|Carter & Zierle, Pearls of Sustenance|
photo Carl Newland
paul hurley: untitled actuation
Near a pillar by the door there are five packets of Sainsbury's jam doughnuts, sealed, two boxes of eggs, a packet of glitter, a newspaper, another bucket. By the second pillar are three pomegranates, a ball of string, scissors, a bottle of water, a chair with a note on it, a sack of peat. By the next pillar, another galvanized bucket, the skeleton of a parasol, a cycling helmet, a pair of red trainers, a towel, a bottle of red liquid and a packet of something I can't see properly (it was a survival blanket). And by the last pillar, a Polaroid camera and film, four bunches of flowers in cellophane, a pair of wellies and some little bells. We must take off our shoes before entering the room and I assume this is for health & safety reasons. We shall see.
When I go in the second time Hurley's kneeling on a sheet of newspaper cracking eggs on his head. He sprinkles glitter on himself. Looking at the dripping gold mess he's blinking through, I think: pretty.
Sometimes it’s difficult to see all you want to of a durational piece. From the Reading Room I’d heard a tinkling of bells but was delayed. When I did get back in there were no more bells. Hurley had red paint all over his head and neck and was wearing a space blanket over his pants. Some peat had been spread on the floor in the centre. There was an imprint in it and from the dust on his vest, once he’d put it back on, you could see he’d spread out the peat and laid back in it. Smiling, he met my eyes and offered me a doughnut. And it was delicious, and JUST WHAT I WANTED—I’d had the craving since I first went in there. What had he done with the flowers, the water, the towel, the fan? Hints remained, traces on the floor and on his body.
Hurley took off the space blanket and put his vest back on and slipped back into the clumpy golden stilettos, forcing his toes right into the front of them, leaving a gap between his heels and the back of his shoes—the most uncomfortable way to wear high heels that there is. He put the bucket back on his head, started his whistling and resumed a wobbly circuit round the room, this time counter-clockwise. They do say sartorial choices imply interior states: thus, in Buffy, you have the black leather trousers of evil and the red leather trousers of moral ambiguity. Well, I guess Hurley was making his rounds on the dangerous golden stilts of altered states and inspiration: blind and extraordinarily vulnerable in his underwear.
Hearsay: he had attached the bunches of bells to his red trainers, walking round the room like an urban Morris Dancer. Hearsay: he’d held the flowers in front of the fan. Or had he planted them in the peat? Either way, he’d sought shelter under the skeletal parasol. I wonder what it was he did with the feathers? They were all over the floor in front of the fan.
What it was it with the staging posts, I wondered, the four pillars in the room—each furnished with a cache of supplies for a different stage of the journey? And was he going or coming back?
Someone who had been there at the end said Hurley had looked at him intently while tying a pomegranate to the string, attaching it to a pillar and setting it swinging. He had met Hurley’s eyes and they had looked at each other. It was a moment of extraordinary connection. He, the spectator, had gone to sit down by the wall, still observing the pomegranate. Hurley sat down beside him. They were side by side, companiable.
Someone else who had been there had had a feeling that the end of the performance was tied to the moment the fruit should stop swinging. That person watched Hurley and another spectator sit side by side observing the pendulum wind down. It was a moment of extraordinary contact.
carter & zierle: pearls of sustenance
On the Saturday of Inbetween Time you might have gone up the stairs and noticed someone lurking anxiously, holding on to a pillar on the first floor. A slender person wearing a severe grey suit—not expensive, but with a very sharp look and a self-coloured stripe. After you had noticed the tension in her posture you would have seen that on this woman’s head was a castle-like structure composed of overlapping slices of white bread, like a big summer pudding, held in place with fishing twine and invisible adhesive.
Walking on a little way you might have noticed another person in grey lurking behind the lift. Again, the anxiety in him was palpable. His posture was suffused with hesitation, with longing, with a sense of reaching out and being held back by invisible obstructions, intangible barriers; his own weakness perhaps, or a sense of fear. He also wore a bread helmet. Physically he was very like the woman. They were a matching pair, both angular and hyper-sensitive, both with a restrained, conventional look about them. Even the bread-heads added to this sense: both characters, as it were, being muffled and baffled and under wraps.
The man began to edge round the corner past the lifts. Now it was possible for spectators to view both figures at once. She seemed stuck to her pillar as though it were an anchor, the only tangible thing in her grasp apart from the sense of her partner approaching. As though she couldn’t let go of it without falling into some sort of void. He, drawn by invisible strings, moved towards her hesitantly, inch by inch, once or twice sinking to the ground under all that stress.
Both of them shed crumbs: there was a Hansel-and-Gretel trail along his route towards her, while the trace of her own presence drifted sparsely to the floor of the foyer below. The tension between them was so extreme that people kept getting drawn into it; gradually the stairwell and corridor filled with people who couldn’t look away.
At one point she held onto the rail round the pillar with the hand that was behind her back, holding her other hand to her face as though she were studying her fingernails. Under the bread helmet she looked as if she were longing to let go of the pillar, desperately shy and lost. He moved towards her hanging onto the landing rail for dear life.
The last few feet of his journey were electrifying. She yearned towards him, he drew towards her, as though in their fearful state nothing was real but their sense of the other. They touched. She finally let go of the pillar. They stood together tenderly, slowly and blindly, exploring the other. They felt each other thoroughly, hands, arms, shoulders. They stood chest to chest with their hands trapped tightly between them. They explored the bread on each other’s heads. She began to crumble the edges of his helmet, and he to reciprocate.
Very slowly each began the destruction of the other’s mask. She rolled tiny little bread pills and dropped them to the landing below, stretching her arms wide. She uncovered his mouth. He uncovered her face. She began to feed him some of the pellets her enquiring hands had fashioned. By the time I left both of them had lost enough bread to be able to see the other’s face. They stood there in their bubble of mutuality at the top of the stairs: the attrition continued.
Inbetween Time Festival of Live Art and Intrigue: Paul Hurley, Untitled Actuation, Arnolfini Light Studio, Dec 2; Carter & Zierle, Pearls of Sustenance, Dec 4; Dec 1-2, Bristol UK
Our coverage of the 2010 Inbetween Time Festival is a joint venture between RealTime and Inbetween Time Productions
Osunwunmi is an artist living in Bristol. After a long time working in video she is cautiously but optimistically moving into Live Art practice
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