One of the nice things about the UK, is they name some places based on where they are, such as the Southend upon Sea. I was visiting for the first time at the invitation of Michaela Freeman to collect material to create a new piece 'of poetry out of Southend' for Artside in July.
Michaela saw my performance of a piece I created from found text at the Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth, which I collected a few days before it was demolished in 2004. Looking at all the graffiti and signs for old shops that were part of the building and its history, I became nervous about the fact that all of these words would disappear, so I set up trying to save them by hand writing them in a composition book I had with me. The Tricorn was a brutalist concrete shopping centre built in the 1960s (like me, I ruminated darkly, darkly...) and was hailed as a modernist masterpiece at the time, but had recently been voted the Ugliest Building in All of Britain, so was being demolished in 2004, much to the consternation of a small but vocal minority of residents, mostly people who had hung out there in the 70s, 80s and 90s, listening to Punk and New Wave music, and according to the graffiti engaged in various illicit activities, meeting friends and in some dire cases memorializing friends who had committed suicide by jumping off the top deck of the car park (which was covered in Samaritans signs imploring depressed people to call them first). However, most Portsmouth residents, including Bill's father, were glad to see it go.
So, from these words, I created a cut-up. The artists I was with, Paul Burgess and Simon Daw were creating video and taking photos with my husband Bill as a performer (Bill who as a native of Portsmouth had obtained the crucial permission for us to walk through the derelict space before its demolition - which took place, initially, with the 1812 Overture playing, btw...)...They then created a slideshow of these images along with cut-up photos between this and the computer generated future of the Tricorn and we made a show with me reading my text in rhythm to these photos, which are projected with 70s slide projectors onto an old fashioned pull up screen. I wear clothes and jewellery from all four decades when performing...
The performance Michaela saw took place in a pub in South London as part of Exploding Cinema, and I was furious during most of the performance as people were nattering away at the back of the bar, so I spoke the (very crude as it comes from graffiti) text louder and more angrily until there was stillness. Hence, my amazement that Michaela liked the performance. I suppose loud anger using crude language inspires respect in pubs.
So, today, in order to gather material for another site-specific text, and create the visual elements (another part of this transition: taking my photography and nascent videography more seriously), I walked around Southend upon Sea with Michaela and a lovely art student Hazel as my guides. As I took many photos, this post will be mostly made up of a few of these, as I was there all day and the sea air has gone to my head. However, I should mention that the beginning of the adventure began in a derelict building where we were almost arrested for trespassing, which we found absurd as there was easy access and no signs saying it was illegal to enter.
We then went to the seaside and I took a lot of still-camera video footage of the beach, a train out to the long pier, the amusement park through barbed wire and the sea. I also wrote lots and lots of words down from graffiti, signs and overheard conversation. The resulting piece will be performed in Southend on Bastille Day (July 14). If you're around, come on down, it's kind of beautiful there - a mixture of Portsmouth and Brighton - a somewhat tatty place attempting the dreaded 'regeneration' but the charm is still there even so...Artside runs from July 1-16 so check it out....In the meantime, insert yourself here:
|Hazel's favorite image - the missing fisherman|
|It's all fun and games until Someone slips on the deck boards....|