Action Art Now

“Jackson serenely proceeded to rip the wasp’s nest apart and put it in her mouth.”

Venue: Community Arts Space, 109 Walmgate Street.
When: 12th November

Standing in an earth filled plant pot, umbrella in one hand and a bunch of flowers in the other, face dripping with egg yolk and neon green paint; that is how I encountered Paul Hurley, the first artist of the night, before he promptly keeled over. I can safely say nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced that evening.
The evening consisted of live art as part of a series of events called ‘Action Art Now’, curated by O.U.I. Performance. The exhibition is scheduled to continue until February at the Community Arts Space, 109 Walmgate Street.

The most recent event saw four artists: Paul Hurley, Poppy Jackson, Christopher Mollon and Gillian Dyson, each exhibiting for about 20 minutes each. The purpose of this kind of event, according to O.U.I. Performance is to ‘work against performance art’s disappearance under commerce and normative hierarchies’.

Arguably the most striking performance of the evening was Jackson’s, her set was lit only by a lamp in the center of the room, creating an intimate atmosphere as if the audience were sitting in her own bedroom. This feeling however, was soon inverted as Jackson began to walk round the room carrying a wasp’s nest, her glazed eyes, so unaware of the audience were trance like. Then lying on her back at the side of the room she pushed her feet up the wall and held her jumper, soaked in blood coloured water between her knees; threads of red liquid ran down between her legs. I increasingly resented the warm exclusivity I had initially felt as, now it only emphasized my anxiety. Watching Jackson serenely proceeded to rip the wasp’s nest apart and put it in her mouth made me feel I was intruding on some kind of ritual, never she never intended for an audience.

What I have said so far gives the impression the performances were of quite a ‘dark’ nature, so I think it’s worth briefly mentioning the work of Gillian Dyson, in whose performance lay a twinkle of comedy. For a predominant part of her show she spent standing on a chair spouting what can only be described as ‘double dutch’ in varying degrees of volume and speed. This drew a few laughs from the audience, and although I am not entirely sure I got the joke it definitely conveyed a light hearted atmosphere.

Though there were clearly challenging and complex concepts intended in each performance, I think that unless you have a PhD in performing arts then you shouldn’t be torturing yourself over what theperformance means. Though I was baffled and slightly un-nerved by what I saw, I realized my difficulty arose from my frustration to make sense of the performances. And that really, without that burden it had been a completely novel evening. The exercise of appreciating something you don’t quite understand was unexpectedly liberating. Once you strip away the pretentious stigma , associated with unconventional artistic practices such as this then it is easier to appreciate the movement and expression of the performances for their raw beauty. So I’d encourage any artistically minded person to experience performance art, if just for experience sake.

The next O.U.I performance is on Saturday 10th December at the Community Space.

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