Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Climb like a cucumber, fall like an aubergine at W139

Photo: Adrian Lee, performance 'Ban this filth'

Climb Like A Cucumber, Fall Like An Aubergine


Rhiannon Armstrong/ Tobias Collier/ Adam James performing with Andrew Graham/
Adrian Lee/ Mark Wayman/ Laura Wilson
Curated by Ali MacGilp
Saturday 21 January 2012
Doors 20h00 Start 20h30
Tickets at the door: Euro 6,-
Language: English

NB Mark Wayman will present his piece twice that day, once for free at 17h00 [meet outside W139] and once during the evening’s events.

Climb like a cucumber, fall like an aubergine – Syrian proverb

For Climb like a cucumber, fall like an aubergine, artists from London have created performances in response to the context of W139; its historical buildings, prostitute windows, brown cafes and hordes of tourists. These site-specific works will emerge from the long-term, open-ended investigations of their practices. These artists all share a research methodology. They invite us to share the fruits of their observation and reexamine what we overlook. Their subject matter is belief and knowledge systems; physics, spirituality, capitalism, history, communication, town planning.

Two complimentary sensibilities shine through in these artists’ works. Adrian Lee, Adam James and Rhiannon Armstrong explore the taboos and unspoken laws of social interaction with humour and are by turns cynical, provocative and optimistic. They share a fascination with the commercial culture we are embedded in, its marketing and self-help strategies and those on the margins of society. Tobias Collier, Laura Wilson and Mark Wayman look poetically at the material or philosophical structures that underpin our society. With intense sensitivity they examine our physical surroundings, from architecture to the universe.

From London, it feels like the world is becoming a more tumultuous place. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, ten years on from the events of September the 11th. Osama Bin Laden has been assassinated, there have been financial and natural disasters for much of the globe. The Arab Spring is a year old. In London people are concerned about the unelected, right-wing government, the recession and fierce cuts to public spending, which have impacted upon the arts, student fees and benefits. Protests, riots and looting, media phone hacking scandals, the tightening of immigration laws, royal weddings and the impending Olympics have also been at the forefront of people’s minds. Relations between the younger and older generations and confidence in politicians are at an all-time low. The domination of social media, such as twitter and facebook, alongside scripted reality shows produce anxiety that we are becoming dislocated from real human interaction.

Rhiannon Armstrong’s practice is an ongoing series of performances entitled Instructions for Empathetic Living. For W139 Armstrong is creating a new interactive performance drawn from her Archive of Things Left Unsaid. The audience will be given access to the deepest darkest secrets of anonymous Londoners, collected over the last five years. This performance also launches a new international chapter for the Archive, with the opportunity for Amsterdamers to contribute their own testimonies to the collection.

Tobias Collier examines our subliminal relationship to space using the flotsam and jetsam of daily existence, yoking together the materially contingent with the intellectually imponderable. For W139 Collier will present the next installment of Anthropos his live tattooing of his body. He will first select a text to read then burn it to create the pigment which is inserted into the surface of his skin, adding to the ever growing constellation across his body. 

By deconstructing and re-staging encounters with fringe characters Adam James’s work raises questions about the artist and audience’s role as voyeurs. He is attracted to the relentless drama of the street, the odd gestures, peculiar voices, laughs and awkward encounters. Working with Andrew Graham, James will spend a week studying local marginal figures in the area surrounding W139. In a series of small interventions in the street, they will appropriate the physical appearance, costumes and gestures of these chosen characters, inverting the role of the spectator. The work will culminate in the gallery on Saturday night. 

Adrian Lee unpicks and reworks the trappings of a commercial culture, which form the background noise to our daily lives. Lee’s performance for W139 takes the maxim ‘there’s no such things as bad publicity’ to its logical conclusion. Publishers, filmmakers and artists frequently court controversy, willing censors, religious groups and the self-appointed guardians of moral decency to ban or protest at their works. A lone figure will stand outside W139 his placard bearing the familiar message ‘Ban this Filth’. Is he really protesting at the work inside or is he a stooge, trying to provoke interest amongst the passing tourists seeking sex shops, window prostitutes and brown caf├ęs? 

Mark Wayman takes as his starting point the fabric, function and significance of a chosen location. Through an intense verbal description of it he spins an elaborate alternative version. For W139, Wayman has created a new site specific performance. Occupy Amsterdam now has a much reduced territory on the Beursplein. For one night only, Mark Wayman will reclaim the rest of the square for Occupy and put back all the little tents, exactly as they were.

Laura Wilson is interested in the history and future of locations and their architecture and how we interact with them. Wilson will present a talk about Brick Project at W139, with a particular focus on the Amsterdam School, Michael de Klerk and the Brick Expressionism movement. Through her Winston Churchill Memorial Trust 2010/11 Fellowship, she has researched indigenous masonry construction methods, bricklaying and brick manufacturing and architectural history in China, Peru and Holland.