Siobhan Davies Commissions, review by Jessica Furseth
It is quiet and lively in equal parts, Siobhan Davies’ exhibition at the Bargehouse. Each of the four sections, created by a different group of artists, come on subtly at first. They force you to take a moment, to slow your breathing in order to take in what is going on. But once you have done so there is so much to see; the silence is full of noise.
Curator Siobhan Davies usually works as a choreographer, but with this exhibition she has left her artists to create their works without interruption. Davies has paired four dancers with artists of other persuasions, curious to see what would happen: ‘I asked them to peel away the outer edges of their knowledge and reveal some of the small, vital particulars of their practice; to listen to each other and show the things that mattered to them as makers.’
The result is four rooms, each consisting of half performance and half exhibition. First up is ‘A dance of ownership, a song in hand’ by Gill Clarke and Lucy Skaer. A delicate video is created as the two artists feed the film and sound into the projector by hand. The work stems from when the two, in an effort to create a common experience, travelled to the now uninhabited island of St Kilda and to Mount Stuart, the former home of the Fifth Marquess of Bute. The two artists contribute to the work with a live installation: dressed in identical tan outfits, one of them is slowly pulling the tape across the room, while the other is winding a handle on a film spool. The moving image plays against the wall: the ocean and the mountains are superimposed with scenes from the stately home, again overlaid with images of a moving hand. The artists move gently and meditatively, slowly rocking from one foot to another as in a trance-like dance.
Up the stairs is Sarah Warsop and Tracey Rowledge’s contribution, entitled ‘What isn’t here hasn’t happened’. Hanging on the walls is a series of canvases, gorgeous big expanses of white covered with black graphite smudges. It looks like body prints, and the energy is pouring out of the images. While the movement is long gone, you can feel that it was there just a moment ago, loud and brash. As a viewer you may be alone in the room, but it is anything but quiet.
There is a lot to take in also with Deborah Saxon, Henry Montes and Bruce Sharp’s performance ‘Land mark’. While there are more elements for the viewer to take in, the intent behind this work seems perhaps less clear than with the previous. From the ceiling hangs a vast amounts of small flicker books, a sound booth sits at the back, and at the same time two of the artists are standing in the middle of the room. Is it still life or performance’ According to the literature, the work is inspired by ‘stories of communities who have lost their objects and structures of their material existence, [it] considers the connection of the senses in the act of remembering’. Small, soft sounds permeate the room, along with something else, are they snores’ The gallery attendant nods me towards the strings: it is okay to touch. Then the artists start moving around, making noise, before returning to stillness again.
Last up at the Bargehouse is ‘A question of movement’, by Henry Montes and Marcus Coates. Until now, the venue has played a part in the experience too, as it is set in this beautiful old building, rough to the touch. The walls have been sanded down to a raw state, showing the various materials and colours used in the building over time. Montes and Coates have produced a 33 minute long film, which experiments with the role of physical movement as a means to approach questions. We watch as Joe, sitting on his bed in a messy room, asks why we get so easily distracted from the things we want to achieve, and Coates then attempts to answer without using words. Joe nods: there’s something to the joy of doing nothing at all. But whether that is what Coates meant to say, or just what Joe drew from it, remains open to interpretation.