What If… Festival 2010 Catalogue Essay

What If…
A festival drawing from work in dance, film and live art
7-11 April 2010
Siobhan Davies Studios, London

Curated by Lucy Cash, Becky Edmunds. Claudia Kappenberg and Chirstinn Whyte with Gill Clarke from Independent Dance. Conceived and directed by Lucy Cash as part of a Screen Dance Fellowship at South East Dance. Produced by Cheryl Pierce at Artsadmin and Gill Clarke at Independent Dance.

Supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England; South East Dance through the Flourish professional development programme, the Goethe Institut; Siobhan Davies Studios, University of Brighton, Artsadmin and Independent Dance.

Catalogue Essay – Chirstinn Whyte – March 2010

What If… five artists, two producing bodies…a series of meetings, over several months…beyond a standard-length screening format…a throughline of translation between live and screen…

A series of encounters, spread over several days, and through the fabric of a three-storey building, begins by crossing the threshold of the Siobhan Davies Studios. Viewers may variously meet with John Smith and Graeme Miller, arranging image and audio in Beside the A Side, or Sheila Ghelani, physically present, while incarnated as onscreen close-up in Give Me Land Lots of Land; Simon Vincenzi’s multilevelled mediation of screen-related movement, guarded by goat-legged creature, in The Ouoboros Recording #2 an installation in obverse as part of Operation Infinity; or the dark-screened immersive goggles of Clara Garcia-Fraile’s and Sam Pearson’s When We Meet Again.

…a paradigm shift…an imaginative leap…an opening up of possibility…

At ground floor screening stations, Becky Edmunds’ Have You Started Dancing Yet? weaves strands of reflection and response into edit-enabled composition, while After Thinking About Pocahontas and Meshrinks Edmunds’ and Fiona Wright’s image sequencing to a series of table-top-set, matchbox-sized iPods. Viewed from an under-stairs cinema, with strictly limited seating capacity, the thin brown strands of unspooled audio tape in John Smith’s Lost Sound appear throughout East London streets as landlocked urban algae, set against Graeme Miller’s sampled layering of tolling bells; church organ and the distorted pulsing of faintly recognisable song.

…cross-disciplinary practice…a through-composed space…part gallery, part salon…

On upper floor screens, Cornelia Parker sporadically freezes Noam Chomsky’s silver-haired talking head into still and dissolve in Chomskian Abstract, as a periodic absence of sound translates and magnifies the language of listening into a semaphore of blinks; a rhythmic pairing of scratch and shrug. In Miranda Pennell’s You Made Me Love You, the task-driven engagement of densely grouped dance students, attempting to match an abruptly changing camera pace, is echoed elsewhere by the close-in, singly filmed immersion of Drum Room’s teenage musicians, rapt behind headphones or hunched over fretboards. Rosemary Butcher’s monochrome, film-grained movement world is set against stone-worked, architectural detail in Nicola Baldwin’s D2, while Tim Etchells’ minimal text descriptions of 100 People, spread across four quarters of a darkened screen, allow images to arise directly in the viewing mind, and in Eva Meyer Keller’s Death Is Certain, individual cherries – matter-of-factly selected by juice-stained, white-aproned artist from carefully arranged rows – are fumigated, flambéed or filed down to the pit.

…scale, repetition and context…a lens of choreographic possibility…dynamically evolving processes…

Exploring alternative screening options, Trace’s digitised motion tracking, twinned with Flicker’s simulated instability, complement the ten fleeting microworks of Chirstinn Whyte’s iPod-looped Playlist.  Claudia Kappenberg’s Moebius layers archive material and contemporary footage as visual interrelation of past and present, while the found footage of David Hinton and Rosemary Lee’s Snow builds to accretive rhythmic edit. Lucy Cash’s A Last, A Quartet, takes source material from Chicago-based Goat Island’s final performance project, translated to quadruple screens, with focus shifting between a semicircular arrangement of monitors, and spinning, overhead mirror-ball. Elsewhere, Cash’s vividly-coloured, keyhole-glimpsed fragments in Off Cuts No. 9 Falling for You alternate by day with the greyscale, hyper-kinetic, late-shift repetition of Oreet Ashery’s Oh Jerusalem, while the vertical anchor point of Becky Edmunds’ Stand In  is set against slowly shifting, snow-covered vistas, punctuated by Scott Smith’s sparse instrumentation and ambient sound.

…cross-pollination and interconnecting areas…stages of hybridity…performative interventions and email dialogue…

On reaching the top floor, viewers may encounter Berlin-based Nik Haffner and Christina Ciupke, midway between speech and motion in Subtitles; Augusto Corrieri’s specially-commissioned exploration of synched-sound and simultaneous action, or written festival responses, ranging from anthropological study to scripted dialogue. On screen, Sally Potter’s early work contrasts the slowed, split-screen repetition of Play’s window-filmed foot traffic, with Jerk’s dislocating, inorganic image progression. Chirstinn Whyte’s ascii-coded Text Field  is paired with Splice’s reconfigured stills, while Claudia Kappenberg uses pauses, hesitations and inarticulacies as the building blocks of Words in Silence  and Curse On My Dreams, andEl Fuego’s black-burning smoke clouds combine with the ice-set camera spin of Becky Edmunds’ Skate.

…absorbing and reflecting…incomings and outgoings…companion pieces and rhythmic phrasing…

Threaded elsewhere through festival scheduling, a steadily-paced camera shifts across the loosely lined rows of a caravan park in Rosie Pedlow and Joe King’s Sea Change, as daylight turns to dusk, then darkness and early morning mist, while time-lapsed cloud paths and quick-fire flickering of headlamp trajectories conjure a nocturnal array of forest-set Strange Lights. Nic Sandiland and Simon Aeppli’s single-shot Exosphere  shifts from lunar-like ground level close-up to the wide expanse of an aerial view, while Aeppli’s In Case I Disappear  constructs a personalised sense of place, decodable from fleeting fragments of aural and visual, linked by the self-flicking pages of a hand-written notebook. Narrative experimentation surfaces in Christine Lawlor and Joe Molloy’s use of exterior-set slow-motion in Joy; split-screen mapping of emotional territory in the precisely-contained interior space of Marisa Zanotti’s Being Norwegian, and Danièle Wilmouth’s high speed camera rotation, demarcating the non-linear, episodic structure of A Heretic’s Primer on Love & Exertion: 29 Incidents of Dual Consequence. Meanwhile, the intense facial close-up of Anna Teresa de Keersmaeker and Walter Verdin’s Monologuesits alongside Jaki Irvine’s intimate voice-over and low-key, domestic setting in Eyelashes.

…a process-driven nexus of influence and approach…

Through longer timeframes, camera journey and physical pathways converge in Clio Barnard’s Lambeth Marsh, in a genre-blurred collision of seen, heard, remembered and imagined, while ceiling tiles; thickly-glazed windows and a t.v. screen make up the minutiae of John Smith’s immediate environments in the multi-section Hotel Diaries, as artists’ voice-over muses on insulation from ongoing global conflicts. In Adam Roberts’ Three, a moving camera records the paths of watchful eyes in a contemporary living room, as two figures slip between screens, while Rachel Davies layers female voices, revisiting their teenage years, in The Assembly’s gradually unfolding opening sequence, as shadow replaces sunlight across rows of empty metal chairs.

…a cross-section of alternatives and experimentation…rich multiple histories…diversity of practice base…


…What If…we could read all this in relation to dance?…