Experimentica, 1st Day, Chapter

April 12, 2018 by

Well, it’s about time at Experimentica. This is the theme for this year’s live arts festival. The five days shall prove inspiring, infuriating and exhausting. In short, it never fails to impress.    

Whilst the timely theme lingers large, the first day of performances had elements of humanity, magic and the beyond. For four of the festival days Sonia Hughes and Jo Fong are creating neither Here Nor There. Inspired by the work of Franck Bock and Katye Coe, the audience are the performers, of sorts as we each take it in turns to have a one to one conversation with each other. With probing prompts like “Where is your dad from?” Or “Are there any others questions you would like to ask”, we had a sort of six-minute therapy session each time engaged with the listener (who could not talk). This is a curious way to spend an afternoon, to say the least.

The experience was somehow uplifting and the time period we had went super quick. There was encouragement for the conversations to carry on, though I sadly had to depart. The breaking down of formality was also accomplished with something as simple as offering us soup and fruit at the start. As we listened to each other, we realised that truths about ourselves were being born within the moment, a rare experience. To sit with Jo even for a few minutes was an honour, we talked of mental health, Chineseness and what it meant to be an artist today. I was thankful for those who had opened up to me in these questions, as I did to them. More of this could only be a good thing. 

After a few hours space, the return back to Chapter was met with an affront. Beth Greenhalgh and Experiment in Terror – There is Something in the walls other than pipe, brick and wire, was in the studio for a two-hour period, so the option of popping in and out was an option. I’ll confess, my time with the piece was sporadic, though I did see progression throughout. Beth was encased within a cube, covered in translucent plastic wrapping. Inside she unties a giant rope above her, looking like the root of a giant tree. She appears to wrap it round a book and fuse it in other objects only to have it all burnt at the end, as an electric guitar blasted within. There were a nice few touches to the project: video work in the corner has its own weird vibes and the static metronome, with a hanging ice sculpture (producing its own tics as it dripped) was a clever sound piece of its own. Perhaps I required more patience, though the disconnect was strong here.

We ending the first day with a bit of a worry. Having to sign forms for Nahum show left many thinking he could do all sorts to us when we where under hypnosis. Though there was nothing to worry about, the experience was still an incredible venture and one that I won’t forget for some time. So, we arrive in the space and what do we see? A sack of sand gracefully falling to the floor, (a bit overdone?). Nahum arrives and talks about time in abstract ways, there is video work of a plane journey and we are then witness to the unveiling of where we are to sit: in a circle of chairs, all of which face outwards. This was an intense way to get our attention. We followed promptly. 

Essentially meditation, Nahum guides us through many visions in our own minds, as our eyes are closed. He triggers in us intense memories and visions that might be too much for some (I heard one person walk out), creating the theatre in our minds to come alive. At one point, I felt like I was losing myself, not quite sleep but just a very heavy feeling of stillness. It was a bit much and I found myself alarming myself. Perhaps if this was longer, I could to that place again and find myself in a better realm. This is a highly stimulating experiment which to be honest, this is the type of thing that you will either love or be bored by. I guess some spirits need the tranquility more than others. 

On to day two…    


Neither Here Nor There continues at Experimentica till 14th April 2018.

Experimentica continues at Chapter Arts Centre till 15th April 2018.    


James Ellis plays the Vexations by Erik Satie at St Canna’s Ale House at 14th April 2018 at 4pm. Donations to OCD UK. All welcome.  

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