Month: September 2018

DLASC featuring SEAN VEGEZZI and DMYCC


DLASC featuring SEAN VEGEZZI and DMYCC
Curated by Sunil Shah 

As part of the Beyond the Frame curatorial programme, Sunil Shah has undertaken a residency at Metal Liverpool, the result of which was a public screening and discussion programme at OUTPUT Gallery in Liverpool (27 – 30 September 2018) 

New York based artist/activist Sean Vegezzi’s film DMYCC (2017) was presented at OUTPUT gallery in Liverpool to initiate a dialogue about art in Liverpool and the space of its production and presentation. DMYCC documents 10 years of appropriating a disused, underground subway station in downtown lower Manhatten. In Vegezzi’s words, “DMYCC is an initialism that encompasses the physical space itself, the desire to gain access to it, and a shifting roster of efforts to install and enact a private recreational domain within it.”

Taking it’s setting as Liverpool’s Kazimier Gardens and its new gallery space, OUTPUT gallery, DMYCC (an acronym for Downtown Manhatten Youth Communty Club) is staged as a departure point for DLASC (Downtown Liverpool Art Space Conversation) in which local artists and cultural producers (speakers tbc) will be invited to discuss art spaces in Liverpool today and especially in light of the city’s high profile art institutions and its international biennial.

The Discussion event took place on 29 September (2-4 pm) with contributions from Danielle Waine, Sufea Mohamad Noor and Michael Lacey.


Sean Vegezzi, DMYCC, 2017

Adam Patterson speaks to Jessica Taylor about Sensational Bodies

Adam Patterson speaks to Jessica Taylor about Sensational Bodies

ICF Head of Programmes Jessica Taylor interviewed artist Adam Patterson about his practice and the work he presented in the project Sensational Bodies, a performance and film programme curated by Taylor and Adelaide Bannerman for the 2018 Jerwood Staging Series

Sensational Bodies presented the work of two artists who consider expanded ways of seeing and speaking beyond the historicised or everyday through performance. In his practice Adam Patterson explores strategies of resistance to particular neo-colonial structures, working to subvert perceptions and deconstruct tropes associated with the post-colonial Caribbean. Interested in the fragility and vulnerability of human existence, Rubiane Maia examines the synergies and relationships between bodies, objects and nature.

Responding to particular constructions of masculinity, Adam Patterson presented a new performance for Sensational Bodies entitled Bikkel. Its namesake referring to the Dutch word for a man with an inauthentic strength or toughness, Bikkel adopts and re-imagines the motif of the sea urchin, depicting the spiked marine animal not as hard, brittle and defensive but as elastic and porous, with the capacity to be held and squeezed. Patterson’s approach to masculinity in this formation of Bikkel is inspired by Audre Lorde’s turn to love and softness as a means of survival and a tool of resistance against social expectations of gender.

Jessica Taylor: Can you speak a bit about the motivations behind the character of Bikkel?

Adam Patterson: Only for the past year have I been opened to the writings and thoughts of Audre Lorde. Lorde’s criticism of hardness and welcoming of softness, as these notions relate to opposing characteristics of masculinity and femininity respectively, really pushed me to reconsider certain approaches I have previously undertaken in my work which, for me, are now questionable and thus subject to scrutiny, reflection and revision. It led me to consider my own masculinity and the various social sources of masculinity that may have unconsciously shaped me between my upbringing in Barbados and my time of study and living in both London and Rotterdam. There is also the consideration that some of these social conditionings have failed me or that I’ve failed them by not meeting certain standards of masculinity and manhood. Bikkel comes from this place of expectation of masculinity and failing to perform certain expectations, alongside the conflict that comes from such conditions, and how this may or may not be reconciled.

J: There are several visual and behavioral elements that you bring together to form Bikkel – through costume, gesture, movement and script. Can you elaborate a bit on how those elements came together?

