03 April 2006

From your Arts Correspondent...

Those who know me will attest to my "heathen" approach to the Arts perhaps best characterised by my (only slightly sweeping) generalisation that "poetry is crap" from my early 80's period.

So, who else better to report on some Performance Art witnessed first hand on Saturday at the Tate Britain by Linder entitled "The Working Class Goes to Paradise"? The fact that the performance was on April 1st added to my suspiciousness.

To give you a feel for the atmosphere, the music (continuous) could best be described as like being at the front-row of a Hawkwind concert, with 3 parallel-universe Hawkwinds all playing at once. Being in the environment of the Tate Britain certainly enhanced the surrealness of this experience. The volume however was truly awesome, and it was an absolute necessity to wear earplugs for nearly all the 2 hours we were able to "participate". I understood that the wonderful Health and Safety people had been concerned about numbers of people beforehand (certainly not an issue). I wonder if they had actually HEARD the performance? But, strangely (perhaps), it was not unpleasant or dischordant, just excruciatingly loud.

But of course, the music is only part of the performance. As described in the Tate Britain link, "women performed movements drawn from 18th Century Shaker manuals". Now, I didn't know a whole lot about Shakers, but here I've saved you the small job of Googling with this little piece that is relevant. In fact, this link explained one part which was getting me confused - namely the arrival of a person who was obviously a woman (and I suspect is indeed Linder) but who had a main of hair protruding from the rear, a costume that had elements of medieval times as well as the Wild West (there were also several images of Clint Eastwood around, but don't ask me why), and a nice beard/moustache set. She had also (in another rumour I heard) fasted for 10 days before the performance. She then did a long period of touching of hands/heads etc on some of the other women, which included extensive and (I would guess, exhausting) shaking. It is now (reasonably) clear to me that Linder (if indeed it was she) was in fact portraying the Shaker character of Ann Lee who (according to the link I have provided you) had a revelation during a long imprisonment that she was the Second Coming of Christ.

Unfortunately, I had only my cameraphone with me, and the photos are particularly poor. So the best you will get from me to give you an idea of the ambience is the one included here at very low resolution.

So, the verdict? Well, it was actually strangely compelling. Of course, I understand about 1% of the significance of any aspect of the performance. I still do not really understand the Workers in Paradise title. I think it is possible to equate the Shaker movement with the working class struggle perhaps, but I can't quite reconcile paradise and a continuous Hawkwind concert, though I can think of a venue much lower down that might be more appropriate!

As an aside, you may be wondering how arts heathens such as myself get invites to such events. The link in this is our old friend Dr Bob who is unique in this world in having worked in the same employment as (my partner) Sue (while gaining his PhD) AND me (while at Tibco). Bob was official Scientist for the event and as such seemed to be responsible for recording the proceedings in a written form. I hope your hearing is still fully functional, Bob. And, perhaps you could let me know what your findings are?

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