EXPERIMENTICA returned to Cardiff this year for five days filled with live art, performances and interdisciplinary projects. As Chapter stated on their website ‘EXPERIMENTICA is entertaining, dangerous, confusing, life-affirming, playful, provocative, thoughtful, witty, engaging, irritating and everything in between.’ Here are a number of the performances that took part across the five day international festival.
Review 1# (by Georgie Crespie)
Across one day were the performances ‘Kathryn Ashill: Poster Boy’ based on Wuthering Heights, focused on the international representations of the famous male leads in television and film productions, though focused mostly on Cliff Richard’s portrayal. ‘Dharmoo: Anthropologies Imaginaires’ was a vocal performance, a dialogue between a mockumentary and the expert’s comments on vocal traditions. What made this piece particularly interesting was the fact that the experts criticisms were being reflected by Dharmoo on stage. The last piece of the day was ‘Anna Natt: Uro.’ This was perhaps my favourite piece of the day. It was perhaps also the most confusing but also thoughtful and engaging. it blurred the lines between humans and animals and combined music and dancing.
Sian Robinson Davies & Rebecca Green – Alternate
My favourite performance would have to be alternate. ‘Alternate’ was a conversation made up on the spot. The two speakers had to listen and trust each other, only able to plan one step ahead of each other. Thomas Goddard’s interview offered an interpretation of the media. In an interview for Chapter on the 3rd of November he said that the artist and the journalist sometimes are not on ‘the same page’ and this was evident in his piece, making it a real eye-opener to how journalists can try to interpret and lose the meaning of an artists’ work.
The fact that the whole performance depended on the other lead to many comedic moments for the audience, and sometimes for the two actors speaking. The fact that they were on a sofa in front of us, gave us ultimate access to the performance. We were watching first hand the dialogue take place. The music that played in the background throughout added to the atmosphere, a ticking noise to symbolise ‘time’ and the importance that time plays within the piece. The two performers only had a certain amount of time to have their conversation.
Experimentica was certainly an interesting experience and one I would recommend it to others when it comes back next year.
Review 2# (by Sadia Pineda Hameed)
Tim Etchells – Some Imperatives
‘PEOPLE SHOULD CLOSE THEIR EYES
WHILE DRIVING AT HIGH SPEED
JUST TO SEE WHAT IT FEELS LIKE’
Some Imperatives is a durational piece, which ran across the five days of EXPERIMENTICA15. First performed and installed in 2014 in various venues and outdoor locations, it was brought to Chapter’s own Caffi Bar this year.
The installation is an understated and unpretentious piece. Each day a different short phrase is painted onto a wall. The next day it is then painted over in white, the previous writing only faintly visible through it, and we are given a new phrase once again. We are made to think about not only our thoughts on the phrase written, but the importance of that thought. Since they are erased and written over the next day, it is down to the response of the viewer whether a particular imperative lingers with them or not. The circular process is an imitation of thinking and rethinking, an unsuccessful slate-cleaning where previous reflections, poetic slogans and imperatives cannot be fully erased.
Being situated in the Caffi Bar, the performance of a member of Chapter painting up a new phrase intrigued, and could be watched by, anyone sat there having a coffee. The location for this installation meant people, possibly not even at Chapter to attend EXPERIMENTICA15, could still be prompted to think about the writing on the wall.
Tom Cassani – Let’s All Just Calm Down
Tom Cassani is an infinite bluff. Described as ‘a professional liar occupied with honesty,’ the performer provides us with a curious experience of self-doubt and issues with trust. Let’s All Just Calm Down is an intelligent piece that provokes each of us to wonder whether we have been manipulated under the premise of bare honesty.
We see Cassani enter the room. He strips himself of concealed mechanisms and anything up his sleeves. He reveals in detail the secret behind common tricks and illusions, and how to spot them. He shares insecurities of his frequent thoughts of death but lack of fear for it and his contention with his own honesty. Yet, in spite of his physical and emotional disarmament, we are still unsure as to whether we can trust these confessions. Within the setting of a performance piece by someone trained in the art of deception, we question whether we have been led into a false zone of honesty before having our sympathies manipulated.
His monologues, though deeply personal and placing himself under the vulnerable position of solitude under blue light, are read off of paper – scripted and therefore questionable in their authenticity. He performs dangerous tricks of drinking needles and hammering a nail into his nose which are still astounding despite their secrets having been revealed. In that case, why are his words and actions still unbelievable despite being given the supposed truth behind them?
Cassani’s 15 minute appearance at EXPERIMENTICA15 was a gift to anyone lucky enough to witness it. The brilliantly written Let’s All Just Calm Down is the type of clever and challenging performance that lingers long after.
Greg Wohead & Rachel Mars – Story #1
Greg Wohead’s The Ted Bundy Project is one of the smartest and engaging performances to have been featured at Chapter previously. As such, expectations were high for Story #1, written and performed together with the brilliant Rachel Mars.
The two-hour piece is absurd yet engaging. It begins with an episode of Come Dine With Me being screened with no explanation. The audience watches patiently, laughing and reacting along as you would watch at home; some check their watches every so often to wonder how much longer this will go on for. The whole episode passes 40 minutes later.
The strange opening of Story #1 then made sense as the performers emerge. From the limited characterisation and forced storylines of feuds and romance, Wohead and Mars tell us the speculative stories of what became of the Come Dine With Me contestants after the recording. Fates which all referenced details from the episode ranged from a sinisterly humorous death, being cooked alive in the exact same way one contestant prepared his main, to a heavily detailed and pornographic account of a threesome. The stories were humorous and absurd but, above all, deeply uncomfortable to listen to.
These speculations, possibly intrusive and embarrassing to have imposed on oneself within an art performance, may have been the reason why the contestants – when invited to view and possibly take part in the performance – all declined. Their email responses are literally read out at the end. However the performers subject themselves to a similar ridicule, allowing the other to make them the basis of a story including personal and intimate information as well as a 4 minute solo dance sequence each.
Story #1, though purely absurd when explained in words, was a painfully clever, humorous and at times thought-provoking piece to watch. This is in spite of being deemed by one surly audience member overheard upon exiting the theatre, “stereotypical quirky and confusing art performance shite”. The difficult nature of the performance raises questions about the way in which people may put themselves out there for consumption, and how far we can really take this. The performance made a point to fictionalise Come Dine With Me contestants even further than the staged television show had. It was not supposed to be an easy watch, nor did it make the actual point of the performance easy to comprehend. It was, however, an exceptionally entertaining and energetic show, perfectly bringing EXPERIMENTICA15 to a close.