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Friday, 4 May 2012

Daniel Linehan: Zombie Aporia | Lilian Baylis Studio | Sadler's Wells Theatre | London

Text by Grace Henderson

Zombie means living and dead. Aporia means logical contraction. The title of choreographer and performer
Daniel Linehan's latest work is a hybrid of two words that have never been joined together before - at least not according to Google. In Zombie Aporia, Linehan sets out to create unusual hybrids; musical rhythms colliding with opposing dance rhythms, or physical manipulations that result in the distortion of the voice.

Like much of Linehan's choreographic output, this work is intent on softly obscuring the line that separates dance from the everyday affectations we all use to express ourselves. Zombie Aporia is showing next week on 9 and 10 May. Daniel Linehan talks us through his latest work.

A: Can you tell me a bit more about Zombie Aporia, and how the work came to be so titled?

DL: In making Zombie Aporia, I wanted to find ways of combining two elements that didn't seem to fit together, creating different kinds of aporias, or logical contradictions. The title itself is a strange hybrid-a pop-culture reference is placed beside a term from philosophical discourse, Zombie plus Aporia, two words that don't seem to fit together, but which to my ear have a pleasing rhythm and assonance.

A: Much of the piece seems to centre on the idea of collision – what in particular is this exploring or communicating?

DL: The collision of two opposing elements allows us as dancers to perform in ways that are unfamiliar to us, and allows the audience to see things that are unfamiliar to them. So, for example, we dance in one rhythm while we sing in a completely different rhythm, or we try to make the audience see what the dancer sees. I am interested in how new meanings are produced when you combine elements that haven't been combined before. I didn't want to create a performance in which we do what we already know how to do, I wanted to put the dancers in situations that required the effort of trying something which seemed impossible.

A: Many of your works blur the boundaries somewhat between dance and our everyday physical mannerisms; why is this and how is this blurring achieved technically?

DL: In my work, the dancers are often trying to achieve a nearly impossible task that requires simultaneous layers of thinking and doing and reacting. This involves an intense effort of concentration and bodily engagement, but the movement vocabulary is not always derived from a recognizable dance technique, so it is not fully "dance," but neither is it fully an "everyday task". I am interested in ways of using the body that inhabit a region somewhere in between recognizable forms. I am not interested in amazing feats of dance technique. The only interesting thing to me about virtuosity is that nobody can fully realize it. Imperfection is the drive that keeps me going.

A: I understand that Zombie Aporia also uses the voice; how does this figure in the work and what does it bring to it overall?

DL: The music for the piece comes only from our own voices. There are no instruments and no amplifiers in the space other than our own bodies and voices. Zombie Aporia is very focused on how the voice is fundamentally based within the body, so I didn't want any other element of sound to interfere with that. We explore how the voice is transformed when one dancer manipulates the body of another dancer. We explore how proximity or distance in space changes how the audience hears our voices. We explore how bodily vibrations and how physical exhaustion alters the quality of the voice.

A: This piece marks your return to Sadler’s Wells after making your London debut there last year with Montage for Three and Not About Everything. What, for you, is special about staging your work there?

DL: Some of my work, like Not About Everything and Zombie Aporia, includes a lot of text (in English), and it seems especially significant to perform these works for an audience whose mother tongue is English. I often use subtitles or librettos in other countries in Europe, and of course many people speak English very well in other places, but I feel like audiences in New York and London can connect to these works on a deeper level. As for performing at Sadler's Wells, I really respect this venue; they are dedicated not only to large prominent dance companies, but also committed to helping less established choreographers like myself to develop and present their works.

A: What is next for you after Zombie Aporia and do you have plans to work with Sadler’s Wells again in the future?

DL: My next project will take a short section from Zombie Aporia and develop the concept further. This is a section in which a video projection exposes to the audience an image of what the dancer sees while he is dancing. I am very interested in how this technique allows the audience to experience dance-watching in an completely different way. I am very happy to have Sadler's Wells as one of the co-producers for this project, and I'm looking forward to presenting this piece there in 2013.

