In early November I attended two pieces of work as part of the Domestic programme, from Word of Warning. The whole programme was sited in a block of flats in Hulme, Manchester.
Field Test in Garageland by Alex Bradley and Scott Smith
This was an audio installation, where I entered an unlit open garage space, beneath a block of flats at twilight. I sat with my back to the far wall, staring out of the open doorway. I was alone in the dark and damp with waves of sound from the electro-acoustic soundscape zoning in and out of my hearing. My eyesight gradually acclimatised to the pitch-dark of the garage and sat deep in the shadows, where no one could see me I felt curiously safe, hidden, perceiving through all my senses. I peered out into the world beyond, to tarmac, puddles and the starlight in the bushes. This installation was subtle and evocative which has left me with an alternative sensory perspective on this private dwelling space.
Image Credit: Alex Bradley and Scott Smith
Mental by The Vacuum Cleaner
This work was quite a contrast to Fieldtest. In that it was a social experience, yet it spoke of the private and personal world of the artist known as The Vacuum Cleaner. Held in a bedroom in an empty flat within the block, the piece had a deeply intimate quality, a sense of being let in. The 15 or so people in the audience were squeezed into a bedroom surrounding a bed for the whole performance. James (The Vacuum Cleaner) performed from the bed throughout. We were asked to respect the personal information divulged within the piece, so I won’t say too much about the content in detail. Except to say that it revealed James experience as an artist, activist and as someone with mental health problems since his teens. For me this piece was emotionally powerful, it was politically relevant (with with both a capital P and without), and was aesthetically and technically rigorous though out.
Mental had great integrity and was vital (in all senses of the word). It spoke both ‘truth to power’ and yet connected intensely with me and I know with other audience members.
Image credit: The Vacuum Cleaner