Being and Appearing is a programme of contemporary visual art at the Swiss Church in London. It aims to support artists to develop new work in response to the architecture or socio-historical context of the Church. In doing so it furthers the dialogue between art and faith established by the Church’s cultural programming over the past six years.
The programme takes its title from German-American political theorist Hannah Arendt’s conception of the 'space of appearance': a temporary space formed when actors meet to discuss matters of public concern. Focusing on site-specific performance-based practices, the programme considers the church as a public space in which communities meet, debate and then disband. The selected projects return performance to a place of worship — in Ancient Greece for example, temples were used for both theatre and religion — as well as referencing the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, celebrated in 2017.
Curated by Kirsty White.
Kindly supported by Arts Council England and the Swiss Church in London.
The Swiss Church in London
79 Endell Street
Photography: Emma Dalesman / Rebecca Birch
The Yellowing, Part 2 (Bell Mouth) is a new audio-visual performance, that brings the architecture and history of the Swiss Church into dialogue with the current life of a bell mouth intersection on the A583 in Lancashire. This bell mouth, as the gateway to a fracking site has, over the past two years, become inhabited as a place of reflection, action and togetherness.
The performance takes as its starting point the history of female social support work at the Swiss Church. This it connects to the activities in the bell mouth on Preston New Road, Lancashire, where the local community, particularly many older women, have held vigil since the fracking commenced in January 2017. During these two years, the site has played host to silent contemplation, knitting circles, speeches and song and dance, against a backdrop of frequently violent intervention from the police and security staff.
The performance will extend methods used in Birch’s previous performances— video, live narration and projected drawing— to recount a narrative that will gradually transform the architecture of the Church through projections, audio narration and objects. Starting from the histories of church and bell mouth, it will bring together stories of women from across the UK who take highly political actions, coming to them quietly, but with great determination. For many of these women, these activities are their first active political engagements, made late in life, and challenging their existing belief systems.
Refreshments will be served in the foyer throughout the evening.
Performances will take place every hour between 5.15 and 9pm. Admission is free but please book here if you would like to guarantee entry for a particular time slot (5.15pm, 6.15pm, 7.15pm and 8.15pm).
The Yellowing, Part 2 (Bell Mouth) is a chapter in Birch's wider project, The Yellowing, which connects women’s histories, landscapes and sub-surface geologies. The Yellowing, Part 1 was shown in May 2018 at The Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool, as part of Fig-Futures. The project alsoincludes a forthcoming feature-length film, Undermine, that follows the daily lives of the community of women affected by fracking in Lancashire, investigating the psychological implications of being undermined, environmentally, democratically and emotionally.
The Yellowing, Part 1 was commissioned by Fig-Futures, and supported by Art Fund, Arts Council England and Outset. The sister feature film currently in development, Undermine, has been supported by Arts Council England, FLAMIN (New Approaches) and Lancaster Arts.
Rebecca Birch has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally. Her solo exhibitions include; Lichen hunting on the west coast, Fig-2 at ICA London, and the days run away, commissioned by Camden Arts Centre and Whitescreen at The Agency Gallery. Her group exhibitions include, Matt’s Gallery at Black Rock, Test Run at Modern Art Oxford, Multiplexing at LUX & PeckhamPlex, London. She is the recipient of a number of residencies and awards including, CCA Creative Lab Residency, Glasgow and LUX Associate Artists Programme.
Kindly supported by The Swiss Church in London, Arts Council England and The Elephant Trust.
Melissa Gordon, 2018, performance “Collision" with Rita Pulga and Julieta Kigelmann, The Swiss Church in London. Photograph by Sam Nightingale
In 1916, the British artist, playwright and actress Mina Loy wrote a one-page play entitled Collision—an innovative piece of writing, composed mainly of stage directions, describing the transformation of an interior by a machine and a single character known simply as “Man". The play is significant as it is, as academic Julie Schmid writes in her essay Mina Loy’s Futurist Theatre (1996), “one of the only feminist responses to and re-workings of the futurist dramatic aesthetic”. However, while Loy enjoyed relative recognition in her lifetime, she has largely been overlooked by the mainstream artistic canon until recently.
