For those of us without religious faith there is still faith. There can be faith in the qualities of the visual and aural arts, in human kind and in the ability of spaces to hold the entanglements between these things. On 24 June 2017 at Studio 24, Mabgate, a group of artists came together to respond to Cantabile Chamber Choir’s exploration of the theme of Night. The work included drawing, painting, print, textile, mosaic, soundscape and dance accompanied by three live performances from Cantabile throughout the day.
As the evening sun appeared visitors of all ages filtered in and out of Studio 24. Children ran about and later sat quietly listening to the ethereal and eerily perfect choir. Old and young people – as well as the customary arty set – co-mingled together. It was difficult not to find someone who was not at some time either smiling or simply standing transfixed at the event. This may not sound like the usual review, and certainly, the mixing of media and the secular and religious is not this reviewer’s usual milieu. Here, however, I found, amongst the guttering candles, peeling paint walls and exposed beams, a contemporary response to a very atavistic desire – to stand, sit, walk, chat, drink, be amongst beauty, urban decay, renewal and take it in on a visceral, sensory level. This is desire, in the Deleuzian sense, as a dynamic and constructive reality; a vigorous and vital energy.
The lovely and bold responses to the choir from Leeds Beckett University’s Improvisation Performance Research dancers made performative moments stand out. A breath-taking landscape of textural, gestural shapes, of bodies interacted through and around sound and visuals. They created a flickering and unexpected dialogue between still and moving; corporeal form and materiality.
The curator of the event, John Gamble’s haunting monochromatic moonscapes sat alongside Frances Norton’s mosaic paintings which, she says, ‘reflect how sequences believed to be unshakeable can be interrupted ornament.’ Rendered in lapis lazuli, egg tempura and gold leaf, they converse with the physical comfort of Lorna Jewitt’s textile and mixed media, the spray paint responses of Richard Dennis’s landscapes and Paula Hickey’s spectral materiality. They discourse with Gary Winters’ and Sarah and Joseph Gamble’s mixed media and with Paul Tranter’s monoprints.
Objects and institutions can also create desire. The soundscape to this is Rachel Sedman’s purposefully slowed down znc deconstructed piece which encourages listening at a ‘micro-level’. Sedman’s photograms and prints also respond to her soundscape, which was created not from a finished and perfect performance piece, but instead from fragments of rehearsal recordings. The soundscape is also constituted by B.P. Walker’s sound fragments. Walker’s music is purposefully crafted and ‘made for rooms’. Each one of these is a testament to the crafting, intensity and sheer hard work of these vocal artists. The programme notes talk of the unification of subject and substrate, ‘a residue to activity and of partial collapse’. In this tumbledown space, in a quiet road behind the bustling city vista, a fleeting unity of sound, image, art and community lingers a little while longer.
Approaching Nocturne, Studio 24, 24 June 2017.
Karen Tobias-Green is a lecturer, researcher and writer at Leeds College of Art.