Saturday, 1 October 2016

Hidden Civil War Launch Event

Last night was the launch of Hidden Civil War, "a month long programme of activity in Newcastle upon Tyne, commissioned by The NewBridge Project. Throughout October 2016 activists and artists will contribute to a series of events that expose, collate and present evidence of a Hidden Civil War in Britain today.

The programme includes artworks, performances, public-realm interventions, talks and film screenings from internationally renowned artists and activists. A range of approaches have been taken, from quiet and considered talks and films, through to loud and overt calls for dissent. From playful interventions that subvert the political rhetoric, through to thought-provoking debates that highlight issues of austerity and give voice to marginalized groups. Whilst these works will be embedded within the city of Newcastle, they will be contextualised by national and international ideas of Hidden Civil War."

As with most previews, particularly at The NewBridge Project, there were so many people that it was extremely difficult to properly see most of the work, and I will definitely be returning to the Project Space to spend time considering the work.

A few one-off performances were commissioned for the launch event.

Ditte Elly set up outside the gallery windows in true busking style. Her "vocal performance explored the craft of song and story-telling, with an aim to question the relevance of ‘folk’ traditions in the modern age and how they can be used to engage in political ideas."

Richard DeDomenici was dispersing his customised balloons, each printed with one of nine revolutionary phrases such as "This is a protest", "All those racist people should go back to where they came from" and "Drone Machine". Throughout the festival more balloons will be free to take from the gallery, and it is hoped that the city will be populated with these subversive slogans.

The launch vibe was heightened when Dawn Bothwell performed altered electronic torch songs as Pentecostal Party.

It is all too easy to leave an exhibition opening without engaging with the artwork and forgetting its relevance, but the speeches by NewBridge Director Charlie Gregory and Chris Erskin, two of the core group of people behind Hidden Civil War were an excellent way to contextualise the launch and the programme of events to come. Given the nature of the exhibition, it seemed particularly appropriate to remind ourselves of the importance of our presence and what role we can play in shaping things to come.

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1 comment:

Stephen Pritchard said...

Interesting Helen. Are you suggesting Hidden Civil War reaffirms importance of artist-led spaces in Newcastle?

Ps. Do you think the balloons are subversive in a positive way? I suspect their post-political irony is an act of deep cynicism...