Based in England’s most northerly town, BFMAF is a dynamic forum where fresh artistic voices develop and audiences hungry for complex and challenging art are nurtured.
Increasingly recognised for its innovative programme and critical engagement, BFMAF presents artists’ and filmmakers’ work in the cinema as well as expanded formats of exhibition and performance.
I chose to visit the exhibition programme as opposed to the film programme, but all exhibitions were focussed on artists' moving image.
I found this slightly problematic in the sense that after a number of hours I began to tire of watching moving images and longed for some sculptural or an exhibition of a different nature to change the pace and nature of looking. I wasn't particularly blown away by any of the artworks, but really enjoyed exploring some of Berwick's hidden spaces and have some ideas of artworks that I would like to develop for as site specific works.
The Magazine was one of the spaces that I was most drawn to for its sonic possibilities.
Aura Satz's Preemptive Listening project focused on sonic obedience and disobedience through the trope of the siren. The Fork in the Road comprised trumpet improvisor Mazen Kerbaj's composition of a new siren sound using circular breathing, and actor/activist Khalid Abdalla speaking on the siren as the emblematic sound of resistance, oppression and lost futures during the Arab Spring. Shot on 16mm, the film was literally driven by its soundtrack, as the voice became a beacon, activating emergency rotating lights.
Following the film, a sound installation—featuring Elaine Mitchener (voice), Laurie Spiegel (electronica), Anton Lukoszevieze (cello), Maja Ratkje (voice) and Rhodri Davies (harp)—proposed a speculative re-imagining of emergency signals. Sirens were recomposed through a variety of instruments, infinitely rising tones and more—from loud and defiant to low, mournful or nearly imperceptible. It was this sound installation that was most interesting to me. The video seemed unnecessary and the voiceover acted as a distraction.
Some of the more successful artworks were those that responded to the space in which they were exhibited.
Bugs and Beasts Before the Law was sited in the Town Hall Old Gaol, and successfully responded to this unique setting.
Bugs and Beasts Before the Law explored the history and legacy of the “animal trials” that took place in medieval Europe, in which animals—and other non-humans, such as insects and inanimate objects—were put on trial for various crimes and offenses, ranging from trespassing and thievery, to assault and murder. This history of colonial law-making forged political and sometimes profane relationships between humans and animals. Bambitchell's essayistic film reimagined common perceptions of legal history and, in doing so, produced a world where past and present, fiction and non-fiction, human and animal fuse. —Bambitchell