back to Flash Reviews
Flash Review Journal, 7-12: Far Out
Flash Field Trips in the UK Yield Wonders Great and Small
By Colleen Teresa Bartley
Copyright 2001 Colleen Teresa
LONDON -- Two site-specific dance
events took me out of central London last week and were well worth the trip. Protein
Dance performed at Wapping Power Station on Saturday June 30, and Apart From The
Road, a dance, poetry and film installation opened at Barking Central Library.
Choreographer Rosemary Lee teamed
up with film/installation artist Nic Sandiland and poet Chrissie Gittens on a
year-long project with children from Marsh Green Primary School, which culminated
in the library installation Apart From the Road. Go if you have any interest in
collaborative projects, children, or community projects.
The project is part of A-13 Artscape,
a unique three-year long project in Barking and Dagenham to bring art to public
spaces along the A-13 road that runs through the area, as well as Year of the
Artist, a scheme that commissioned artists to make work in unusual settings to
emphasize the integral nature of art in everyday life. Marsh Green Primary School
is located across from the Ford factory in Dagenham, near the busy A-13 motorway.
With the help of East London Dance and the arts officers in Barking and Dagenham,
the artists worked with the children over the course of a year to create dances,
poems and film which were then built into the library at Barking.
This is no ordinary primary school.
Many of the children are refugees, and the school population is very transient.
They also have limited access to arts activities. It is significant for the artists
to have chosen to work with children who don't have much visibility.
What stands out in this exhibit is
the presence and energy of the children -- their bright faces, stories, and voices
are tucked away in different areas of the library just waiting to be discovered.
Be warned: The movement is raw and the poems and dances are segregated in their
When you get there, youâll find an
old-fashioned card catalogue atop a desk which contains poems tucked in between
file numbers for books, and a larger standing file cabinet with signs instructing
visitors to open the drawers like the "eat me" and "drink me" signs in Alice in
Wonderland. Inside the drawers are tiny monitors on which images of curled up
sleeping children appear and disappear. Other drawers contain speakers which spout
the whispering voices of the children reading their dream poems.
You'll also find a study carrel in
which to sit and read a book of wish poems written on curving, swirling lines.
On each side of the cubby at eye level are tiny screens with images of individual
children running near a fence and tagging the next child. The editing cleverly
makes it seem as if the children are on an eternal game of relay. It places them
in a context outside of school, in the urban landscape of a city sidewalk. They
seem out of place, yet naturally belong there.
There are also microfiche machines
which allow visitors to travel through drawings, notes about children who have
moved on, and other notes about the process of the project.
A floor to ceiling bookshelf with
three monitors tucked between the books features, on one side, a scene of a playground.
The children dance across the space, hopping and popping with unbridled abandon.
On the other side are three more monitors which show individual children in a
school hall performing solo dances, then creeping up close to the camera to write
invisible words with their fingers and noses. It is quite stunning to see the
young faces fill the screen. You can see them thinking and remembering the next
part of the sequence, and behold their joy in getting it right.
A few stunning projections show the
children dancing atop a green hillside which spans the length of hanging signs
on which they are projected. The children seem to exist in an imaginary place,
very different from the urban setting in the other films.
A photographic exhibit documents
the process in a small gallery-type space created for the A-13 Artscape project.
Photographer Paul Ros has worked with the group throughout the process.
You can browse at your leisure, visit
as you like and catch a glimpse of some very special children and the artists
that have shaped their stories.
PROTEIN's performance as part of
Jerwood 10x8:Stairworks 2001 was a different experience altogether. Set in the
bustling restaurant/art gallery of the recently renovated Wapping Power Station,
it featured a cast of 10-men performing on a metal stairwell alongside the building
that is visible through two large windows inside the space. This highly technical
piece was humorous and very challenging.
Luca Silverstrini and Bettina Strickler
choreographed the piece on their own company, including Eddie Nixon, Jean Abreu
and Robin Dingemans, with additional performers from the Laban Centre London,
the Roehampton Institute and in the person of a chef from Wapping Food.
In front of a dinner crowd, the piece
began with John Milroy reading a news report about foot and mouth disease from
the counter that separated the kitchen from the restaurant. Behind him the staff
prepared meals as waiters rushed back and forth. The action then shifted to the
area at the far end of the restaurant in front of the door that led to the staircase.
Dressed as a chef and holding a slab
of meat, Luca Silvestrini argued with another chef before being abducted through
the doorway and into the stairwell by a cast of men clad in white towels. The
reason for this remained unclear as it was difficult to hear what the newsreader
said about foot and mouth disease.
Stricler and Silvestrini made use
of the windows, the seen and the unseen by having the men appear and disappear
like rising and falling waves, while lip synching to Vivaldi's ăGloria.ä The entrances
and exits of dancers, particularly the way they moved their limbs, was not only
beautifully funny but very difficult to accomplish in such an awkward space. One
dancer swung in and out of view of the lower window as if on a parallel bar. Others
scurried up and down the stairs. It was interesting to have limited sightlines
and see only glimpses of the dancers. It gave the illusion that there were hundreds
of them back there. They were like a chorus of angels, perfuming in unison and
appearing from no where and strangely out of place -- men in bath towels in a
The choreographers also used doors
next to the windows which opened into the restaurant. There was no way down except
to jump, which is exactly what the main character, Luca, did to escape the half-naked
boys who rustled him about in the stairwell. Then he brushed himself off and went
back to work. While the meaning remained a bit mysterious, the piece was clever
The piece was commissioned as part
of Jerwood10x8: Stairworks by the Womenâs Playhouse Trust for the Wapping Hydraulic
Power Station, in association with the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, and was
guest curated by Siobhan Davies. The series continues with Jamin Vardimon on August
16 and Kristina Page later this summer. Apart from the Road is at Barking Central
Library through the end of July.
back to Flash Reviews