Daniel Linehan, Zombie Aporia, 09/05/2012 - 10/05/2012, Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler's Wells Theatre, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN. Tickets: 0844 412 4300 www.sadlerswells.com

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Sara Greavu & Phil Hession: Titanic Toast | Golden Thread Gallery | Belfast

Text by Angela Darby

Of the many urban myths surrounding the Titanic’s legacy one predominant legend describes how Protestant dock workers in Belfast chalked the letters NPH (“No Pope Here”) on the ships bow thus dooming its maiden voyage. Another tale includes a curse of destruction from an Ancient Egyptian mummy named Amen-Ra whose body was on board in the hold. With the Titanic centenary celebrations predictably focusing on the standard facts the curator of Titanic Toast Peter Richards, Director of The GT Gallery, challenged invited artists Sara Greavu and Phil Hession to “explore alternative narratives and the question of how we remember.”

Sara Greavu addresses the tradition of myth-making through the power of the spoken word. In a collaborative production with Abby Oliveire from Derry based collective Poetry Chicks the viewer is presented with a large format video projection entitled Apocalips Lil and the Night to Remember. Traditionally in African-American communities to perform a Toast is to energetically narrate the tale of an heroic event and this oral artform has been considered the precursor to Rap. Referencing an original Toast, Shine and the Titanic, Oliveire is pictured narrating the stirring tale of a boiler stocker on board the Titanic and how his warnings of the disaster were disregarded due to his lowly social position. At one point the video image disappears (perhaps intentionally or due a technical fault) leaving the viewer in an eerily darkened space listening to the poignant resonance of Oliveire’s recitation. In an adjoining gallery Greavu presents three stunning collages that re-imagine what would have become of the Titanic if its maiden voyage had been uneventful. As many liners were commandeered by the navy during World War I and World War II Greavu has rendered the Titanic in bright geometric forms of orange, red and yellow hues. This battleship camouflage or dazzle was used by the military to confuse the enemy with its busy geometric composition making it hard to decipher the bow from the stern. At the adjacent wall Greavu has repeated the dazzle camouflage but on a larger scale creating an intense visual experience. In this room in particular we are reminded of The Titanic’s battle with the sea, the harsh frozen elements, it’s sinking, the survivors and the fatalities.

Taking a documentary approach, Phil Hession’s video installation Sing Along, If You Can attempts to analyse certain aspects of the Titanic’s original purpose. The artist spent eight days on board a trans-Atlantic cruise liner and by physically experiencing this form of transport Hession places himself within the context of the passengers. By keeping a visual diary of his time on board we experience the journey from the artist’s perspective. The recorded conversations that ensued with the cabin crew and fellow travellers range from discussions on safety, evacuation procedures and the reasons one chooses to participate in a voyage of this nature in the first place. Hessian skilfully captures the inherent oddness when strangers are placed in close proximity by chance.

Both artists have employed thought provoking and engaging methods to approach this overexposed subject and in doing so they manage to reinvigorate elements of the Titanic’s legacy.

Sara Greavu & Phil Hession: Titanic Toast, The Golden Thread Gallery, 84 - 94 Great Patrick Street, Belfast, BT1 2LU. www.goldenthreadgallery.co.uk

Phil Hession Sing Along, If You Can
Courtesy the artist

Wednesday, 2 May 2012


It's now only one month until the deadline for The Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2012 (ASFF) and here in the Aesthetica offices, we're getting very excited. We've already had some excellent entries from filmmakers across the world, and with an amazing line-up of masterclasses and networking events with the likes of Warp and BAFTA, ASFF 2012 is going to be truly spectacular!

Time is running out for you to get involved! If you want to take part in this fantastic event, and share your work with an international audience, visit www.asff.co.uk to enter today.

ASFF is a unique film event, showing international short film in 15 iconic locations across the historic city of York from 8 - 11 November 2012. It's a fantastic opportunity to see your film in new and surprising visual contexts, and with the whole city teeming with the vibrant film community, you can be sure to meet industry professionals as well as filmmakers and people who share your passion for film. Plus there are also some wonderful prizes at stake, including up to £500 in cash, reciprocal screenings at other festivals, and editorial coverage in Aesthetica Magazine.

Whether you're an established or budding filmmaker, ASFF 2012 will enable you to connect with new worldwide audiences and interact with some of the biggest personalities in the film industry today. If you've got a film of up to 25 minutes, we would love to see it!

Visit www.asff.co.uk for more information and to submit today!

