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Tuesday 15 May 2012

Image and Identity in Iran | Bi Nam | Ffotogallery | Penarth

Curated by Amak Mahmoodian, Bi Nam is a group exhibition exploring image and identity in Iran. This is the first show in the UK representing the work of a group of contemporary Iranian photographers.! The photographic and video content of the show explores the cultural and social life of modern Iran, with an emphasis on religion, gender and identity.

Bi Nam means “without name” in the Persian language. Using a structure that evokes the classic Middle Eastern collection of stories One Thousand and One Nights, Bi Nam explores the subtleties of everyday life in contemporary Iran and specific codes of conduct that influence a person’s mood, behaviour, relationships and sense of self.

There is an undertow of sadness and longing, but also one of beauty, love and devotion. Amak Mahmoodian, describes the exhibition as; “quiet thoughts from modest photographers for whom the essence of culture is in the display of their works.”

Bi Nam, 21-04-2012 until 12-05-2012, Ffotogallery, Turner House, Plymouth Road, Penarth, CF64 3DH. www.ffotogallery.org

1. Hadise Hosaini
2. Sharare Mossavi
3. Roz Golestani
4. Mohsen Shahmardi
All images courtesy the artist

Friday 4 May 2012

Daniel Linehan: Zombie Aporia | Lilian Baylis Studio | Sadler's Wells Theatre | London

Text by Grace Henderson

Zombie means living and dead. Aporia means logical contraction. The title of choreographer and performer
Daniel Linehan's latest work is a hybrid of two words that have never been joined together before - at least not according to Google. In Zombie Aporia, Linehan sets out to create unusual hybrids; musical rhythms colliding with opposing dance rhythms, or physical manipulations that result in the distortion of the voice.

Like much of Linehan's choreographic output, this work is intent on softly obscuring the line that separates dance from the everyday affectations we all use to express ourselves. Zombie Aporia is showing next week on 9 and 10 May. Daniel Linehan talks us through his latest work.

A: Can you tell me a bit more about Zombie Aporia, and how the work came to be so titled?

DL: In making Zombie Aporia, I wanted to find ways of combining two elements that didn't seem to fit together, creating different kinds of aporias, or logical contradictions. The title itself is a strange hybrid-a pop-culture reference is placed beside a term from philosophical discourse, Zombie plus Aporia, two words that don't seem to fit together, but which to my ear have a pleasing rhythm and assonance.

A: Much of the piece seems to centre on the idea of collision – what in particular is this exploring or communicating?

DL: The collision of two opposing elements allows us as dancers to perform in ways that are unfamiliar to us, and allows the audience to see things that are unfamiliar to them. So, for example, we dance in one rhythm while we sing in a completely different rhythm, or we try to make the audience see what the dancer sees. I am interested in how new meanings are produced when you combine elements that haven't been combined before. I didn't want to create a performance in which we do what we already know how to do, I wanted to put the dancers in situations that required the effort of trying something which seemed impossible.

A: Many of your works blur the boundaries somewhat between dance and our everyday physical mannerisms; why is this and how is this blurring achieved technically?

DL: In my work, the dancers are often trying to achieve a nearly impossible task that requires simultaneous layers of thinking and doing and reacting. This involves an intense effort of concentration and bodily engagement, but the movement vocabulary is not always derived from a recognizable dance technique, so it is not fully "dance," but neither is it fully an "everyday task". I am interested in ways of using the body that inhabit a region somewhere in between recognizable forms. I am not interested in amazing feats of dance technique. The only interesting thing to me about virtuosity is that nobody can fully realize it. Imperfection is the drive that keeps me going.

A: I understand that Zombie Aporia also uses the voice; how does this figure in the work and what does it bring to it overall?

DL: The music for the piece comes only from our own voices. There are no instruments and no amplifiers in the space other than our own bodies and voices. Zombie Aporia is very focused on how the voice is fundamentally based within the body, so I didn't want any other element of sound to interfere with that. We explore how the voice is transformed when one dancer manipulates the body of another dancer. We explore how proximity or distance in space changes how the audience hears our voices. We explore how bodily vibrations and how physical exhaustion alters the quality of the voice.

A: This piece marks your return to Sadler’s Wells after making your London debut there last year with Montage for Three and Not About Everything. What, for you, is special about staging your work there?

