Category Archives: Art

Review Treasures National Museum Wales by Lois Arcari

Young Critics, 3rd Act Critics and Kids in Museums volunteers are working in collaboration with Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales (ACNMW) on a new free project focusing on the quality and standards of exhibitions and programming at their sites across Wales. Those involved recently spent a day with the staff at the National Museum, Cardiff. The response below is from Young Critic Lois Arcari.

Ken Skates The Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism at the launch of Treasures

The debates we have as part of our union with the Welsh National museum always prove that our combined aim – to make museum culture as interactive as possible, is one that only needs to be brought out and shared – our observations and opinions as immediate, magnetic and dynamic as with any other medium, the background stories to the exhibits on display are equally as fascinating.
Promoting museum culture as one that is inclusive, rather than exclusive, and more actively evolving than you may first think, is precisely why we’re part of these regular events.
Last week marked the start of another insight into widening public appreciation and interaction, and general museum culture; all hinged upon the new Treasures: Adventures in Archaeology exhibition.
This is the recently erected exhibit promising a bold new direction for the museum, one centred on a family orientated entertainment experience to become an inspiring gateway into museums for those unlikely to normally attend, was the promised fulfilled?
Well, that was the central topic of debate, with many insights and observations thrown into the mix.I feel that ultimately, it was mis-marketed. With unprecedented attention being given to the museum exhibit – an article on Walesonline not generally seen as par for the course – the focus was on the concept of Indiana Jones, on a new trail blazed for a new audience. The exhibit showed symptoms of both how quickly it was made, in relative time, and of the many debates behind the scenes on focus – areas such as participation offset by traditional ideas all very interesting, but not on the minds of families setting foot into the space. Unfocused seemed to be the prescriptive word, with minimal interaction – tentatively promised to be rectified – offset against rather standard pieces. The real highlights of the exhibit – a scan of the entombed mummy, and the stories behind the objects seemed to get lost in an odd traditionalism offset against a brilliantly atmospheric design.
Adventures in Archaeology _Sarcophagus_642x361
The objects were all interesting, but there seemed to be minimal coherence – some objects more easily appealing to adults than children, some with minimal information, others with information that was hard to access, hidden in corners, or betrayed by font, for example. Everything seemed almost annoyingly tantalising – this far and no further – emphasized by the size of the exhibition.
In the meeting afterwards with museum staff and participants, there were many discussions about colonialism and just what the word treasures meant; to the general public, museum staff, parents and children. Whilst there was discussion of introducing an alternative way of thinking about archeology as less moral than we’d first suspect, I think that would be at a rather painful odds with the Indiana Jones theme, and that suggestion towards these ideas, rather than any preaching, would be a great way to make children feel more involved and respected and introduce a different way of thinking. With a different focus the exhibition could be wonderful – but it seems like a forced response rather than an organic commitment to criticism of museum culture, and the marketing focusing on the film seems to be playing it up rather too much, though to its credit the museum itself does seem a lot more balanced with the marketing.
As it stands, with a discussion into some of the rich and fascinating cultures, and the ethics of archeology, the exhibit could be decent for a young fan of the time period, rather than of the franchise attached. Add in more transparency about the volunteers roles, and a chat with them, and the exhibit will be mined for its worth. With a hefty price tag attached, this seems to be a misconceived remarketing of old ideas and old pieces rather than the new push it promised, and unless a family has prepared for the day out with discussion and research or wants a new angle on a school topic, and is prepared for some hard work getting the most out of the exhibit, it seems a tad misleading.

Young Critic Eifion Ap Cadno Responds to Sanja Iveković’s Women’s House (Sunglasses)

