Just come back from the Edge of Chaos live art event in Exmouth in Manor Gardens, and what an amazing afternoon it was. After last summer's event (at the Voodoo Lounge) I remember thinking it must have been some kind of dream (as written up in a Performance blog), and thinking - it's not likely I'll get a gig like that again... but happily, I was wrong, and Ric White the curator of the Edge of Chaos project asked me to participate in the latest event, this time not only with musicians and painters and dancers, but another poet as well. I said yes at once (and again, overworked when June came, arrived dazed, but soon woke up!).
The other poet was James Turner, popular and witty poet, author of 'Forgeries' (available from Sam Smith's Original Plus publishing house) and experienced improvisor with Children of the Drone (some of whom also participated in the event). The weather was great, the outdoor stage shady, lots of folks enjoying the gardens, and then...the dancers didn't turn up. But we started regardless, and, having nearly joined in with the dancers last time, while I had drawn a deal of inspiration from them, this time I felt I had to step into the breach (and in the imaginary parallel universe so many artists have recourse to, am a dancer as well as a visual artist). We started with the music first, and the painters got going, one with a big blue block, another with a circle; I as last time, had been given a projector on which to write words for the backdrop screen (which didn't show up as much in daylight against glass, but was more visible whenever it clouded over) and started writing whenever the music made or paint strokes evoked a thought or impression. Squiggles, symbols and words echoed the tempo or mood, and when it seemed right, I came out from the desk, grabbed the microphone and whispered or shouted or simply spoke into it, moving about the stage.
James alternated between percussive noise - he had some wonderful gear, like a gong, that he played using a bucket (very effective), something that sounded like the Clangers, and a variety of other instruments - and speech. He chose poems that went with the music, and made rhythm out of the interface between them. At times, we spoke responding one to the other, me responding to a line from him, or taking up a theme, and him changing the emphasis of the next line or perhaps choosing another in response. It seemed to work really well - a mixture of thinking on one's feet, and creating a dynamic, yet also oddly relaxed and often bordering or crossing into the gently comic. I danced from time to time, caught up in the sound and colour as if in some altered state (no, no chemicals or herbs were involved!) and even got a scarf to wave about at one point (though I wasn't quite sure about it in retrospect). There was some wonderful cello and keyboards, and Ric is something of a master on the sax, the drums wove things together, and of the paintings, all complemented each other really well. And if I had worried about having no dancers to bounce off, it seemed that doing a 'duet' (as someone called it afterwards) with James and not worrying about getting in other's way, more than made up for it.
There were three sessions, and it seemed that quite a number of the picnickers in the park were looking our way and listening. At one point (thinking of Kandinsky and Kostelanetz) I wondered - either everyone's au fait with experimentalism, or very relaxed, or we will at some point be lynched...one man, burly, came up at one point and said 'Scuse my asking, but what was that all about?' and it turned out he was a musician himself. One of the musicians got four children joining in enthusiastically with percussion for a while at one point, inspired by their responding to it, which was good, and great to see it reaching out to bring in the viewers as participants. Another really nice response was when, after the last one, a group of students (from Bicton College! as it happened, who were doing Environmental Education, the course that sounds like it's replaced the old Environmental Arts & Crafts course which many of the Collective went on) who had been sitting listening, applauded and shouted 'more!' several times, but everyone needed to pack up and go home, so they ended chanting as we thanked them for being such sports. All in all a wonderful afternoon. The others said they had really liked what I'd done, and what James had done, how it had held together, which I was really glad about, and we agreed that the whole thing had that strange hypnotic beyond-self, caught-up-in-others/mediums sensation that was so special and had brought us all there...like stepping up to the next level... We thanked Ric for putting it all together and bringing us all together, and then it was time to step off the cloud and onto the grass...
And we even got some video of parts of it. HUGE thanks to Ric White, for putting it all together, and to James Turner and all the other artists for making such a fantastic happening.
Edge of Chaos;