Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Marina Tsartsara

Pieces to Fit

Live performance and screen-dance installation curated and performed by Marina Tsartsara with Soline Pillet, Sasha Bion, Sophia Campeu-Ferman and Art in Motion.  Venue: the former lifeguard station, lower promenade opposite Warrior Square Gardens.  Date: Saturday 17 September.

While honest men slept on, I snuck down the stone steps opposite Warrior Square Gardens and into the former lifeguard station near Bottle Alley in St Leonards-on-Sea, writes Joe Fearn.

Word was out that the spooky underground space was the venue for live performance events by artists participating in Interface, a cross-border collaboration initiated in response to the 20th anniversary of the formal twinning links between Hastings and Oudenaarde[1] The town clock says 7.45pm, seagulls on a high wire form the first bars of a sea shanty, as light drops into a bulb over the lifeguard station door. I descend the clammy steps, while behind me out at sea, a cargo ship slips by like a magic-lantern image.

The venue has a clammy atmosphere not unlike breathing in the damp air when walking along the roadways down a coalmine. The artists and visitors too are crossing boundaries both external and self-imposed; through working in a cross-cultural context, many of the interventions are informed by the viewpoint of the outsider, suggesting new responses to both built environment and culture. In Hastings and in St. Leonards, the unconventional non-gallery art locations include public spaces, redundant outdoor sites and buildings. I was about to experience an art ‘intervention’ in the underpass linking the town to the promenade. The art interventions explore a range of issues such as memory, temporality, identity, history, humour, myth and popular culture. [2]

Art in Motion

Christine Gist, artist and curator, greeted me and other curious souls who were just passing by when the light came on and drew them in. The first artwork to come into view is by Sophia Campeu-Ferman and Art in Motion (Claire Whistler) called Body Systems: Heart, part of a series of three, about the intimate relationship between one’s body and illness. Their art deals with the commitment of the mind and body to centre and embody the process of this relationship. The form of this commitment is realised through dance, film, photographs, sound, sculpture and painting. Whistler moves within the installation, interacting with the visuals and sound. Campeu-Ferman brings that interaction together through a creation of spontaneous ink drawings. It was rum stuff.

Carcass, by Sasha Bion

Moving along, the disused male and female toilet cubicles are now venues for a work called Carcass which proved very evocative, and involves a textile artwork hanging upside down like a dead skinned animal. As I moved to view the performance on the stone ‘stage’ at the end of the ‘roadway’, a clap of thunder and shaft of lightning heralded an incredible downpour that resulted in several leaks in our underground vault, something which itself became part of the whole experience. I was enjoying the Gothic nature of it all, the ink drawings by Campeu-Ferman reminded me somewhat of the pre-Alien film paintings of H.R. Giger.

Battista’s performance All Citizens of the Same Land: The Maze was in a separate room just off the stairs, and is based on the metaphorical idea of the maze. A maze represents a complex multi-directional branching puzzle, a trick path with fake exits and egress, illusory repetitions and mirrors that represent the line between sanity and madness. Two giants of the film industry, David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick, inspire the piece, especially their explorative work on the subconscious, according to the available handout.

I went back to look into the other cubicle. A dark figure skulked inside. Not an art installation this time, but Jeremy Birch, leader of Hastings Council, who was invited to view the show.

Just beyond the toilet cubicles is a stone stage not high enough for the average person to stand up with sufficient headroom. This was the space chosen by Marina Tsartsara and Soline Pillet for a site-specific work called par-A-phrase (sic) that explores the experience of a relationship through fragmentation. The work consists of a screen-dance and a live installation. For me this was the star of the show. Pillet was dynamic in her presentation of performance as visual art, with the ephemeral of the live body as a necessary layer to the work. Pillet’s white dress and flowing blonde hair glided across the ceiling, at times seemingly suspended in space, with just the toes of one foot carrying the weight of her whole body. Her performance reminded me of the film The Grudge as she seemed to be struggling to stay on the ceiling and not be drawn downwards, rather than the reality of being on the ground and stretching upwards. Mind you, if her grounded leg had successfully joined the rest of her on the ceiling, I would have been out of there like a bat out of hell! I’ve seen too many late night vampire movies to stay and applaud.

The handout I was given says of par-A-phrase:

‘It focuses on the transformation of text into choreographic material, of the choreographic qualities into a filmic strategy, and of the filmic qualities into another piece of choreography that explores what is excluded from the frame, in order to produce this interdisciplinary work.’

I’ve no idea what that means, but I really enjoyed all the work on show.

Par-A-phrase, a collaboration between Soline Pillet (pictured) and Marina Tsartsara.

[1] Literally ‘Old Earth’

[2] Interface evolved from ‘Place’ which was curated for Coastal Currents 2010 and ‘From A to B’, artists’ interventions and performance in Dover town centre in 2010.

Posted 17:53 Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011 In: Performance

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