Eifion recently participated in the lunchtime series of events as part of this years Artes Mundi exhibition, Eifion performed his response at Ffotogallery,  Penarth.
I wrote the short story “Look After” in response to Sanja Iveković’s project Women’s House (Sunglasses) in which she has appropriated iconic images of women modelling sunglasses for famous brands including Gucci and Dior. On these, she has superimposed text: names, nationalities, ages and stories of various women who have suffered abuse at the hands of their partner or parents, and have found help and courage in women’s shelters. Personally I found myself either linking the two and seeing the models as the abused women, or, separating the two entirely, they would lie at opposite ends of the spectrum. Models show us things, often explicitly, whereas abuse is all too often covered up.
While I appreciated the use of both image and text, and its presentation as a magazine upon a bare table, the stories themselves prompted me to respond. In one the husband locks his children in a closet and threatens he will “cut their mother’s throat, cut her to pieces, put salt on her, and eat her if they told her about the other women” he brought back to the house. Written mostly devoid of any artistic embellishment, they jar, horrify and amaze; and soon they seem to all follow a pattern. Abuse. Fear. Courage. Change. However, some break this pattern, and the woman is left without the hope for a new beginning.
Domestic abuse tends to be covered up and ignored; it is often too late when it is addressed. My response is simple. An amalgam of a few of the women’s stories, it – hopefully -captures the cry for help and the refusal. The sunglasses are threaded in too: each of the policemen she encounters wears them, symbolising authorities turning a blind eye. Even the “Hand of the Government” is faceless.
While there is some artistic license, “Look After” is a true story. Some of it is distorted or heightened but it happened. I hope it prompts you to visit the Ffotogallery, Turner House in Penarth where Sanja’s work is being shown until February 21st. For a more sensory experience, a brilliant music and video installation by Ragnar Kjartansson and co. is also there until then.
Thank you,
Eifion Ap Cadno
Look After
There was a knocking.
Thump, thump.
Nicola leapt up from her chair in the corner, ran past her grinning husband and threw open the door.
‘Thank you so much for coming, please help me’ said Nicola. Two policemen stood at the top of the steps, wearing sunglasses so Nicola couldn’t see the colour of their eyes.
‘Is your husband here, madam?’ said the one on the left.
‘We would like to speak with your husband, madam’ said the other.
‘Yes. No. I mean yes, he is here, but please take me and my daughter away from him’
‘I understand madam. If we could just speak with your husband then I’m sure we can sort this all out.’ They smiled at her, but behind the pitch-black sunglasses their eyes were cold. She turned and looked back into the house. Through the doorway in the hall he could be seen laughing from his armchair; just beyond in the kitchen their daughter stood in the darkness, her white dress and face shimmering as a ghost. “I’ll come back for you, I promise!” cried Nicola, and pushed past the two officers.

Puddles were forming and her feet were sore when she came to a standstill. The streets had seemed empty up until now, so when headlights appeared through the rain she darted into the road, throwing her hands forward. The car stopped. Slowly the driver’s window wound down to reveal two suited officers. Despite the night-time and dark interior of the vehicle they both wore sunglasses that matched their uniforms – sharp and stylish. ‘What can we do you for lady?’ said the driver. ‘You shouldn’t be out at this time of night’ added the passenger, ‘you’ll find trouble, all on your own’.
Nicola stooped down low to the driver’s face, to make her grief seen. ‘Please, help me, my husband is at home with my daughter, he has hurt us both. He has hurt us. Look’, and here she lifted up her arm. Blood ran down her side from a deep cut between her ribs.
‘You should get that seen to lady’ said the driver, ‘someone might think you’re vulnerable and take advantage. There’s a hospitable nearby but why don’t you go home to your family, they’ll look after you.’
The window wound up, the car pulled off, and Nicola was left alone once again, the puddle at her feet incarnadine.

A short while later, the drenched mother, desperate for attention, stumbled into the foyer. Now the unnatural groove in her rib no longer ached, it was the blinding white light she could not stand.
‘Welcome to the Hand of the Government,’ came a recorded and distant voice over the tannoy, ‘here to serve and to punish. Please speak your business now.’
‘I need help’ whimpered Nicola.
‘I’m sorry, please repeat that’
For some time there was no response. Nicola fell to the wall, and slowly slumped into the floor, smearing a trail of blood behind. The tannoy sparked into life once more.
‘We have taken a reading of your person and have matched your official profile and background with your identity. Nicola. Thank you for taking the time to visit us this evening. From your parentage and education we have come to the conclusion that you can look after yourself. We ask you to return home to your family, they will be worried for your safety. Goodbye.’

No sooner had Nicola pulled herself out the doorway when a pair of black boots, meticulously laced, brushed her fingertips softly. Looking up, she saw a large, suited policeman staring back down at her. In his sunglasses her reflection could be seen, a pale representation of a human being.
‘You are under arrest for the murder of your daughter. You have the right to remain silent.’

