Friday, August 29, 2014

IMPURITANS // LAUNCH⇪PAD at Trispace Gallery, 28th August 2014

The sign on the wall read "Performances may contain traces of nudity, violence, strobe effects, limited visibility and bodily fluids."  My kinda night!  Nestled underground in the cellars of the the old Bermondsey biscuit factory, Trispace Gallery is a friendly, snug space with the pleasant bonus of having a charming, chubby pug waddling happily around it. That would turn out to be the cutest thing about an evening that descended into freaky-deaky weirdness pretty damn fast.  Maybe best not to read this article at work.

IMPURITANS is the 2nd LAUNCH⇪PAD event, organised by the lovely people at CLUSTER BOMB [collective].  It's a performance art showcase and flitting around the room are faces both familiar and new, but all determined to kick back against accepted morality and modes of thinking.  What happened was a weirdly erotic cocktail, all winking arseholes, convulsive thrashing and dirt-eating.

Silvereley Allen
Things started charmingly enough, with a couple of songs by Silvereley Allen.  With just a keyboard and her voice, she took us through a few of her own numbers and TV on the Radio cover.  It was decent enough stuff, and Allen's intricate keyboard skills certainly set the crowd all a-flicker.  Her Easier Said Than Done was an obvious highlight, with some neat polyrhythms at play that look tricky as hell to pull off. 

Things took a step towards the extreme from here, with Andre Verissimo leading us into a dimly-lit space at the back and giving us Gut Twilight.  Cloaked in darkness and clad in a fetching aquamarine skirt he instructed us to scream as loud as we could.  We did.  Following this he lay down on the floor and pulled up his skirt to reveal that he'd stuck a doll's head on his cock and balls, which he angled around the room as if it was looking at us.  Then he jabbed a hypodermic needle into his cock and engaged in a bit of the old winking arsehole routine at the audience, before wrapping things up with a light bit of harmonica-scored shadow play.

Andre Verissimo
It's a testament to the audience they took being stared at by the triple-eyed dolls head/anus hybrid entirely in stride.  As for me, while I could appreciate the bizarro genderfucked birth imagery at play in having a baby's head appear from a man's genitalia, all I could think was that I was experiencing a John Waters film in real time (in particular the famous 'singing asshole' scene from Pink Flamingos).  Applying concrete meaning to a sight like this is missing the point a bit, what's best to grip onto is the sensations you feel staring at a sight like this; shock, disgust, confusion and the growing urge to giggle.  

Emma Louvelle
Following this was You are Drunk Frozen Snowflake; by Emma Louvelle.  After having written a message on a large piece of paper she leapt into a wild dance. Her movements are obviously carefully choreographed, yet they look like her muscles are being involuntarily jerked by a sadistic puppetmaster - like on-stage electro-convulsive therapy.  She's all jabbing elbows, whip-crack neck movements and fierce kicks, a grimly determined expression on her face. It's so intense that it crosses into intimidation - and being a tiny bit scared that she's going to shoot this aggression out into the audience is an interesting sensation.

Robert John Foster
Simmering under all this were two durational performances by Robert John Foster and Skew Wiff.  Foster spent the entire night standing motionless in the corner with a lampshade on his head.  Credit where credit's due - doing this for three hours takes a hell of a lot of patience and physical effort.  It was interesting how quickly I began treating him as furniture rather than a person.  I was happily having chats with friends right next to him, constantly forgetting that there was a real person underneath.

Skew Wiff
Skew Wiff's performance TOI (Tale of the Invisible) appeared to be some kind of night-long cathartic expunging of the artist's psychological trauma.  At various times he was dipping his head in a bucket of murky water, discordantly playing an accordion or simply catatonically crouching naked in the corner.  I noticed he'd written "I peed on the floor" on the wall, so I suppose he did that too at some point.  Though it looked interesting  enough, this regression into a primal state of madness stuff isn't really my kettle of fish - always reminding a bit of Brian from Spaced.  Still, this sort of thing works nicely enough as a durational performance, and when you're waiting in between the other acts it's nice to pop over and see what he's up to: "Oh, he's writhing in agony while covered in black goo. Neat." 

Matt Goodmith
I initially figured Matt Goodsmith's Tertiary was hitting another of my performance art turnoffs, namely being extremely boring on purpose.  With two chairs on stage, he and another artist moved between them in patterns, moving between sitting and standing next to each other.  Hyper-conceptual pattern-based repetition drives me up the wall, but thankfully things evolved pretty quickly towards something more interesting.  They established two games with simple rules and invited the crowd to participate.  Very quickly, the crowd worked out ways to bend these rules, and little systems and movements sprang up from some very simple building blocks.  There was some nice adversarial confrontation between artist and audience here - each trying to outwit the other.

Next on was Jasmine Pytelová with Love Your Mother - which took the form of an intense magical ritual.  She took the stage in a red dress, a red and white cross drawn on her face and feathers in her hair..  Ripping the dress off revealed that the red line carried on down her torso, over her belly and all the way to her left foot.  Naked she slowly ground herself into a pile of soil at her feet, the room quickly filling with a warm, earthy smell.  She rubbed it all over her body, even eating some of it.  The sight of her staring out at us, blackened soil-stained lips was crazy powerful - giving me a good old-fashioned case of the cold shivers.

Jasmine Pytelova
It perhaps goes without saying that this ecosexual communion was powerfully and primally erotic.  As she writhed atop the dirt, pressing it into herself, the boundaries between human and environment being broken down piece by piece until they were one. The frank sexuality, pagan imagery and ecological bent of the piece hearkened back to sixties hippie performance artists, who were themselves referencing rituals from around the world, a continuity stretching back through ages. So it's appropriate that Pytelová concluded by wrapping a string around the audience's necks and connecting that to a small plant she'd planted in the mound, thus linking us all in one big sexy circle of life - our atavistic desire to spread our genes desire literally to mud, bacteria and foliage.  

I thought it was dead good.

Annamaria Pinaka & Jennifer Picken
Rounding out the evening was Annamaria Pinaka and Jennifer Picken's drag king reworking of Dead or Alive's You Spin Me Round.  Despite the three red-dress wearing dancers at the rear pulling 60s doo-wop shapes, the tone is pretty damn far from glamorous.  These personae the kind of smelly men you get stuck in line next to at the Post Office - all bad breath, deeply questionable personal hygiene and stained clothing.  With underpants bulging and lascivious expressions on their faces they slowly dance like a clinically depressed uncle at a wedding, revolving like they don't give a fuck.  It's a creepshow sight, and the perfect capper to a fascinating night.

My other option for the evening was to watch a film in which Helen Mirren opens a curryhouse in Paris.  Looks like I made the right call.

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