Melissa Gordon’s enactments of Collision are the first known stagings of Loy’s play. The first performance was during the exhibition Fallible Space, at the Bluecoat, Liverpool in 2016 on Collision’s centenary. At the Swiss Church, Gordon will work with the same group of corporeal mimes to manipulate a set she has designed, built and painted, which assembles itself into a large abstract painting. The mimes physically construct the painting with their own gestures, pulling, lifting and pushing to arrange prop-like gestural forms Gordon has fabricated. For Gordon, Loy’s play is a feminist imagining of modern space from 1916: a kinetic zone where bodies and objects are props in an unstable architecture, offering up endless possibilities to this day. The mimes will be activated by sound made by Morten Norbye Halvorsen and Chris Evans.
Gordon’s practice is primarily paintings and silkscreens that deal with the relation of a body to paint, and is focused on the language and politics of gesture. Her work has often confronted and challenged the canonical view of Modern art. This performance is no exception, attempting to introduce a lesser known work by a female artist to contemporary audiences and highlighting corporeal mime as a forgotten modernist language—a discipline which greatly influenced modern dance and theatre.
The performance at the Swiss Church marks the launch of a new publication celebrating Gordon’s Collision, featuring an introduction by Marie-Anne McQuay (Head of Programme, Bluecoat), an interview with corporeal mime Rita Pulga and an essay by curator Kirsty White. It will be available to purchase for a special price of £5 on the night.
Collision was first commissioned by the Bluecoat, Liverpool in 2016, with support from The Elephant Trust.
Melissa Gordon was born in Boston in 1981, and has lived and worked in London for a number of years. She has exhibited throughout the UK, Europe and US, including shows and projects at Spike Island, Bristol, Artists Space, New York; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; WIELS, Brussels; Kunstmuseum Bonn and Marres, Maastricht. Her recent exhibitions include The Mechanics of Fluids at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York (2018), Collision, The Swiss Church, London (2018), Fallible Space (2016) at The Bluecoat, Liverpool; Derivative Value (2016) at Overbeek Gesselschaft, Luebeck, DE and Routine Pleasures (2016) at Vleeshall, Middleburg. She will be in the upcoming show This is the Gallery and the Gallery is Many Things II at Eastside Projects, Birmingham. Her book “Painting Behind Itself” was published with Revolver Press in 2016.
Morten Norbye Halvorsen is an artist and composer based in Stavanger, Norway.
Chris Evans is an artist who has has had recent solo presentations at CAN / Centre d'Art, Neuchâtel (2018); Para Site, Hong Kong (2017); Praxis, Berlin (2015); Markus Luettgen, Cologne (2015) and Project Arts, Dublin (2014). His work has been included in a number of international group exhibitions, including Liverpool Biennial (2014), Taipei Biennial Taipei Biennial (2010), Athens Biennial (2007) and at venues such as CRAC Alsace (2015), and the Kunstverien Munchen (2014). He regularly makes music with Morten Norbye Halvorsen.
Rita Pulga is a corporeal mime who studied at L’Ange Fou Academy in London in 2010, which follows the teachings of Etienne Decroux.
Kindly supported by the Swiss Church in London, Bluecoat and Arts Council England.
An evening of performance works by Romany Dear
In this evening of performances Glasgow-based artist Romany Dear will present her new work, Two fisted, many sided, tuna fem (2018), and a new variation of her ongoing work Solo Yolo (2015-ongoing). The works continue the artist’s ongoing interests into dance as both a practice of collectivity and social action.
Two fisted, many sided, tuna fem is a solo work that Dear developed during her time in Colombia, where she taught dance in Bogota. Reworked and translated for this sharing, the work explores the body and identity as questionable constructs. Dear reads aloud a letter she has written to herself, using a loop pedal, microphone and parts of a recorded track. The artist’s movements and layering of verbal and non-verbal language highlight the dualities, contradictions and in-between spaces that exist within gender. It presents a constellation of multiple and unstable positions that make visible the many selves or sides that we inhabit—including our so-called ‘masculine’ and/ or ‘feminine’ sides, as well as what is created when those sides are conversing/ queering. It is a reciprocal love letter from body to body.
