From Thursday 25 April until Sunday 28 April, Arnolfini presents the second edition of 4 Days. Curator Jamie Eastman outlines what's in store and the themes behind the forthcoming 4 Days programme.
4 Days is a quarterly platform showcasing live and performance art throughout the architecture of Arnolfini. The platform focuses on artists who regularly choose liveness as a strategy for the presentation of ideas and April’s edition is shaping up to be another exciting outing with a broad mix of artists from and between the fields of dance, poetry, writing, music, theatre, visual and live arts. Over four consecutive days we are set to cover topics and activities such as well-being, meditation, impersonation, linguistics and public speaking across twelve artworks of mixed duration, format and place. For the most part, April’s 4 Days will take up residency on the second floor and in the foyer and lobby areas furthering the platform’s premise to serve as a series of meetings and meeting points between performer and spectator. Our overarching theme - ‘coming together' - remains at the forefront of the platform for a series of shared experiences that offer engagement for visitors of all ages and backgrounds, expanding on notions of interaction.
I’ve outlined my thinking behind 4 Days in previous blog posts so if you would like to do so then have a read here and here. Performance as a paradigm is becoming ever-more audience focused asking who an artwork ‘is for’ whilst conducting a continuously changing relationship with spectators. 4 Days as a platform places this context at the heart of its presentation, a series of time-specific gestures for the exchange of ideas, and often the option for Arnolfini visitors to take part directly. In summary 4 Days is a platform that is very much about you, and we hope to hear from you in April.
For this post, ahead of the April edition I thought it best if I introduce and discuss some of the artist works that will be on offer with a particular focus on Day One - Thursday 25 April and along the way give a little insight into any new thinking that the platform has instilled following its beginnings in January. I also thought it might be helpful to mention how things work here at Arnolfini in relation to the performance programme in general. In terms of taking part April’s edition once again offers a mix of options such as the chance to activate installations (Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Nicoline van Harskamp), meditate in public (Annie Vigier & Franck Apertet), re-imagine yourself as a tube-like organism (Matthew Drage) and perform a sea shanty (Holly Pester’s all ages workshop). We’ve also auditioned volunteers to re-perform a version of Harold Pinter’s play Mountain Language (Lawrence Abu Hamdan again) and as with January’s edition, we offer a salon to discuss aspects of performance practice with an extended session of Tertulia - Arnolfini’s regular look at art writing. This edition also takes place in parallel with our exhibition of the American conceptual artist Don Celender and the Bristol Poetry Festival so we’re anticipating some healthy cross-over with these aspects of the programme.
The Performance team here has a remit to consider the breadth of performing arts as well as film in its programming and between ourselves and our colleagues in the Exhibitions and Learning and Participation teams (together with the Director) we are behind a large part of what Arnolfini presents as its live and screenings programme. We work closely with the artists we invite and in doing so, together with audience feedback remain somewhat in flux – as befitting of a contemporary arts centre, and a platform like 4 Days – open to influences that follow from such relationships and cultural trends. 4 Days most especially is a series that aims to learn from such interactions in acknowledgement, that live and performance art finds legitimacy in moments of exchange between real people in real time. It is in many ways a kind of on-going conversation via emphemeral actions and responses to those actions. From a visitor’s point of view it could be said that all art is about experience, about an encounter with an object, film or performer. 4 Days explores experience in a live context as something catalyzed between living persons, as if meeting together for the first time - placing a value in the traces left behind thereafter. Contemporary art in performance terms has found ingenious ways to extend our encounter in recent decades - durationally, environmentally, digitally and so on in an almost pathological pursuit to amplify, maintain, prolong, continue, confuse, question and make intimate the viewer experience. More generally the 4 Days platform also considers ‘performance now’ in line with such developments on an ever-shifting landscape.
