Saturday, May 18, 2013

'LUPA 19' behind James Campbell House, 17th May 2013

Boy this was a weird one.  You should know that objectivity has officially taken a tumble over the cliff and lies in mangled pieces on the rocks below.  This is going to take some explaining.  So, I've been going to LUPA for over a year now and I usually head home afterwards with a brain brimming over new images, ideas and just plain enthusiasm.  My friends get it in the neck; hearing me excitedly babble about rubber mermaid ladies, or a person with a big clay face, or guys maniacally dancing to Justice.  This was the final LUPA in this form (there's a final fete on June 15th), so I finally convinced them to come with me. I wanted them to see what I've been doing with my Friday nights.

I was desperately hoping that there'd be a good crowd, that the weather would hold up and most importantly, that the art would actually be good.  Well, there was a decent crowd, and though the sky began to bruise it never tipped over into wetness.  The performances though?  Well the first thing we heard was that there was a problem.  One of the performers couldn't make it, so organisers Kate Mahony and Jordan McKenzie asked if there was anyone in the crowd that would consider doing an impromptu piece.

I always feel a little guilty whenever I slate someone's art.  It's easy to hide behind a computer screen and slag off people's hard work. Admittedly, a panning can be great fun to write, but there's always a ghost on my shoulder reminding me that as much as I might find something trite, contrived or just plain boring, at least they're putting themselves out there in front of an audience.  Who am I to judge any performance if I'm just standing on the sidelines?

All this raced quickly through my mind, and, with an smile and a nod from my friends I shot my hand in the air and volunteered.  I immediately regretted the decision.  "Holy shit what the hell have I done?"  But there was no time to worry.  My friend Jacob Brookman quickly volunteered to help, and out of nowhere two new faces appeared; Spike McClarrity and Andi Schmied, both offering to help out.  Now we had ten minutes to come up with something that wouldn't be horribly embarrassing and awkward for all concerned.

Florence Peake twirling away
Of course at the same time LUPA was merrily continuing on, and I still wanted to write about it.  So with butterflies fluttering in my stomach I went off to see Florence Peake.  She explained that she wanted to do a dance piece that summarised all of her performances so far.  Now, I don't think I've seen Florence perform before, so I figured if she's summarising that tends to indicate that she's moving on to fresh artistic pastures.

In an increasingly eerie silence she hurtled around the car park twirling and striking poses.  The lack of music made me feel uncomfortable, my mind was trying and failing to fit these movements to a rhythm that wasn't there.  Fortunately in a spontaneous development, the kids who hang around in the car park began imitating her on the garage roof behind her.  It didn't like an especially cruel imitation, but it was enough of a parody to satisfyingly deflate any pomposity from the piece.  I feel a little disingenuous writing a review of this, because I was in a slight panic about the impending performance I had just volunteered for.  So I made my way to the back to chat and confer with Jacob, Andi and Spike.

There was another performance last night though, an entirely audio based, decentralised and personal one.  Earlier in the week LUPA had asked for phone numbers for people that wanted to be rapped at.  Unfortunately due to being on a bike when David called I missed his call.  Fortunately he left an answerphone message:

Pretty cool huh? If I'm leading a life where that ends up on my answer-phone I feel like I'm doing something right.  There's something weirdly intimate about receiving a personalised piece of music like this.  If I'd received the call I think I'd have been a bit uncomfortable listening to it.  The effect is lessened as an answer-phone message, but it's still got strong elements of immediacy and danger.  The nature of the piece means it's inevitably a one on one performance, and though he's obviously elsewhere, in another sense he's pressed right up against my ear.  The fact that he's a disembodied voice also adds to the effect; it makes him a ghost in the machine, an ephemeral rather than concrete presence.  I wish more people would rap at me down the phone!

The next act on was George Nesbitt, who performed a short monologue about gates and doors and whatnot.  I didn't like it and the fact that he couldn't even be bothered to put down his can of Magners before performing spoke volumes to me.  I don't know how much notice artists get before they perform at LUPA, but this looked like something thrown together pretty scrappily.  Considering the effort and time that some of the artists put into their pieces this was a bit underwhelming.

George Nesbitt
Still, we were up next, and I was secretly glad that we didn't have to follow something mindblowingly excellent.  Between the four of us we'd come up with an idea to do a fake trial that involved trying someone for 'sartorial inelegance'.  Spike was the defendant, Andi was prosecution counsel and Jacob was for the defence.  I was the Judge.  I figured that a court setting would let us do a spot of improvising within a set structure.  A trial has a definite beginning, middle and end, so at least we were pretty sure that this wasn't going to fizzle out into nothing.  Also, considering that every time I come to LUPA I spend my time judging other people's performances it seemed only appropriate for me to do some judging within the context of a performance.

Stepping in at the last minute.
I was mildly terrified, but as soon as we got going everything seemed to click.  I don't know if it was a good piece of performance art but, most importantly, I don't think we humiliated ourselves.  It was probably about as good a piece as we could manage considering most of us were strangers to each other and we had ten minutes preparation time.  Arguably not having too much time to think about what we were going to do turned out to be a good thing, there's no time to over-think things, you go on instinctive ideas.  Sure, the end product was rough and scrappy, but sometimes it's better that way. After it had finished I was secretly pretty pleased with what we'd managed to do together.  If anyone wants to chip on what they thought of it feel free!

On last was Fiona Wright who did a quavering monologue about a play she's in the process of writing.  I'm not sure if she's a really great actor or just incredibly nervous.  I suspect the latter; her hands were trembling and her speech was measured with frequent long, awkward pauses.  Further adding to this introverted atmosphere was that she retreated back into the LUPA garage, encouraging us to come closer.  The interior of the garage suddenly felt quite claustrophobic.

Fiona Wright
Once inside she pulled out a giant foldable 'sun', which popped into life with a fabricky twang.  Holding this she read from a shopping list before showing us a picture of a house from the 1970s.  I quite liked the shopping list part, it's one of the most casual possible forms of writing.  When you write a shopping list it's a functional note to yourself with abbreviations that only you might understand.  So when she reads out "Toms. Mush. Guinness?" it's a rare peek into an unvarnished internal life that's so mundane it doesn't even really occur to keep it a secret.  But then, this boring internal life is the thought pattern we're stuck in for most of the day, a life of petty domestic issues largely over-looked by both art and history.

It's hard to evaluate this LUPA.  I'm incredibly glad I came and really happy that Kate and Jordan gave us the opportunity to perform something.  Meeting Andi and Spike and working with them at short notice was great fun, as was performing with my friend Jacob.  But I don't think this was the best LUPA I've been to; the performances were too dialled down.  That's not necessarily a bad thing (whether I'm entertained or not by this stuff isn't the point), but I had a hankering for wanting to show off how brilliant LUPA can be to my friends. Two monologues and a silent piece of dance was a bit low-key.  Still, I wouldn't have passed up the opportunity to actually do some kind of performance (good or bad) for the world, so last night, as far as I'm concerned, was wonderful.  Afterwards I was dancing on rainbows for the rest of the night.

The final LUPA fete is on June 15 - introduced by Jo Brand!

If anyone has any pictures of our performance, I'd be eternally grateful if you sent them my way.

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