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two moons, new worlds

osunwunmi: in between time festival, bristol, uk

Osunwunmi is an artist living in Bristol. After a long time working in video and digital media she is cautiously but steadily moving into Live Art practice.

Fake Moon, Simon Faithfull, IBT13 Fake Moon, Simon Faithfull, IBT13
photo Paul Blakemore

simon faithfull, fake moon

As night fell the globe lifted above the rattling winter branches, high as the golden unicorn crowning the Civic Centre. Not quite as high as the turret of the Cathedral—definitely not as high as the waxing silver arc far above—but huge, soft and luminous, an accessible wonder. This extra moon would shine for the four nights of the festival.

College Green filled up with people diverted from their evening commute to stare and wonder, to take photographs and pause for a moment before catching the next bus home. A busker set up shop at the entrance to the Green. Above, the real moon exposed the fakeness of the apparition just as the work-jackets and guy-ropes worked a lovely little Heath Robinson analogy on the processes of artifice.

Simon Faithfull spoke later of his interest in “myths and illusion,” of “lying to tell the truth.” In this numinous piece of fakery the clearly visible apparatus of the illusion flickers in and out of awareness as though it were a mirage.

nic green, fatherland

Seven drummers and a piper stood in the dark. Lights up: a woman came forward dressed in a grey short-trousered suit with a heather-coloured tartan trim on the waistcoat. She spoke.

“Father, what is space?” Answers appeared projected above her and she asked the fathers in the room to speak them. Falteringly they acquiesced, in minutes becoming a strong chorus. As the performance progressed we all joined in, we all became the responder, the provider of an answer, the location of a dubious heritage.

She described her last meeting with her father, devoid of much feeling or connection. And we the chorus said, “I am visible only as land. I grow quieter. And firs, rough hillsides, drumbeats and drones.”

She described a circle in chalk on the floor. She took off her jacket with its tartan frill at the back. As one after another of the drums joined in beating a rhythm she paced, then ran, then sprinted round the circle, shrugging off her clothes; till wearing only navy-blue stretchy polyester pants with a tartan frill on the bum she gathered herself into the centre of the circle. As the pipes began to play she jumped and pranced and kicked: a strong, luminous, wild, proper body. She flung her arms up and down, stamped and twisted, ribs and muscles working, the tartan fringe flying.

When the dance was finished and the drumming over, she sat on the floor in a lone spotlight and stripped. She unwound the circle, walking widdershins, and handed bottles of whiskey into the tiers of audience for us to share. The pipes were now only droning.

Standing naked she sang in Gaelic. No need to understand the words. Heather, whiskey, islands and mist and loss, elements of the Celtic twilight—and a glimpse of a brusque masculinity hung on a scaffolding of nylon, tweed, stubble and greyness, shielding the view of the moors beyond. Only a glimpse of flesh muscle and bone shining; hard to uncover, but she’d done it; hard to invoke but she joined us all into the fire of that tribalism.

We drank while she was singing. Then she sat and drank her whiskey, looking at us. She and her drummers left the stage and she had the piper play us out.

reckless sleepers, a string section

A String Section, Reckless Sleepers, IBT13 A String Section, Reckless Sleepers, IBT13
photo Delia Spatareanu
As this was the opening performance, the room was full. We’d been encouraged to circulate so I sat at the back waiting for the forest of legs and backs to disperse, but they never did. We at the back heard applause when the performers entered; we heard sawing sounds, raspy and unexpectedly harmonic. The tinkle-clunk of a bit of wood hitting the floor. I weaselled my way to the front.

Four women, sawing the legs off the furniture they are sitting on. They wear black formal dresses, heels, make-up. They are smart, maintaining balance on the aforementioned destabilised furniture. Those women who fall off, get back on their chairs again. Displaying control, ingenuity, determination and grace in the face of inevitable pratfall, and, like a thrumming of cello players, quite suggestively sexy.

jo bannon, deadline

Deadline, Jo Bannon, IBT13 Deadline, Jo Bannon, IBT13
photo Oliver Rudkin
In Deadline one is ushered through meditative spaces from an airy, comfortable waiting room to a red study, to a seat by the window of a white room looking out on the wintry sun of an open cityscape. At each stage one is nudged into a thoughtful frame of mind by having to wait, by vases of lilies and related literature scattered around and by the concerned, considerate air of the guides/invigilators.

In the red study the phone rings and after completing a short questionnaire you can ask one of the experts at the other end of the line three questions. I got the Doula, the Midwife for the Dying. When, enlightened, you put the phone down, you are led to the white room to stare out of the window. The view is framed by lights gradually brightening round the window, and by urgently building noise.

It is a detaching experience: there is tension in the ringing of the phone, the building of noise in the white room. For a moment one anticipates the unknown, surrounded by props of the familiar: a telephone, a desk, a voice, a view of the city. An exercise in the practice of resilience.

zierle & carter, chamber made opera, living room opera

 Living Room Opera, Zierle & Carter, Chamber Made Opera, IBT13 Living Room Opera, Zierle & Carter, Chamber Made Opera, IBT13
photo Oliver Rudkin
Flashbacks: we’re being guided through the night towards the venue, city lights spread below us, twinkling. A man in evening dress leans from the warmth of an upstairs window with a rope dangling from his neck. He rotates his neck and body, drawing up a crimson dress till it envelops him.

A tall woman greets us with the sound of birdsong captured in a china teapot. Buttoned up like a spectral Mrs Danvers, she moves slowly backwards drawing a pair of men’s shoes after her, conjuring a disembodied follower. We still can hear birdsong.

A kitchen permeated with the smell of tea, oranges and bread baking. The rattle of a magpie. Recorded voices coming from behind furniture or plant pots or from within cupboards; reflective voices telling slow stories of how they got to the house they grew up in, how they left it, who lived there, who built it.

A man with a clock case strapped to his head. The pendulum is stifled with salt. He opens the case and brushes the salt out with his fingers—time lies in heaps on the carpet, stilled. A heartbreaking excavation into a frozen past.

Upstairs in an anxiety of ambient sound, the young man stands maniacally scraping burned toast, his hair over his face tied in a thick knot by the hangman’s rope curving over the floor.

She, the hostess, now in the crimson dress, crawling towards him, seizing the rope, contorting her body....He, presenting her with a miked-up basin of milk, she plunging her face in it, howling, grunting and gasping.

A knot of bones, antlers and feathers falling to the floor.

From the balcony outside she draws on the window in red lipstick till a square of it is covered in overlapping scrawls. She looks like a revenant, a haunting, a fetch.

Histrionic, yes. As memory is, always making drama out of crisis, and narrative out of routine. Opera indeed.

And also, like entering grandmother’s cottage in the woods: come in, keep warm, have some tea and an don’t have to look at the bones too closely, though since you left, they lie heaped in every corner.

In Between Time festival: Simon Faithfull, Fake Moon; Nic Green, Fatherland, director Deborah Richardson-Webb; Reckless Sleepers, A String Section; Jo Bannon, Deadline, original concept Jo Bannon, Lucy Cassidy; Zierle & Carter with Chamber Made Opera, Living Room Opera; Bristol, UK, Feb 14-17

Osunwunmi is an artist living in Bristol. After a long time working in video and digital media she is cautiously but steadily moving into Live Art practice.

RealTime issue #114 April-May 2013 pg. 24-25

© Osunwunmi ; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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