|Helen Cole |
photo Jamie Woodley
Cole’s concern for chemistry characterises Inbetween Time (IBT), a festival where the parties and pauses for conversation and exchange are as carefully configured as the performances. I attended the festival in its early days and was captivated by the sense of community generated by Cole around an esoteric and little known new festival in the small city of Bristol. Artists I had never heard of were mingling cheerfully with their better-known peers and international presenters in the Arnolfini gallery’s cosy bar. The work was carefully contextualised to accommodate emerging and established practice and make the five-day event feel like a singular, intense immersion into a range of practices anchored in the body.
Since 2001, the festival has grown in scale and profile and several of those emerging artists have similarly acquired international repute. Cole acknowledges that this year's festival is her most ambitious to date, with new venues added to the central Arnolfini gallery and performance spaces as well as an extensive sited program in public spaces. Now independently produced, IBT is a partnership with Arnolfini, where Cole was the Producer of Live Art and Dance for 12 years. With the majority of its funding for three years coming from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, IBT is in a relatively robust position amidst the devastation wrought by diminished arts funding in the UK.
“It was hard to celebrate this year,” says Cole, “knowing about the challenges facing the arts sector. Not to mention the snow!” Images from the festival, of which there are many on the websites documenting IBT, show panels of rugged-up presenters, artists and audiences engaged in joyful defiance of the snow. “There was a true spirit of the Blitz,” says Cole, “we were all in it together. The usual eccentric moments were magnified.”
highlights & new parameters
Cole cites several highlights in the 75 productions in her program, speaking with great enthusiasm of Frontman by Action Hero, the local group who have been garnering significant attention nationally and were facing that difficult hurdle of recreating the impact of their breakthrough work. In a new partnership with Circomedia, the Bristol based circus development organisation, IBT programmed Action Hero’s new work in a large church, creating an incongruous gig-like feel with dry ice and pumping sound. Cole rates the success of this satisfying production as highly as she does the extremely uncomfortable two works presented by British comedian, Kim Noble. “Kim pushed all the edges,” says Cole, “crossing from the intensely private into the public and making everyone cringe.” There was another cringing highlight for Cole in the Belgian production, Still Standing You by Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido from CAMPO (above). Presented as part of the Lecturama mid-morning program, this confrontingly visceral grappling dance between two big blokes, had everyone wincing over their coffees.
The CAMPO production is testimony to the longevity of the relationships Cole holds with peer producers in Europe. Kristof Blom, CAMPO’s producer, joined Nayse Lopes of Panorama Festival in Rio de Janeiro and Fiona Winning from Australia on an International Curators’ Panel about the modus operandi he shares with Cole: his recommendation gave her the confidence to program Still Standing You from video alone.
This unlikely dance work demonstrates that IBT is about more than live art. The festival's brochure explicitly states that its D:Stable strand comprises “new artist commissions, premières and international co-productions that thoroughly reject theatre convention.” New experimental works by such celebrated names as Blast Theory, Ivana Muller, Quarantine and Tim Etchells stand alongside home grown premieres from Timothy X Atack and Tanuja Amarasuriya, Alex Bradley or Cole’s own production, Collecting Fireworks.
There is a through line of exploration that unites the broad diversity of the program and creates that sense of communal adventure that resonates throughout the experience of attending IBT. Cole says, “I am curating conceptually and choosing work that makes sense in a program. I want audiences to consider not just these works, but a body of work and a conversation with an artist that is as much about where they are as where they are going next.”
|Sarah Jane Norman, Take This, For It Is My Body|
photo Carl Newland
the australian connection
Three Australian works in IBT10 reflected Cole’s lengthy engagement with Australian contemporary performance. She first visited Performance Space in Sydney in 2000, striking up a relationship with then director Fiona Winning that finds its manifestation in 2010 in Winning appearing in Dancing the Dead with Victoria Hunt in the program strand connected to the Arnolfini exhibition, What Next for the Body.
“This work surprised me with how well it was received,“ says Cole, “given how little we know of that culture (Hunt’s Maori heritage is explored in conversation and dance). Fiona and Victoria found a way of talking about the making of new work in front of people who do not know either of them, or the themes of the work and held it all together. This sort of exploratory conversation really works in IBT.”
Another Performance Space connection led to the programming of Take This, For It Is My Body by Sarah Jane Norman, also in Arnolfini. “This one-on-one work was very simple,” says Cole. “I am not sure how much the audience could access the references to Australian Aboriginal culture, but they clearly understood the conceptual significance of Sarah Jane’s mixing of her blood into the bread and were challenged by her offer to consume it.” Cole saw Norman at Sydney's PACT around 2004 and followed her trajectory through the creation of her independent work in Australia and then internationally. “We have been in conversation for several years,” she says.
A more recent conversation, and one that seems at first glance to be less likely, is Cole’s commission for Geelong based Back to Back Theatre. “Despite our very different aesthetic tastes, we share the same commitment to building community around our work,” Cole says. “I learned an awful lot from having them make The Democratic Set with us over 10 days in Bristol. It is very politically current to work with diverse communities and make participatory work, but this is something different. They have such a light touch and such clear curatorial thinking. The relationships they built so quickly with our community were staggering. They worked with over 100 people without blinking. The project is so simple, so elegant and so heart-warming. There was a frenzy of about 400 people trying to get into the gala premiere screening. I am sure this is just the beginning for us. Back to Back have a community in Bristol now; people who have given something of themselves to the company and have started a relationship with them. Bruce [Gladwin, Back to Back's director], an artist from the other side of the world spoke at our opening event and it just felt right. Sometimes you find yourself on the other side of the world, and you are at home.”
The number and diversity of artists who find themselves at home in Bristol is increasing year by year as Cole continues to pitch her close knit community of local artists further and deeper into the international context.
Inbetween Time Festival of Live Art & Intrigue, Bristol, UK, Dec 1-5, www.inbetweentime.co.uk
Our coverage of the 2010 Inbetween Time Festival is a joint venture between RealTime and Inbetween Time Productions
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