DL: Some of my work, like Not About Everything and Zombie Aporia, includes a lot of text (in English), and it seems especially significant to perform these works for an audience whose mother tongue is English. I often use subtitles or librettos in other countries in Europe, and of course many people speak English very well in other places, but I feel like audiences in New York and London can connect to these works on a deeper level. As for performing at Sadler's Wells, I really respect this venue; they are dedicated not only to large prominent dance companies, but also committed to helping less established choreographers like myself to develop and present their works.

A: What is next for you after Zombie Aporia and do you have plans to work with Sadler’s Wells again in the future?

DL: My next project will take a short section from Zombie Aporia and develop the concept further. This is a section in which a video projection exposes to the audience an image of what the dancer sees while he is dancing. I am very interested in how this technique allows the audience to experience dance-watching in an completely different way. I am very happy to have Sadler's Wells as one of the co-producers for this project, and I'm looking forward to presenting this piece there in 2013.

Daniel Linehan, Zombie Aporia, 09/05/2012 - 10/05/2012, Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler's Wells Theatre, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN. Tickets: 0844 412 4300 www.sadlerswells.com

Thursday 3 May 2012

Sara Greavu & Phil Hession: Titanic Toast | Golden Thread Gallery | Belfast

Text by Angela Darby

Of the many urban myths surrounding the Titanic’s legacy one predominant legend describes how Protestant dock workers in Belfast chalked the letters NPH (“No Pope Here”) on the ships bow thus dooming its maiden voyage. Another tale includes a curse of destruction from an Ancient Egyptian mummy named Amen-Ra whose body was on board in the hold. With the Titanic centenary celebrations predictably focusing on the standard facts the curator of Titanic Toast Peter Richards, Director of The GT Gallery, challenged invited artists Sara Greavu and Phil Hession to “explore alternative narratives and the question of how we remember.”

Sara Greavu addresses the tradition of myth-making through the power of the spoken word. In a collaborative production with Abby Oliveire from Derry based collective Poetry Chicks the viewer is presented with a large format video projection entitled Apocalips Lil and the Night to Remember. Traditionally in African-American communities to perform a Toast is to energetically narrate the tale of an heroic event and this oral artform has been considered the precursor to Rap. Referencing an original Toast, Shine and the Titanic, Oliveire is pictured narrating the stirring tale of a boiler stocker on board the Titanic and how his warnings of the disaster were disregarded due to his lowly social position. At one point the video image disappears (perhaps intentionally or due a technical fault) leaving the viewer in an eerily darkened space listening to the poignant resonance of Oliveire’s recitation. In an adjoining gallery Greavu presents three stunning collages that re-imagine what would have become of the Titanic if its maiden voyage had been uneventful. As many liners were commandeered by the navy during World War I and World War II Greavu has rendered the Titanic in bright geometric forms of orange, red and yellow hues. This battleship camouflage or dazzle was used by the military to confuse the enemy with its busy geometric composition making it hard to decipher the bow from the stern. At the adjacent wall Greavu has repeated the dazzle camouflage but on a larger scale creating an intense visual experience. In this room in particular we are reminded of The Titanic’s battle with the sea, the harsh frozen elements, it’s sinking, the survivors and the fatalities.

Taking a documentary approach, Phil Hession’s video installation Sing Along, If You Can attempts to analyse certain aspects of the Titanic’s original purpose. The artist spent eight days on board a trans-Atlantic cruise liner and by physically experiencing this form of transport Hession places himself within the context of the passengers. By keeping a visual diary of his time on board we experience the journey from the artist’s perspective. The recorded conversations that ensued with the cabin crew and fellow travellers range from discussions on safety, evacuation procedures and the reasons one chooses to participate in a voyage of this nature in the first place. Hessian skilfully captures the inherent oddness when strangers are placed in close proximity by chance.

Both artists have employed thought provoking and engaging methods to approach this overexposed subject and in doing so they manage to reinvigorate elements of the Titanic’s legacy.

Sara Greavu & Phil Hession: Titanic Toast, The Golden Thread Gallery, 84 - 94 Great Patrick Street, Belfast, BT1 2LU. www.goldenthreadgallery.co.uk

Phil Hession Sing Along, If You Can
Courtesy the artist

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