|beach chairs; photo: Val Phoenix|
Of the works visited in one full day my highlight was Louise Martin's film, Lossy Ecology, on show at the Museum, which coincidentally was also the site for my 2014 favourite. Martin's elegant, beautifully realised work darts from one subject to another, from an acrobat to flowers on a rostrum, puzzling the viewer but making connections to her subject of embodiment, of interest to me as I am currently working on a project also combining art and science. C. and I agreed we were not clear on the connection to autism but thought it was a gorgeous film. One annoyance: not enough headphones to go around, necessary to hear the ambient soundtrack which added much to the work.
Viewing conditions proved to be something of a theme on this visit. Trish Scott's beach hut installation Medium was an audio work experienced while seated in blackout conditions, except when someone pulled back the curtain and audience members were exposed, blinking, to the outside world, while the would-be listener gaped in astonishment at being in such close proximity to the audience. Many backed out while others pushed in, disturbing the ambience of the event, which was a very clever multi-channel work with a great deal of humour not always present in contemporary art. Scott had contacted numerous mediums to ask what they thought would be her work for the festival. She had then voiced their replies, which were played out through speakers in the space, creating a delightful sound art performance. Meeting Scott later, I learned that she had intended for only three people to be in the hut at one time, to preserve the intimacy.
So, not what the artist intended. But, what did Tessa Lynch intend? We never even got into her performance of Green Belt? The door of the venue rose, the audience stood in anticipation, pushing into the Boatshed. And then we stopped, as the artist sat on the floor and spoke into an under-powered microphone, some kind of tablet in her hand. C. and I looked at each other. "What is she saying? Can you see her?" The performance was scheduled to last 75 minutes, but we left after about five, frustrated at not being able to hear or see anything. It was later suggested to me that she may have deliberately created a frustrating experience. Hmm, I though. Did I miss the point? Possibly.
On the other side of challenging was Marcia Farquhar's jamboree, Rooty Tooty, including Jem Finer on guitar and Dempsey, ex-Dolly Mixture, on vocals. The artist's theme was ice cream and she handed out free samples to various children and held up signs with lyrics, while doing some goofy dancing. Truthfully, I was not clear what the significance of ice cream was, but it was a very enjoyable performance and I became fascinated with some tiny birds flitting about and chirping loudly in the background. Sue Jones, director of the festival, suggested they might be some type of sparrow, possibly hedge sparrows. They contributed greatly to the feelgood factor the day, as did the weather, which was hazy the entire day, sea and sky merging at the horizon, which was a bit disorienting but added to the mysticism of the experience.
Whitstable Biennale continues through 12 June.