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ibt13


excretal, harmful, mournful, wonderful

tim x atack: in between time 13, bristol, uk

Timothy X Atack is a writer and composer. He is one half of Sleepdogs, a member of the band angel tech, and artist in residence at Pervasive Media Studio, Watershed.

Images: top - Tim Etchells, Untitled (after Violent Incident), IBT13 Images: top - Tim Etchells, Untitled (after Violent Incident), IBT13
photo Oliver Rudkin
THERE’S A GENERAL THEME OF HOSPITALITY RUNNING THROUGH THIS YEAR’S IN BETWEEN TIME, WHERE EVERY OTHER PERFORMANCE COMES WITH A FREE ALCOHOLIC DRINK AND YOU’RE AS LIKELY TO BE USHERED INTO A PLUSH TOWNHOUSE, OR A CAMPFIRE-LIKE CIRCLE IN THE TWILIT FOREST, AS A BLACK BOX STUDIO. IT’S RARELY A PASSIVE EXPERIENCE FOR THE AUDIENCE.

alex bradley, field test

Alex Bradley’s solar-powered churchyard installation Field Test invites you to gaze up at tree branches filled with constellations of LED lights, as sweet music drifts from bird-box speakers all around you. Even here, in an overlooked backstreet of central Bristol, a busker has stumbled upon Bradley’s ambient meditation and is adding long, surprisingly sensitive violin motifs to the rich textures and city noise. People come and go in the dark. Drug dealers try, unsuccessfully, to tout their wares. The electronics are enough.

tim etchells, untitled (after violent incident)

In Between Time’s air of hospitality is gratefully received by an enthusiastic and vocal audience. Bristol has been missing the large-scale curation of a certain kind of performance (most often non-mimetic, non-narrative, physically uncompromising and oblique in immediate intent) since the last IBT in 2010. On the opening night, Arnolfini is packed so tight you can barely move, and I plant myself in front of Tim Etchells’ Untitled (after Violent Incident), a live version of his Bruce Nauman-inspired video work, to catch the whole thing from start to finish. Two performers re-enact a compression of the actions and atmospheres from Nauman’s 1986 multi-screen installation, a repetitive set of altercations, slaps, pratfalls and grievous bodily harms around a dinner table, stuck in a loop—but a human loop, imperfect, with the male and female performers sometimes recognising the absurdity of their actions in tiny and knowing ways. Over time it becomes alternately horrifying, hilarious and exhausting, a ritual derived from data retrieved from a faulty drive. It’s as interesting to watch your fellow audience as it is the choreography: to see where they laugh, where they frown, markedly different expressions upon every face in the crowd at any given point.

holzinger & riebeek, kein applaus für scheisse

Kein Applaus fur Scheisse, Holzinger & Riebeek, IBT13 Kein Applaus fur Scheisse, Holzinger & Riebeek, IBT13
photo Oliver Rudkin
I find myself thinking back to Untitled later in the weekend, when Florentina Holzinger and Victor Riebeek stage Kein Applaus Für Scheisse, also an account of negotiations between a man and woman, but this time it’s a goofy, sweet portrait of the artists’ real-life relationship—albeit thoroughly excretal. Dressed like acid-house hippies and singing bad karaoke, Holzinger and Riebeek present a series of tableaux with their bodies and bodily functions at the centre. He eats a trail of red string from her vagina; they dance in formal but bungled style, limbs knocking against each other; he urinates on her and she spits it out into his open mouth. In this instance you don’t need to see the audience’s faces. You can hear them. At the point where Riebeek genuinely and repeatedly vomits a startling pure blue liquid onto Holzinger’s arching body, there are gasps, jeers, laughter, and someone behind me involuntarily exclaims: “Easy, tiger!” But beyond the human fluids, the pictures are slowly becoming more formal, more obviously constructed, more touching even. It’s awkward but honest. Holzinger looks up at us, covered in her lover’s blue bile, and mutters: “I need to take antibiotics, I have the allergies.” It’s another ritual from an obscure corner of the world, but this time you get the sense that these two dancing geeks will keep on changing it, making it relevant to each destination and each other as they see fit, and shrugging off anyone who thinks it perverse.

the vacuum cleaner, mental

The vacuum cleaner (“an artist collective of one”) in his solo show, Mental, invites us into a very different kind of autobiography. It’s billed as a work-in-progress but already constitutes one of the most powerful portraits of creativity and depression I’ve ever seen. Twelve of us are bussed to a sparsely furnished bedroom in a hilly part of the city and fed tea and cake until the artist emerges, rheumy-eyed, from underneath a duvet. With grim countenance he pulls folders bulging with documents from under the covers and pillows: his psychiatric reports, his police records. One by one he slides acetates onto an OHP, reads out extracts, then flicks them away, as the story of his fight with the black dog plays out through medical assessments and the unintentionally hilarious prose employed by officers of the law. It’s a heart-rending journey—because the vacuum cleaner has set himself up for a fall: his work, anchored in activism and social justice, is about desperately hoping for the best from the world. And on those terms the world often tends to kick you in the teeth.

Mental is presented in a familiar way, in the tradition perhaps of Bowery-loft performance art, the artist’s life writ large. But there are some remarkable little victories, observations and stings in the tale that make it as important to the listener as the speaker. At the end, when it’s done, I sit and eat a piece of carrot cake that—for reasons I can’t even begin to divulge—has become the saddest and most beautiful taste I can possibly imagine.

emma bennett, slideshow birdshow

Emma Bennett, Slideshow Birdshow, IBT13 Emma Bennett, Slideshow Birdshow, IBT13
photo Delia Spatareanu
At the other end of the emotional scale the biggest laughs at IBT13 come thanks to Emma Bennett’s uncooperative powerpoint lecture, Slideshow Birdshow. Quiet and formal, Bennett begins to deliver a dull talk about ornithology but rapidly gets derailed by a chain of fuzzy, unhelpful and repetitive images that lead her into a cut-up verbal dance. She’s confused but seems compelled to keep talking, continually repeating useless, self-evident details back and forth in time with the slides; and what emerges is a piece of music, like spliced tape running off the spool, out of control, peppered with occasional exclamations or expletives. Towards the end of this short performance the laughter subsides, the rhythms generate an odd calm—and with massively pixelated images flashing by, Bennett’s trembling voice in perfect and unlikely synch with them, her wordless tones turn into a quivering digital birdsong all of their own, singing from somewhere deep inside the machine.


In Between Time: Alex Bradley, Field Test; Tim Etchells, Untitled (after Violent Incident); Holzinger and Riebeek, Kein Applaus Für Scheisse; the vacuum cleaner, Mental; Emma Bennett, Slideshow Birdshow; Bristol, UK, Feb 14-17

Timothy X Atack is a writer and composer. He is one half of Sleepdogs, a member of the band angel tech, and artist in residence at Pervasive Media Studio, Watershed.

RealTime issue #114 April-May 2013 pg. 22

© Timothy X Atack; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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