A: In his initial conceptualization, Bikkel stems from the types of fashion I’ve noticed in men of both London and Rotterdam. His silhouette borrows from tracksuits, bomber jackets and hoodies. There is a rich culture encoded in how these types of fashion and the brands they come in appeal to particular values and merits of masculinity, male prosperity, power and potency. Uninterested in criticizing it, what I appreciate most about it is its ideological conflict; that such soft and comfy clothes are also athletic wear that suggest physical or muscular exertion but also metaphorically refer to a particular masculine ideal. In essence, they are clothes that signify a male hardness or power but are soft and comforting in their physical nature. The use of script is important to me as it allows a moment for the character to live through speaking, through confession and memoir. It’s usually a conflicted reflection or explanation, which isn’t always too reliable or coherent as a piece of information. The script, the spoken word, the voice – these are tools to allow the character to reflect on itself and the usually twisted and unconsented circumstances of its coming into being. It’s like a self-obituary or exorcism or libation, whereby the character is confronted with the reflection of itself, trying to find rest in reconciliation in the difficulty of its reasoning, its being, its ideological heritage and inheritance.

J: How does the motif of the sea urchin – which you have incorporated into the character of Bikkel – function as a means of talking about notions of masculinity?

A: I have used the sea urchin as a tropical image of a beauty that is seductive and therefore dangerous; beautiful to look at, harmful to the touch. In its anatomy, it is a disinterested creature, facing the ground in contemplation, raising a host of thorns to protect itself from external forces. I have used it as an image resisting touristic and consumptive desires against my body, an image that defies a passive paradisiacal nature, a militarized paradise, a paradise in resistance. Bikkel’s spiked urchin face hopes to draw on this image of all the face’s pores, mouths and orifices closing and raising spikes – to suggest a state of being inaccessible, unapproachable, distanced, unable to speak or be spoken to, brittle, hard, closed, non-relational, which I think are all qualities of toxic forms of masculinity.

J: Bikkel is responsive to your use of the sea urchin in previous work as rigid and unimpressionable, how is the shift to a porous and more open way of addressing ideas of masculinity evident in the Bikkel performance informed by the writings of Audre Lorde?

A: In the course of the script, Bikkel remarks on the softening of his spikes. It’s uncertain whether he will open fully but his brittle bony spikes melt to sponge and this porosity suggests a newfound openness. Reflecting on my previous work with sea urchin imagery, I fear the work is too tense and brittle, on the verge of shatter, in constantly resisting, forming itself in resistance. The softening, the loosening, contraction and lax in Bikkel’s spikes is a return towards a relational posture, materiality and approach. Bikkel’s mask is a soft stuffed mask, capable of being squeezed and holding its form in reflex. It’s this kind of reflex which allows for an indestructible vulnerability. Audre Lorde has indeed opened me to the ideas of finding power in softness and vulnerability, but it’s not about being without guard. We can still protect ourselves while actualizing more relational behaviors in ourselves.

J: You reference a variation of a line from her essay ‘Man Child’ at the very end of the Bikkel script – “If I cannot love and resist at the same time, I will probably not survive.” We’ve spoken above about love or softening as a form of survival –Do you think it is fair to say that enacting the relational behaviours that you mention above, both within ourselves and with others, can be a form of resistance to the generalizing or reductive forces at work in society in regards to gender and beyond?

A: Although Lorde, in that essay, is specifically speaking about her son, that excerpt refers to both her children. In surrendering my confidence as a “grown man,” it allows me the space to think of myself as a boy who’s still learning about myself and trying to find healthier ways of coming into myself and coming into the world. It’s important to acknowledge that you don’t know everything and that you could always know and do better. For me, I want to pay less attention to this practice of “resistance” and try and open myself to alternative ways of seeing, interacting and relating. The excerpt asks something which I would’ve once considered impossible and without sense – to resist and love, to resist and be open at the same time. It demands a revision of what it means to be both “resistant” and “vulnerable”. I still don’t entirely understand how to manifest that but that shouldn’t stop me or anyone else from trying. In this task of direct “resistance” whereby I close myself off not only to the evils of this world but everything else, where I am solely defined by this tension, this resistance, I deny myself the opportunity of receiving and being open to the potential of alternative worlds of relation.

