both obscure and reveal the trio. The poly-rhythms and tones somehow settle into a coherence that is both cathartic and mesmeric. The dissonance deliberately induced by the preceding performed works is focussed by Eat My Noise’s set into harmonies. For the audience who, exhausted, have mainly chosen to sit on the concrete floor this provides a welcome sense of closure to this part of the Fierce experience. Eat My Noise feed our primal need for rhythms and patterns allowing us to come to an acceptance of what Parks was trying to tell us: repetition is inevitable.