Courtesy the Aesthetica Short Film Festival

The Viewer as Spectator, Subject or Performer | The Catlin Art Prize 2012 | Interview with Poppy Bisdee

Text by Bethany Rex

The Catlin Art Prize, an annual event showcasing the most promising art school graduates one year on 
from their degree exhibitions, opens tomorrow at the Londonewcastle Project Space and includes new work by artists who demonstrate real potential to make a mark in the art world during the next decade. Following the publication of the Catlin Guide 2012, the shortlist of artists taking part includes: Gabriella Boyd, Poppy Bisdee, Jonny Briggs, Max Dovey, Ali Kazim, Adeline de Monseignat, Soheila Sokhanvari and former winner of the Aesthetica Creative Works Competition, Julia Vogl. Working across painting, sculpture, performance and film, the shortlist is incredibly diverse, however, there was something about the work of Poppy Bisdee that caught our eye.

A former student of Wimbledon College of Art and a recipient of the LUX Moving Image Prize 2011, Bisdee was recently selected from more than 10,000 graduating students to show her work in Future Map 11, an important annual exhibition which returned to the Zabludowicz Collection for the second year running.

Aesthetica caught up with Poppy Bisdee ahead of the opening to find out more.

BR: Let’s start off by talking about what you do. What is the main thrust of your creative practice? Where did it all begin for you?

PB: I am fascinated by the viewer's experience of art, and the ephemeral elements which make up that experience such as light, space and time. I am interested in the relationship between the viewer and the artwork, and the role of the viewer within the exhibition environment. My work is often a response to a space where it is ultimately to be exhibited. I use various recording and presentation technologies such as film and projection to create minimal sculptures and installations which reflect the exhibition space, the viewer's presence, and the duration of the viewing experience. By mirroring the viewer's physicality through images, sounds and shadows, I hope to bring in to question their role as spectator, subject or performer.

BR: What work will you be showing in the Catlin Art Prize?

PB: For the Catlin Art Prize I will be showing a 24-hour delay video installation, presenting the viewer with a video of the space they are standing in, but 24-hours before. The space will be constantly recorded, so those viewers will be shown in the video the following day. The playing video will also be visible in the recording, so there will be a repetition of the space throughout the recordings. This piece evolved as a development of previous works where I used photography to capture and present the exhibition space.

BR: Why have you chosen to work with recording technologies and projection and what are you hoping to achieve through these media?

PB: Using recording technologies, such as photographs or films, allows me to capture the space and the viewer's experience. Recording film, video or audio allows me to not only capture the visuals, but also a length of time, such as the duration of the viewing experience. Using presentation technologies, such as film projection or data projection, allows me to present the viewer with these recordings. Through my work I explore the sensory qualities of various forms of recording and presentation technologies, for example the quality of light or the mechanical sounds of an old film projector, with the aim to heighten the viewer's perceptive senses. I am especially interested in projection technologies as a projection uses the same ephemeral elements that make up an experience, light, space and time. Projection allows me to explore my ideas of mirroring a space within a space, for example I have created projections of spaces, which fall directly onto the walls of the space where they were originally recorded.

BR: If you had to condense your work into three overarching ideas, what would they be?

PB: If I had to condense my work into three overarching ideas, the first idea would be to explore our self-reflection on our immediate presence in space and time. The second would be to explore our understanding of the exhibition space. The third would be to explore our relationship as viewers with the artwork.

BR: The viewer is a central element in your work, Could you expand on these roles of spectator, subject and performer?

PB: My work is made to draw attention to the viewer’s experience which makes them part of it, and in a way they complete it. This brings into question whether they are spectators of the work, there to simply view and experience it; the subject of the work, there to satisfy the work’s concept; or the performers of the work, there as a physical element of the work. In my opinion, the viewer of my work is all three. With a lot of artworks the viewer is just a spectator, but when experiencing my work I would like the viewer to think more about their role and relationship with the work.

BR: What is your personal opinion on art prizes? What purpose do you feel they serve?

PB: I feel that although art prizes are a great opportunity for artists to gain more exposure in the art world, more importantly they allow the artist to develop their art practice further, giving them more confidence in their ideas, and sometimes allowing them to make work which would otherwise be beyond their means.

BR: What’s next for you?

PB: I am working towards a group show in the summer; details are yet to be confirmed. I am also in the early stages of organising a show with a group of fellow artists, so always looking out for exciting and unusual possible exhibition spaces. For more details and updates, please see my website: www.poppybisdee.com

The Catlin Art Prize 2012, Londonewcastle Project Space, 03/05/2012 - 25/05/2012, 28 Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, London, E2 7DP. www.londonewcastle.com

To read more about how Julia Vogl promotes the idea of community in her work please follow this link for an in-depth interview Aesthetica conducted with the artist in February.

Poppy Bisdee Measure
Courtesy Art Catlin

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