J: You bring certain visualisations of masculinity across both the Dutch and the Caribbean contexts into relation with one another in Bikkel through your movements, language and costume, as well as through subtleties like the music playing from within your pocket. Do you consider the complexity of the character as a form of resistance?

A: No, the complexity of sources that converge within Bikkel informs his own sense of conflict. What needs to be considered is that these characters emerge from certain social conditions that would have shaped them without conscience or consent. If you are impressionable then your world will shape you and you will trust that it shapes you “properly”. Then, when you’re confronted with the realization that a lot of what has made you, what has conditioned you, what you have learned, is suspicious, groundless, damaging or simply questionable, you are led to a crisis of character and a kind of disenfranchisement with the world that has gradually made you. For Bikkel, specifically, it is this reckoning with this given image, these given expectations of masculinity, and the crisis of trying to unlearn this given shape, this given texture of roughness and hardness. The “resistance” per se is the crisis of this realization, and the swell of conflict responding to this mischaracterization; the realization that your world has betrayed you and your image.  

J: Is there another context that you would be particularly interested in performing Bikkel?

A: The next step for Bikkel (which was actually the original idea but was delayed) is to walk him through Zuidplein in Rotterdam. It is where a shopping center, bus station and metro station converge in the South. When it’s busy, you can see a lot of guys dressed in all varieties, designs, colours and styles of tracksuits, bomber jackets, sweaters and hoodies, posed around. Though some are in transit, the space does seem to function as a meeting point where these style icons can collide and compete in this public posing off. I think Bikkel would enjoy this space. 

J: You also screened a film during the event, Lookalook, which captured a performance held in Barbados earlier in the year. Lookalook calls out the violence that is elicited when a group of viewers are unable to name or understand something that they are looking at. Have you experienced a difference between the film being seen in Barbados versus the UK?

A: Not at Jerwood Space but the most vitriolic response I received when we screened the film during LADA screens in August was someone expressing their frustration in not knowing where Lookalook was performed or filmed, until Barbados eventually got mentioned. They were confident that my film and its script were not showing an accurate picture of Barbados, though they had admittedly never visited. Or, rather, the image I was posing did not agree with their expectations and preconceptions of Barbados and the wider Caribbean region. The fact that they took that as a point of frustration and not a point of transition, unlearning and revision concerns me but maybe I’m asking for too much. I’ve previously not seen the sense in performing Lookalook in London, as people avoid eye contact so desperately, but perhaps it would call for a new mythology of the character, getting Londoners to revisit a lost time when they used to look each other in the eye.

About the artist:
Adam Patterson is a Barbadian visual artist and writer based in Barbados and the Netherlands. He completed his BA (Hons) Fine Art at Central Saint Martina, London, in 2017. His work emerges from imagining strategies of resistance in the face of neo-colonial encounters and desires that affect Barbados and the Caribbean region. His work has been exhibited at Tate Exchange at Tate Modern, London and he participated in “Sonic Soundings / Venice Trajectories,” a sound art project coordinated with the Diaspora Pavilion presented by ICF during the 57th Venice Biennale. He has contributed to panel presentations at the “Caribbean Diasporic Dialogues” conferences at Goldsmiths University and the British Library. He has written for Fresh Milk Arts Platform, ARC Magazine and Sugarcane Magazine. He is currently an artist in residence in Caribbean Linked at Ateliers ’89, Aruba.

Images: Adam Patterson, Bikkel (2018), Performance for Sensational Bodies, Jerwood Space, London. © Hydar Dewachi

 

Rubiane Maia speaks to Adelaide Bannerman about Sensational Bodies

Rubiane Maia speaks to Adelaide Bannerman about Sensational Bodies

Adelaide Bannerman interviewed artist Rubiane Maia about her practice and the work she presented in the project Sensational Bodies, a performance and film programme curated by Taylor and Adelaide Bannerman for the 2018 Jerwood Staging Series

Sensational Bodies presented the work of two artists who consider expanded ways of seeing and speaking beyond the historicised or everyday through performance. In his practice Adam Patterson explores strategies of resistance to particular neo-colonial structures, working to subvert perceptions and deconstruct tropes associated with the post-colonial Caribbean. Interested in the fragility and vulnerability of human existence, Rubiane Maia examines the synergies and relationships between bodies, objects and nature.

