Sunday, June 08, 2014

Whitstable 2014 Biennale

Whitstable; photo: Val Phoenix
My return to Whitstable was an afternoon sojourn rather than an all-dayer, but the weather was highly cooperative, and I had some company in the form of my friend Bev, who pointed out the abundant bird life as we made our way through town. First stop was the beachside HQ, where Collaborative Research Group were doing some demos of surveillance equipment. We returned later to pick up a map and find our way around.

The Horsebridge Gallery was a useful stopping-off point for a refreshing lunch, as well as site of two exhibits. I was quite keen to see the VALIE EXPORT film showing as part of Mark Aerial Waller's Welcome to the Association Area, but we ended up in the midst of the Sapphire & Steel clip, which featured a youthful Joanna Lumley and David McCallum bellowing at people in a cafe. I was quite taken with it, as I found their 1960s hair mesmerising, but Bev wanted to move on, so we went into the other gallery space to see Louisa Martin's film, The Lighthouse: Scenes 1 and 2. Despite two additional visits to the first gallery, it was always Sapphire & Steel, so never got to see EXPORT.

Moving on to Dead Man's Corner, we visited Laura Wilson's installation, Black Top, which makes use of the site-specific industrial conditions, i.e., a mound of black earth. Then we went for a stroll on the beach, taking in the beach huts. Bev was disappointed that the beachside bar stopped serving at 3pm, which is precisely when we arrived. So, it was off to find refreshments, and finally we made it to the highlight of the visit, Louisa Fairclough's Absolute Pitch, which was way off the beaten path at the Whitstable Museum and Gallery.

Because it is at the back of the museum, which charges an entry fee, one needs to get a token to see the installation, a film sculpture, but we had picked up our tokens from HQ earlier. Featuring five functioning projectors linked by crossed strips of film, Absolute Pitch is reminiscent of Lis Rhodes' Light Music. Pulleys hanging from the ceiling assist in the crossing of the strips of celluloid, while the projectors also emit streams of light, sometimes coloured with gels. And then there is the interimittent sound, an explosive female pitch. Bev and I wandered in and out of the patches of light as they hit the wall. It really was a marvellous experience and I could have stayed a lot longer, but we had a train to catch.

Much, much more is happening on the weekends, which is when the performances and live events are on, so it is worth checking the programme.

Whitstable 2014 Biennale runs through 15 June in Whitstable, Kent.