This is an open invite to the Bristol Biennial for people who want to see something uber cool and uniquely special in the form of contemporary artwork. Whether you participate in an artwork where you’re put on a bus in Bristol blindfolded and have to navigate your way back or whether it’s just walking around these humongous green grass men. Don’t feel like isn’t for you, this event is for everyone but it’s going to be huge – so what are my top 5 recommendations?
Some people might instantly ask – what is a Biennial? It’s an event which happens every other year, with the first Bristol Biennial happening in 2012 this one returns with great vengence. Artistic director, Hannah Clark predicts an unprecedented element of surprise and excitement cast upon the city of Bristol in September as she confirmed to Culture24*, ‘I think only 10 people in Bristol really know what will happen’. Exciting stuff – clearly the organisers are holding out for a spectacular 9 days.
There’s been alot of underlying humdrum building up to the event… Have you seen Shaun C Badham’s neon lights ‘I’m staying’ on the Arnolfini lately? If not, the sign is moving to the Folk House where the lights will be switched on to mark the beginning of the Biennial on the 12th September – come along! The lights are moving onto the Folk House as a result of an online poll where over 500 people voted online (vote here to decide where it will go next). The other buildings which are participating in the poll are Hamilton House, Tobacco Factory, Trinity Centre, Clifton College, The Old Bookshop, Paintworks and Antlers Gallery, Knowle West Media Centre. Personally I can’t wait to see it in the Trinity Centre after my exhibition there the other week (read about it here). For more of an arty write up on I’m Staying scroll down to the bottom of this page.
The programme has just been announced on their website and I am also VERY excited to be volunteering as a moderator within two of these art pieces. With this in mind I wanted to provide my 6 top picks for the event…
1) Green Men
Immersive Sculpture & performance
If you’re close to either St Andrew’s Park or the Northern Slopes (ironically in South Bristol in Knowle) then you should pop by and see Ashley Peevor’s ‘Green Men’.
My proposal consists of two performers wearing my handmade grass/ costumes. These costumes are all in one suits that cover the entire performer in growing grass and plants.
Peevor’s sculptures will move to engage the audience with a performance involved ball room dancing, I will definitely be checking this out on the Saturday (20th Sep). Peevor’s work derives from mythology and his keenness to merge sculpture and performance together, I really like the idea of still sculptures coming to life, I also love that the work will be in an open and natural environment – whatever the weather!
20 Sep, 3-4pm
Northern Slopes, BS4 1NL
21 Sep, 3-4pm
St Andrews Park, BS6 5AZ
2)We Used to Wait
Explosive performance right infront of your eyes
This one is aimed at non-regular theatre goers and it should be attended with an open mind, Massive Owl play upon playful interaction so sitting at the front should be for the brave. I love the underlying objective of this group, what is it to live in a digital world? What is existence when we spend more time on our digital profiles (social media sites) than with our actual physical presence? It won’t be like traditional theatre, performers and spectators will sit side by side with performers making eye contact and engaging with the audience. A top pick, I fully recommend this.
Massive Owl’s aim is to make innovative performance work that is hard to define and label as a particular genre, whilst being accessible to a wide range of audiences. They are particularly interested in engaging audiences who may not regularly attend the theatre.
3) Temporary Sculptures for Beijing Apartments
Church-based video installation
I’m volunteering for this artwork which is being held at the Church of St Thomas the Martyr (near the Fleece!) and I’m particularly excited about watching these awkward encounters aswell as seeing the audience’s reaction to the video. Nanna Lysholt Hansen took her artwork over to Beijing where she managed to convince local residents into letting her into their homes where she posed as a true Roman goddess in the corner, with a robe on. Watch the awkwardness of it all as Hansen interrupts people’s territory and crosses over social boundaries.
Church of St Thomas the Martyr, BS1 6JG
13, 15-20 Sep, 10am-5pm
4) Crossing the Line
Unusual and challenging watching
Crossing the Line is the key theme to the Bristol Biennial as social encounters are challenged and spectators become participants. I am volunteering for this performance piece – it drew me in by this fantastic image (above). Crossing the Line involves four artists who collaborate to present to you a variety of situation specific performances all entirely different in their approach and their objectives. Whether it’s Daina Dieva’s “Therapy” series which use performance as a “cathartic purpose addressing fears, feelings, past and present”(1) or Laura Murphy’s focus on monetary value given the recession in relation to her own personal history.
The work seeks to explore money as a point of intervention, exposing it as the creation of an idea, which has been superimposed and interwoven into our everyday existence, by exploring the narrative of various financial crises in conjunction with global disasters and my own personal history. (2)
Bean is the third artist participating in Crossing the Line and foccusses on the political constructs surrounding the female body and labour, with the exploration of duration and participation so prepared to be enthralled by a challenging and provocative piece lasting the duration of 3 hours!
Watching JurgenFritz I feel will be a challenge as a spectator but I’m keen to test my limits here, Fritz rings a hand bell in what is called a ‘dialogue with traditional musicians from the region’ (3)
Cranberries in the fountains in Bristol city centre
Cranberries in ABUNDANCE in the fountains, I kid you not – this is like the slide happening on Park Street, this city is full of crazy and interesting events and I feel this artwork is really site specific. As Bristol Biennial have called it on their site ‘Harvestime comes to harbourside’, this artwork uses cranberries to focus on the wider picture of industrial food production.
The Fountains (opposite Hippodrome), BS1 4XJ
15 Sep, 10am-6pm
6) Blind Chance
One for the daring: get on a bus blindfolded, get off and navigate yourself back
I’ve heard of this before but never in the context of an artwork. The participant will be picked up on Colston Street and blindfolded, during the bus ride (if this is anything like the Poland ‘Blind Chance’) then the participants reflect on the sound and movement in relation to the coach’s engine. Gradually individuals are picked to get off the bus and unblindfold themselves, I can’t imagine anything more disorientating. I will book this if I’m feeling brave enough – will you give it a go?
Pick-up Point: Colston Hall Coach Stop, BS1 5AR
13 Sep, 2pm
The onboard performance will last one hour, before participants are dropped off. Limited capacity, booking essential.
And one final one if you have time…
Shaun C Badham is also from Essex, he is now living and studying in London after studying at UWE here in Bristol.
‘I’m Staying’ is spelt out in bright neon lights in an artwork which can be linked to the words of Martin Creed who famously put ‘Everything is going to be alright‘ on the portico of the London Orphan Asylum. Creed’s placement of such a clichéd good-will sentiment for when things are clearly pretty dire is pretty ironic given the historical context of the damage of the building. In Badham’s case ‘I’m Staying’ is moving to different buildings and different contexts reflecting another type of irony in that our relation to place and community is constantly changing.
(1) Quote taken from Crossing the Line website here
(2) Laura Murphy excerpt here
(3) JurgenFritz excerpt here
Imagery from Bristol Biennial site
More information at Culture24 here