This voice cuts me off, removing my feet from their place – post-performance movement of thought

Preceded in 2017 by the performance for camera, Stones across the Ocean: Northern Hemisphere  (part 1) (digital vídeo 10 mins looped), This voice cuts me off, removing my feet from their place (2018) is the second work realised by Rubiane Maia in the UK. It is consciously minimal in its presentation of the mulitiplicious dislocations and familiiarities that script one’s personal relationships, movements and spaces taken up in the world.

Drafted intermittently between September and October 2018, much like its live counterpart, the following  presents a conversation between Maia and myself around the ideas, development, choices and disclosure of the work, observing and sharing how it felt as a durational act, and how it sounded in translation. We would like to give our heartfelt thanks to Manuel Vason and his support during our exchanges.

Adelaide Bannerman:

At an early stage in the development of the work and during our conversations you created a space to incorporate other bodies, a tree, and another human being. Can you perhaps talk about what led you towards deciding upon these features of the work?

Rubiane Maia:

The first element that was created in this work was the text. I started writing in January this year. After the birth of my son I didn’t have time to devote myself to anything other than motherhood, but I felt a deep need to express other urgencies. So I had to come up with a strategy that would allow me to do so. I then began to use the time he was sleeping to sit in front of the computer and write. I made a promise to myself to write ‘anything’ of any time, be it present, past or future without thinking of telling a linear story. The text ended up loose and fragmented. Soon, I realised that this process was becoming extremely cathartic.

For the performance I stitched different fragments of what I had written into a single text with the aim of creating a dialogue with an audience. For the first time I then re-read parts of these texts. At this point it became clear that what interested me was not a desire to affirm a self-identity or a personal diary, but to give space to a pulsating “becoming-voice”, one that was alive and vibrant. The willingness and opportunity to work together with a collaborator who could read the text as part of the action came soon after, so I invited you, Adelaide. For me, this other body in the performance becomes a temporary incarnation of this voice – a kind of spiritual channeling. Also, since I do not speak English very well, it was a perfect solution as it was important that the public could access the text fluently and accurately.

I believe the plant represents the poetic body of the performance. It is the strongest visual and symbolic element. The text speaks substantially about the feet and I wanted to work with roots so as to create a parallel between those two supporting elements. I chose to do the transplantation of the plant in an unusual way, because I wanted to use the same vase, but replacing the old earth with a new one; a procedure that is inevitably traumatic for the plant. But I tried to do everything very delicately and slowly, because the roots are a very strong part of the plant, but at the same time, extremely fragile. I have a lot of interest in plants, and this is not my first performance with ‘bodies-plants’. I believe that a kind of intuitive and silent communication between plants and people is possible. In this case, I chose a Ficus lyrata, a plant native of western Africa, a continent that is part of my history as a black woman descended from African slaves born in a colonised country. So I think ‘we’ somehow share aspects of that ancestral memory.

AB:

Our shared connectedness to Ficus Lyrata (the tree) became very strong. In fact, I found it amusing that I was over-identifying with her.  Your invitation to narrate from the other side of the wall between us was very welcome in that it enabled me to draw psychically from a small ensemble of thoughts, personal therapeutic actions, and texts, specifically Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider in particular ‘The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action’, Mlanden Dolar’s, A Voice and Nothing More, the chapter ‘The “Physics” of the Voice’(I’m forever enamored with his re-telling of Pythagoras’ pedagogical methodology to teach from behind a curtain so that his students would attend to listening to his voice and words),  and Through Vegetal Being, co-authored by Luce Irigary and Michael Marder, which I found to be very healing during a bout of depression. These texts have become companions. They came together in my sensing of your action.

Reading your translated text fully was bewildering in the sense of how it held together and alternated between perspective and persons being addressed. The pace of my cognition in understanding how to read each sentence and paragraph shifted constantly between certainties, doubts and revelations. To read it was challenging for my voice and relatedness to each scenario. Being amplified I did wonder, what could be heard? How faithfully did the translation to English represent the nuances of your text?