Variations on Solo Yolo (we still have many lives left to dance) explores authorship, collaboration and autonomy in performance. Part of the work takes the structure of a game—a strategy the artist learnt from a week-long intensive with dancer and choreographer Alice Chauchat—and involves a changing set of parameters that are devised collectively by the dancers during the performance. These are assimilated by the dance, and consequently propose and dictate the movements and actions of the group. Dear says about the work:
Two fisted, many sided, tuna fem (2017/18) is performed and created by Romany Dear. Music by Hudson Mohawk
Variations on Solo Yolo (we still have many lives left to dance) (2015 - ongoing) is made with and performed by Romany Dear, Michelle Warner Borrow and Nandi Bhebe. Music made and produced by Jose Marulanda
Let's talk about dance, baby!
Romany Dear is a UK-born, Glasgow-based performer, teacher and learner who works with choreographic and body based practices across arts, education and community contexts. Dear has been working as an inclusive dance teacher with Con Cuerpos in Colombia and with Indepen-dance in Glasgow over the last 5 years. Dear is one of the co founders of Glasgow Open Dance School (G.O.D.S) a not for profit organisation dedicated to the sharing and facilitating of free non thematic movement and dance practices, strongly working from the ethos of: Everybody is a dancer ! Dear has recently exhibited and/or performed with Con Cuerpos and Prisma Arts in Colombia, The Pearce Institute, Telfer Gallery and CCA in Glasgow, Siobhan Davies Studios in London and The Volksbuhne Theatre in Berlin.
Michelle Warner Borrow is from the North of England and currently lives between London and South Wales. Michelle is a dancer and performer who is fascinated by the meaning of movement and is currently training to be a dance and movement psychotherapist.
Nandi Bhebhe is a British-born Southern African living in London. She is a performer and choreographer, whose work includes touring with Bill T. Jones' Fela!, Kneehigh Theatre and projects with Vocab Dance Company, Young Vic Theatre, the Tate Modern and Shakespeare's Globe. She is also co director of Bhebhe and Davies, a collective with Welsh artist and researcher Phoebe Davies. Nandi is very excited to be moving, sharing, challenging and learning within Romany Dears, Solo Yolo!
Jose Marulanda is a music producer and sound designer from Barranquilla, Colombia whose work draws together traditional, dance and experimental music, sound installation, performance and sound designing. Under the following names, El Traste, Felina Spank, Comite Numerico and Panama Papers, Marulanda’s music has been published across labels such as: Etoro Records (Uk), New York Haunted (NL) Hormonal Vibrationz (FR) Survival Alliance Records (ARG) Black Leather Records (COL) to name a few. Marulanda is noted for his interest in attempting to erase the boundaries between music genres by mixing eclectic styles of music within one piece, creating conversation about the need for movement/s within the process of listening. Searching for the purpose of these sounds across different scenarios and exploring how they affect or invite reaction.
The artist would like to thank Alice Chauchat, Con Cuerpos and Yana Fay for their incredible teachings and sharings in regards to the making of these pieces. And of course to the collaborators and performers Nandi Bhebhe, Michelle Warner Borrow and Jose Marulanda. And Kirsty White for the invitation. Thank you.
LOUISA FAIRCLOUGH & RICHARD GLOVER
Friday 24 November, 9pm-12am
Please come and go as you wish or stay for the duration
VOICE IMAGES is a new choral composition that responds to the unique architecture and acoustics of the Swiss Church in London. Devised for an ensemble of six singers, it incorporates three distinct compositions or ‘voice-images’; sonic representations of delirium. Each ‘voice-image’ is designed to be modular — in conversation harmonically and timbrally with one another — and plays with a different cluster of words which sound alike yet shift in meaning with the change of a vowel or consonant. During the performance up to three compositions will occur simultaneously: from the quiet incisive sonority of two singers performing a duet to the polyphonic harmonies of several compositions occurring at one time. The intensity and audible perceptibility of these pieces will transform throughout, altered by the singers’ movement and proximity to each other within the space.
VOICE IMAGES builds on Louisa Fairclough’s solo exhibition, Ground Truth, at Danielle Arnaud Gallery in 2011. The show included two 16mm film installations: Bore Song (2011) and Song of Grief (2013), which formed a minor sixth interval when heard together. This tonal, as well as aesthetic, resonance led Fairclough to consider the works as modular, correlating with Glover’s interest in the perception of repeated musical intervals.
