Sunday, 4 June 2017

Performances at Newcastle University Fine Art Undergraduate Degree Show

I have learned from previous experience that it is not possible to see much of the artwork at the opening of the UG Degree Show as it simply is too busy. I'm also aware that there are a number of performances that happen on the preview night, some of which will not be repeated again.

I therefore set out with the aim to see each of the performances at the preview, and I will visit again over the duration of the exhibition in order to see the rest of the work.

The first performance took place in the life room in which there were a number of cast sculptures occupying the floorspace along with piles of the skins of garlic cloves. Heather Bonnie Reid, dressed in casual clothes, entered the space, walked to one of the cast sculptures and began manipulating a slab of clay as she delivered a spoken word piece that was a cross between a poem and a story. Her actions complemented the text, and the sculptural props further added to the performance. Her soothing Irish voice made the words all the more pleasant to listen to, and her relaxed and comfortable pace and tone contributed to my feeling that she was talking to me as opposed to a crowded room. Personal yet relatable, the text was poignant and beautifully constructed.

Moving on to the seminar room, stood Cathy Garner at a lecturn with a projection behind and told the story of her nightmare of a week. In the final few days leading up to the exhibition that marks the completion of the 4 year Fine Art Degree, her external harddrive, the device on which all of her Degree Show work was stored, packed in and all of her data and work was lost. Remarkably, she delivered a immensely powerful performance that took me through a journey of emotions and left me feeling upmost respect for the courageous and resiliant artist. Told with REM's 'Everybody Hurts' as the soundtrack, her story was sad and humorous, her delivery composed and genuine. She carried the audience with her. Yes, I felt sorry for her, but she was not asking for pity or making excuses. Her positivity is honourable. Unfortunately hers is a situation that has happened before and will probably happen again, yet not every artist would be able to seize the opportunity to make a new piece of work from the experience. It spoke to me on so many levels, the expectations we have of ourselves, the pressure of deadlines and having to fit creativity into a predefined calendar, the problems we face as artists to produce, but also the experience of being a helpless human in this increasingly electronic culture. Hats off to you Cathy!

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