In acknowledgement of such notions of experience and conversation, our main focus for 4 Days April then will be on dialogue itself, whilst setting out a stall to consider well-being. As well as a plethora of actions which utilize the voice from the basis of language we will take time out to pause and listen to our inner dialogues, time to do the opposite of talking, in silence and time to find moments of closeness with our physical selves. Each day French choreographers Annie Vigier & Franck Apertet (les gens d’Uterpan) will offer meditation sessions in the public vicinity of the building and on Sunday 28 April artist Leslie Kulesh will lead an extended meditation session in the private confines of Arnolfini’s second home Bush House. You do not need to have any previous experience of meditation to take part in these art-works, just a willingness to explore the self in a performic context.
Dialogue almost always is enabled by communication and April’s 4 Days takes an avant-garde look at our most traditional tool for communication – language. Alongside traditional modes of language use like spoken word (Emma Bennett & Antonia Barnett McIntosh, Cally Spooner) or text (VerySmallKitchen with….) April will feature artistic modes such as poetry (Caroline Wilkins, Maintenant Camarade) and writing (X Marks the Bökship, Tertulia). I’m really excited to have a number of incredible artists take part in 4 Days who across differing live offers are considering language and language use in their practice.
Considering the theme of language on Day One -Thursday 25 April Nicoline van Harskamp will present a performance and installation as will Lawrence Abu Hamdan. In both cases the artists’ installations will be live as participatory offers for visitors. Nicoline van Harskamp has been studying and tracking language use, specifically English for a number of years and considers its elevation as the world’s most commonly used cross border dialect to be a significance highly worthy of enquiry. Her performance and installation (Without Title) An Exercise in European English functions as part audio guide, part language course, inviting visitors to respond to her re-imagining of English’s potential via audio instruction as a language no longer anchored to the systems of its native users. The installation is bookended by two performances in Gallery 5 at Arnolfini which sees the artist working with actors to elaborate and introduce her thinking in a performance that promises to be both funny and thought-provoking. The first performance is at 6.30pm on Thursday 25 April and the second at 5.30pm on Sunday 28 April.
Simultaneously to Nicoline’s performance and installation, Lawrence Abu Hamdan presents elements of his Aural Contract project, a body of work focused on the politics of listening. In keeping with the flavour of the project, the artist will present an adaptation of Harold Pinter’s play Mountain Language at 7.30pm on Thursday 25 April – wherein the audience will only be able to hear the performers. Mountain Language imagines a dystopian reality where a certain language is banned and in keeping with the artist’s enquiry into listening Lawrence will ban us the viewer from seeing the performers in his adaptation. Somewhat timely too the Pinter original is a critique of aspects of Thatcherite Britain in the 1980s. I should also mention that each performer featured in the event has been auditioned by audio means only - by leaving two lines of the Pinter original on a voicemail. So at the time of writing the artist has yet to meet any of these volunteers. The choice of this particular Pinter work resonates purposefully with language use and the governance of language, and it will be fascinating to hear the outcomes of Lawrence Abu Hamdan and company’s labours. Following the performance from Friday 26 April onwards and throughout the rest of 4 Days April, visitors will then get the chance to use their own voices to activate the artist’s Audio Archive installation, a many layered work that serves both as document and interactive experience. I’m really pleased to present this installation because it both chimes with the aims of 4 Days and the context and theoretical take on the meaning of ‘performativity’ explored in Arnolfini’s recent exhibition Version Control.
So that’s a quick run through of what to expect 25 to 28 April as part of this edition of 4 Days. Further posts in the coming days will explore other aspects of April’s edition in-depth including words from some of the participating artists. I hope this post has piqued your interest in the platform and made you think about coming along. If you missed January’s edition then take a look at these video clips here and here for an idea of what took place and the artist work featured from looking at this page from Arnolfini’s website archive. My thanks to all the artists, performers and visitors that contributed to January’s edition – all of whom are and remain integral to the continuing aims of the platform and our thinking here at Arnolfini. If you like what you see from looking back at January then do come along in April – meeting points after all are best served by people being present to actively convene and exchange views at them. Experiences matter at Arnolfini and will continue to matter for the length of the 4 Days season and beyond.
"Every time you give a concert, time is suspended: You're mastering it; time is not the enemy," he said. "It doesn't put off death, unfortunately, but it gives you a very good time while you're still alive." Sir Colin Davies (1927 - 2013)
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Following April's edition 4 Days continues in September and November 2013.