RM:

It was nice for me to hear your voice and feel your physical presence on the other side of the wall. We must remember that the wall in the performance also represented a significant element of the piece – connecting bodies, however separated by different perspectives. I think the issue of the translation has to do with exactly this: a playful game of proximity and distance between the two of us; between us and the plant; between your voice and the audience. I think it is essential to make visible the trace of my being as a foreigner who comes from a Latin American country. Inevitably this is a performance charged of many questions about language, but I believe that the strength of the work stands on the aperture toward other modes of understanding and different forms of listening. At the same time it gave me the opportunity of appropriating  my right to speak. The text is purposely fragmented, has many layers and it is really difficult to absorb it from beginning to end, but I was surprised by the silence and the level of attention paid by the audience. The action created a meditative and contemplative atmosphere that encouraged each one to perform a dive into an inner connection.

I identify myself a lot with the idea you suggested: that certain texts and books have accompanied you or  are still guiding you during your life. I feel it constantly. They are part of the voices that help us denunciate, reveal, and question inspiring poetry, and so much more. This year I managed to read only two books: ‘M Train‘ by Patti Smith and ‘Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. They are both great for the sincerity and simplicity with which they deal with complex issues. I felt that ‘M Train’ influenced me a lot because I recognised myself in this person who leaves the house almost every day to sit at the same cafe, in the same table with the purpose of writing for many years, over and over. There is this subtle quality in revealing intimacy in so many things greater than us as human beings. Writing has been a strategy of personal therapy that I have encountered accidentally, as the daily exercise of writing has given me the perfect instrument to shake up very deep psychic aspects, enabling an intense updating of the perceptions that I have about my memories, especially those that mark a sense of identity. I am confronted with the countless narratives that my personal, family, professional, social, ancestral history are made of. Reviewing events, traumas, abuses, injustices, mainly caused by racial and gender issues, has been an arduous and exhausting process, sometimes emotionally unbearable, but of extreme urgency.

AB:

Lorde says,

“Each of us is here now because in one way or another we share a committment to language and to the power of language, and to the reclaiming of that language which has been made to work against us. In the transformation of silence into language and action, it is vitally necessary for each one of us to establish or examine her function in that transformation and to recognise her role as vital within that transformation”.

Writing is challenging. To write, speak, live authentically without censoring is a singular and collective action towards finding ourselves. Your text was deeply entrenched and reflective of the differing circumstances one encounters, and though your text was built over a period of time, it was fascinating that the fervour of it articulated itself almost as a stream of conciousness. I imagined the words guiding your fingers teasing out the roots of Ficus. How is she?

RM:

This statement is very powerful because it highlights the core of a great conflict: the non-fidelity of language and, at the same time, our implication in the breaking of silence. It’s a difficult commitment to take on because it puts us on the front line of the battles. I have reflected a lot on this idea of ​​breaking the silence, because I realise that we are living in a moment in which this disruption has become a collective urgency. I feel part of this. I feel contaminated by this need to affirm ethical and political issues that have long been invisible. The exercise of speech, writing and action makes it possible to take a position in this place of transformations. We are giving up a neutrality that never really existed, but which has always nourished the maintenance of certain privileges (which benefited only a few). It is a tremendous job to deconstruct the censorship that is embedded in our bodies, our minds, our emotions. The commitment to write every day without having a definite direction has put me in confrontation with some issues: the encounter with unexpected, dirty and perverse facts that interrupt the writing with an alarm. As a consequence, a part of me responded immediately by taking a step back.  Unintentionally the filter of politeness, civility and defence emerges by saying: this yes, that not. Writing puts us at risk, and it hurts, but it’s a pain that makes you wake up, and that helps cleansing the wounds.

I began to study the ‘Automatic Writing‘ of the surrealists, as well as the ‘Psychography’ of Allan Kardec’s spiritualism. Surrealist poets used this exercise with the intention of entering into a trance capable of subverting the conscious mind that controls and limits what is acceptable to be said or written. In Psychography there is this idea of ​​‘body-passage’: a body that opens to be crossed by a stream of energy. Both concepts interest me, because I’m just looking for strategies to access this crude, ungoverned language. I will continue, it will be a long-term job, but I want to create a kind of ‘performance book’. The idea is that each presentation will give birth to a new chapter. So, This voice cuts me off, removing my feet from their place was the first. Now, I am preparing ‘Chapter II’ with a new performance and a new text that will be presented soon in Brazil.