Glover and Fairclough have collaborated on a number of compositions since 2014 including Awkward Relaxed (2014), I wish I could be a stone (2014) and Compositions for a Low Tide (2014), as well as two expanded film installations: Can People See Me Swallowing (2014) and Absolute Pitch (2014). This is the first time they have expanded their research into tonal modularity into a live choral manifestation.
VOICE IMAGES has been workshopped with, and will be performed by the Dieci Voices — a professional vocal ensemble based in London.
In conjunction with the performance, Fairclough is presenting A Song Cycle for the Ruins of a Psychiatric Hospital, a solo exhibition at Danielle Arnaud Gallery 10 November — 9 December 2017.
Louisa Fairclough's practice takes the form of film loops, performances, field recordings and drawings. She was awarded the CMIR Arnolfini bursary 2016 for the sculptural film Awkward Relaxed (forthcoming). Sounding grief: The Severn Estuary as an emotional soundscape co-authored with Owain Jones led to drawings and field recordings from the Thames that were shown at Estuary Festival (2016). Can People See Me Swallowing showed at Contact Film Festival, Apiary Studios (2016), Absolute Pitch and Composition for a Low Tide were commissioned by Whitstable Biennale 2014, Jeannie commissioned by Bristol New Music in 2014, Song of Grief shown at Film in Space, Camden Art Centre (2013), Bore Song acquired by CAS for The Wilson (2013) and recently shown at Rojas + Rubensteen Projects in Miami (2017). Louisa is Associate Lecturer at Oxford Brookes and University of Falmouth. She is passionate about experimental film, and co-founded BEEF in Bristol in 2015.
Richard Glover is a composer and writer based in Birmingham, UK. His music explores gradual process, perception in reductionist sound environments, performer interaction, and experimental approaches to notation. His portrait cd Logical Harmonies was released by Another Timbre to widespread acclaim in 2013, and his music has been performed internationally by ensembles such as the Bozzini Quartet, musikFabrik, BBC Concert Orchestra, and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. Glover co-authored the book Overcoming Form with Bryn Harrison, with whom he is currently working on a major publication with Bloomsbury on the temporal experience of experimental musics, due for release in 2018. He has published book chapters and articles on Phill Niblock, Minimalism and Technology, and the perception of sustained tone musics. He is currently Reader in Music at the University of Wolverhampton.
Image: A Gloucester Cathedral chorister sings for Absolute Pitch by Louisa Fairclough & Richard Glover commissioned by Whitstable Biennale 2014. Photo by Milo Newman
Kindly supported by the Swiss Church in London, Wolverhampton University and Arts Council England.
In Christopher Marlowe’s 16th century play, Doctor Faustus, the title character is a fabled scholar who is highly successful yet dissatisfied with his life. He makes a pact with the Devil, exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures.
For his exhibition at the Swiss Church in London, Glasgow-based typographer Edwin Pickstone has taken Marlowe’s play as his subject; deconstructing the text so that each of its 12,247 words is isolated and printed on its own page. Carpeting the floor of the main hall, these pages, or flyers, transform what is a weighty text in both content and historical significance to ephemera. The installation thus explores the value of print — how the choice of printing method, surface and print run effects how an object is read, appreciated and valued.
Mirroring the narrative of the play, the text has been processed through a custom written software that progressively distorts the shape of the words. Pickstone likens this to making a ‘pact’ with the program, as he forsakes his control over the end product to pre-set parameters. (In a similar way Faust surrendered his soul to the Devil with little idea of the consequences.) In essence, Pickstone points out, this is our relationship with modern communication technologies — we readily use smart phones, tablets and laptops without knowing their long term affect on human relationships, behaviours and bodies.
The choice of the play was influenced by the installation’s context: the Swiss Church is spiritually rooted in the Swiss Reformation. The play’s emphasis on independent learning and the sin of pride links it to the Protestant Reformation — the schism from the Catholic Church initiated by Martin Luther — that marks its 500th anniversary in 2017. Characterised by the rejection of religious images and icons, the period saw the destruction of thousands of iconographic books and artefacts. In conjunction, the development of the printing press at this time gave rise to the spread of written propaganda throughout Europe that caused new ideas, thoughts, and doctrine to be made available to the public. Pickstone’s installation expands on these two contradictory impulses — one to destroy and the other to disseminate — and takes the title of Biblioclasm, meaning the extreme criticism or destruction of books.
