Glasgow International - Happenings and performances
Happenings and performances are an important part of the Glasgow International programme, as Rosalie Doubal discovers
Whether reflecting or informing current art world vogues, the plethora of events and performances in the Glasgow International programme assures an energy that will distinguish it from the conventional biennial format. Presenting mock symposiums, spurious conventions, cabaret-style productions and pseudo-launch parties, as well as river-based sound pieces and mass two-wheel culture actions, there’s a spirit of defiance in the air. Taking serious issue with the event-based experience – the off-site, off-canvas, non-gallery and non-object – the volume and concentration of this type of work signals a rigorous re-negotiation with these areas of practice.
‘It’s named after the black flag of the anarchist movement, so I am hoping it will have a touch of the absurd,’ declares Raydale Dower, artist behind Le Drapeau Noir, a licensed artists’ café open nightly for the duration of the festival. ‘A stage without a stage, it’s a reference to avant-garde mythology: Dada, surrealism or beat poetry and also jazz or underground music and the spaces that these music or art forms came out of.’
As part of the Open Glasgow initiative, a fund awarded to three event-based projects conceived specifically for the city at Festival time, Dower, along with artists Rob Churm and Tony Swain, is co-curating a performance programme and working on the café as an installation. Featuring spoken word, live music and slide talks, as well as a nudist sewing workshop and disco, participating luminaries include Glasgow’s Alasdair Gray, underground New Yorker Ian Sevonius and filmmaker Henry Coombes.
‘Off the canvas and existing somewhere between a gallery and a music venue, Le Drapeau Noir provides a social dimension where ideas from different disciplines can mix,’ says Dower. ‘It’s interesting because ideas don’t just exist, ideas are living things, and this is represented in Glasgow’s psychogeography. The lines between performance, art and music are not so clearly drawn, and this comes down to an exchange of ideas – a vitality, a pulse that has found its way into the festival programme.’
The appropriation of disused, waiting spaces for use as gritty little white cube galleries is nothing new for Glasgow, but the use of charged and historically cluttered locations for one-off events and interventions – Sloan’s Ballroom, the Mitchell’s Jeffrey Library and the River Clyde’s Caledonian, George V and Glasgow Bridges – signals an interesting departure. Commissioned by Glasgow International, Susan Philipsz’ sound piece Lowlands will be installed under the bridges. Reaching an oft-sidelined part of the city, Philipsz’ ethereal intervention will play every 20 minutes, inviting an unusual form of interaction with the piece by both purposeful visitors and unassuming passers-by.
In a similarly interventionist vein, environmental arts organisation NVA are set to re-enact the infamous ‘White Bike Plan’, a Dutch anarchist eco-action of the 1960s, by releasing fifty white bikes (with lock code 6510) onto the streets of Glasgow.
‘Our work is often a response to a place and we bring different layers of meaning to how you see and move through different landscapes,’ explains NVA founder Angus Farquhar. ‘Often the work requires the audience to move and participate in making and completing the work; we make the work with the people that come to it, rather than for them.
‘People get excited about work that allows them to have a high level of ownership or involvement in its making and when that relationship is dynamic, strong work can unfold. This is a very distinct line that is currently coming through, particularly in non-gallery work.’
Trend-spotting aside, performative work such as NVA’s White Bike Plan tends to attentively nurture social interaction, and Glasgow International’s programme holds great promise for other similarly rousing experiences. While the festival boasts a high profile international component, there remains something arrestingly raw and current in its presentation of participatory and event-based projects. This is a series of rooted and progressive works that will affect a fresh and unfettered approach to both the city and contemporary art practices.
All events Fri 16 Apr–Mon 3 May. For full listings see www.glasgowinternational.org