As for Ficus, she’s here, very close, and I can see her as I answer your questions. Ficus is a mysterious plant that I am learning to know. Her appearance has not changed much after a month, although I feel she is not comfortable yet, needing a lot of attention and care. It’s too early to gauge the impact the performance has had on her roots, but she’s still standing with bright green leaves, and is stronger than I could imagine. I’ll tell her that you send her a special and loving hello.

Sensational Bodies

Sensational Bodies

Sensational Bodies was an evening of performances and screenings by Adam Patterson (Barbados/Netherlands) and Rubiane Maia (Brazil/UK) curated by ICF curators Adelaide Bannerman and Jessica Taylor for the 2018 Jerwood Staging Series.

Adam Patterson presented a new performance, Bikkel (2018) and a film entitled Lookalook (2018), while Rubiane Maia premiered the performance This voice cuts me off, removing my feet from their place (2018) and screened Stones across the ocean: Northern hemisphere, part 1 (2017). Both artists explored the effects of colonisation on society and on the body through the establishment of power structures that breed violence, displacement and defensiveness. In their practices, both Patterson and Maia recognise the tendency to surround oneself with a cocoon or shell as protection against being trampled by these forces and consider forms of resistance, such as movement, understanding and love, that can enable them to learn to unlearn ways of seeing and being in these spaces in order to survive.

An interview between Adam Patterson and Jessica Taylor can be found here and an interview between Rubiane Maia and Adelaide Bannerman can be found here. 

Photos © Hydar Dewachi

Rubiane Maia
This voice cuts me off, removing my feet from their place. Performance in collaboration with Adelaide Bannerman (2018)

On January 15th 2018, Rubiane Maia committed to write every day for a year. It didn’t matter if only one word, one sentence, or several pages. She simply sat and wrote without having a definite direction. The performance ‘This voice cuts me off, removing my feet from their place’ initiated by the desire of weaving fragmented texts without beginning or end, into a personal narrative full of enquiries about life, memory, traumas and institutional power.

Stones across the ocean: Northern hemisphere, part 1. Film (2017) Throw a stone into the sea.

Repeat throwing. – Throw another stone into the sea. Repeat the act. – Repeating. – Repeat. – Stretch your arm toward the sky. – Throw this stone into the sea. – Gazing or observing the horizon. – Throw each stone into the sea with as much force as possible so they can continue their journey into the unknown. – Breathe. – Throw another stone into the sea so that together they can sail with less solitude. – Throw a lot of stones into the sea. – A deep breathing. – Repeat the gesture, relinquishing the state of fatigue, of immobility, and imagining that each stone will take the form of a small submarine cruising far away. – Distancing from the mainland. The video ‘Stones across the ocean’ was made in September 2017, five days before the birth of my son. In the folding of time between the present and my projected future.

Adam Patterson
Bikkel. Performance (2018)

Responding to particular constructions of masculinity, Adam Patterson presents a new performance entitled Bikkel. Its namesake referring to a man with an inauthentic strength or toughness, Bikkel adopts and re-imagines the motif of the sea urchin, depicting the spiked marine animal not as hard, brittle and defensive but as elastic and porous, with the capacity to be held and squeezed. Patterson’s approach to masculinity in this formation of Bikkel is inspired by Audre Lorde’s turn to love and softness as a means of survival and a tool of resistance against social expectations of gender.

Lookalook. Performance, digital video (2018). Documented by Logan C Thomas.

Lookalook documents a performative walk in Bridgetown, Barbados, using masquerade to characterise and personify the violence and (dis)possession experienced in being looked at, in being the object of another’s gaze. ‘Stinklook’ and ‘cut-eye’ are invoked by Lookalook, a monster born to give these mannerisms a sense of mythology.