Upstairs, the nod towards iconoclasm continues with a number of prints and artist’s books. 1 gram of black ink squared (2011), is a print that represents the surface area a gram of ink occupies on a page of white paper. Its sister work, the artist’s book 1 kilo of black ink cubed (2017) extends this proposition to a kilogram. Aesthetically, the works are reminiscent of Malevich’s Black Square (1913), arguably the first work to abandon any attempt at pictorial representation (Malevich believed that through abstraction he could represent the “divine in its purest form accessible”).1 Whilst Pickstone’s works concern mathematics and units of measurement rather than spirituality, they are similar to the Russian Suprematist’s in the demand they place on their viewer/reader. A certain degree of imagination is required to visualise the cube of black ink represented by 1 kilo of black ink cubed — like reading a novel, the book’s pages can only take one so far.
In a similar way The Components of War and Peace (2013) quantifies the ingredients required to print a Penguin paperback edition of Tolstoy’s novel. Comprising 671 sheets of paper and 16.3g of ink, the work seeks to question the importance of the physical object in the context of digital technologies. If one can store seemingly unlimited amounts of information in the ‘cloud,’ what is significant about the printed work — its material components?
Read the review of the exhibition by writer Ewan King for Art and Christianity, Winter 2017 here.
Focusing on the material nature of print, Pickstone uses letterpress, collaborating with artists and designers on a wide range of projects. His work spans academic, artistic and design worlds, with particular interest in the history of typography, graphic design, print and the nature of the book. Recent collaborative exhibitions include Printshop! with Giles Round at Tramway, Glasgow (2016) and blip blip blip with Ciara Phillips at East Street Arts, Leeds (2015).
Pickstone lives and works in Glasgow. In addition to his art and design work, he is currently keeper of the Caseroom at The Glasgow School of Art, where since 2005 he has cared for the school’s collection of letterpress printing equipment. He has spoken and exhibited internationally.
LEONOR SERRANO RIVAS
May 2017 – May 2018
From May 2017 to May 2018, Leonor Serrano Rivas is developing an ambitious research project at the Swiss Church. It includes a film shot in the Church entitled The dream follows the mouth (of the one who interprets it) (currently in post-production), and a public workshop, The Castle of Crossed Destinies that took place in July 2017.
These two connected projects bookend the first year of continuous artistic programming at the Church — the film is scheduled to be screened in May 2018. They evolve from Serrano Rivas’ interest in the intersection between live action scenes, the spectator and the spatiality of theatre, and are characterised by an aesthetic that marries medieval with ancient Greek.
The dream follows the mouth (of the one who interprets it) is Serrano Rivas’ most ambitious project to date. Made with the help of 4 dancers, a glass harpist, an organist and a cinematographer, it considers the influence that architecture has on activities that exist within, or in relation to it. Unfolding through a series of dramatic scenes that use the mirrored surfaces of the Church to confuse reality with reflection, the film attempts to depict a subconscious world in which the Church plays the main character.
Playing with similar themes, the workshop The Castle of Crossed Destinies invited viewers to enter the set and narrative of The dream follows the mouth… Like the novel by Italian writer Italo Calvino from which the event took its title, viewers were encouraged to find non-verbal means to navigate a series of encounters with the film’s performers, reconstructing for themselves the film’s script. The event was accompanied by a breakfast, inspired by The dream follows the mouth…, cooked by artist Nora Silva.
The dream follows the mouth (of the one who interprets it) will be presented at The Botín Foundation, Santander in January 2018 and the Swiss Church in London in 2018.
Leonor Serrano Rivas is an artist based in London. She completed her MFA at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2016. She has presented solo exhibitions at Sala Santa Isabel Seville, Spain (2016), Galería Marta Cervera, Madrid (2015), Terrassa, Barcelona (2014) and Galleri Rotor, Gothenburg (2011). Recent performances include ‘Between the Mouth and the Nose,' Chisenhale Studios, London (2016) and ‘Yet The Sky Is Still The Same,’ Serpentine Galleries, London (2014).