REVIEW Good Cop, Bad Cop, Primley Road Productions BY Hannah Goslin

Good Cop, Bad Cop
By Primley Road Productions
Leicester Square Theatre
Leicester Square Theatre is one that I have never been to before. In the basement of this small theatre, I sat in front of a simple set of a table with three chairs – the table containing only a mug and a lamp and a filing cabinet with a fax machine and telephone on. A sign with the ‘L.A.P.D’ ‘s rules the force lived by also hung from the wall. This seemed all reminiscent of the typical Cop dramas we are used to seeing on TV and in Hollywood.
As the name suggests, Good Cop, Bad Cop is set within a interrogation room and undertakes the story of an older detective, Alan, joined by a young trainee, Jonathan on his first day, interrogating the suspected drug trafficker known as ‘Noah’ whose character goes by the name Joe – a hippy looking, down and out man.
L.A.P.D isn’t what we expect it to be. The London accent soon appears to announce it as the ‘Luton Airport Police Department’ and soon the hilarity in this illusion unfolds. Alan and Jonathan undertake the stereotypical scene of playing Good Cop and Bad Cop to try and lure the suspect into a confession. Alan as the older detective insists on his Good Cop nature despite seemingly being a ‘hard nut’. Jonathan, however is a timid and shy man who has no idea how to convincingly be tough and so his attempts forever become hilarious through clumsiness and sheer lack of confidence in his new persona.
Not only are these confused and unlikely characters thrown together to convincingly go around in circles such as a comedy routine would encourage, but Joe, our hippy suspected ‘drug lord’ soon speaks up to become, not only a little strange, but a well educated Oxford Graduate. This surprise in itself is humorous and provides a third party for the original characters to hilariously bounce off.
The relationship and understanding the actors have of one another and the writing proved to create a slick and well directed performance. At no point was a single actor not ‘on’ and even developed to combine both exaggerated movement and gestures with small actions and facial expressions. To combine both and still achieve audiences to belly laugh, in itself, is a achievement, showing how much of a substantial understanding of comedy this company has.

Artes Mundi 6 – A Young Critic Responds…

Art – it’s a wild, scary thing. And very difficult to define, these days. From Damien Hirst’s pickled sharks to Tracey Emin’s crusty bed, what we now consider art stretches further than a mere painted canvas. In fact, in the Artes Mundi 6 exhibition, I don’t think one artist has painted a thing – or at least not at the National Museum’s collection. No, the artists on show here have gone from plywood panels to chocolate heads, from rotating goats to cardboard monuments. Film, music, sculpture, drawings – the mediums and materials are as broad and as varied as they could possibly be. Such a diverse range in style gives the viewer many different ways to respond.
As part of Artes Mundi’s series of response performances, I took part in a lunchtime response session in which I and the dynamic and abstract creative team Response Time guided an audience around the exhibition, subjecting them to live and immediate responses to the artwork on offer. The responses, much like the variety of the artwork, came in several different mediums – short fiction, poetry, dance, movement, scenes of dialogue… With some only written within 24-48 hours of seeing the exhibition, the effect art can have on the mind or the body was made clearly visible. The art provoked a crescendo of creativity and what emerged were thoughtful, astute pieces that could have stood alone.
My own response (which is available for your viewing (dis)pleasure at the end of this post) was brought on by the artwork of Theaster Gates, whose work ‘When We Believe’ pondered the notion of worship across cultures and its symbols. The particular artwork I was attracted to was a stuffed goat used in Masonic Initiation ceremonies which continuously circulated a railway track. At first, I hadn’t the foggiest idea what I’d write but I knew the image of the goat was the most resonant in my head after seeing the exhibition. What I created in response would probably bemuse the artist. It’s a short story which aims to take the image of the goat and put it in the environment of a Welsh village. Performing this to a room filled with adults seated on the floor beaming up at me while a goat revolved behind has to be one of the strangest, yet most rewarding experiences of my life.
I hope you enjoy it. Or at least get to the end. Lady or Gentlemen, I bring you ‘Goat’.
by Sam Pryce
 Note: This story was written between 27th and 30th Oct 2014 in response to the artwork ‘When We Believe’ by Theaster Gates.
It was the third night that George had not come home. Margaret did not feel particularly nervous about this fact. After all, George was a grown man of fifty-five years – he could do what he liked. But for three nights in a row now, Margaret had sat in front of the television with only an incontinent cat and an empty, moist armchair for company.
It wasn’t that Margaret was worried about what her husband could be doing, no. It’s not like he’d be with another woman. Good grief, no; not George. The only woman who’d ever endure his body odour, his pedantry, his weak spirit, his complete lack of charisma, his ingrowing toenails, his pot belly and his tragic face was Margaret. Not even his mother could put up with it; got out as soon as she could.
Now she thought about it, Margaret had perceived something lost in George lately. He had lost his… Well, he didn’t really have much to start with, but Margaret had certainly noticed something off about him.
She recalled a conversation that had happened earlier that day.
George was sat reading a beaten, brown book intensely, when Margaret entered to ask what it was.
‘Oh, it’s nothing really,’ he said, somewhat startled. ‘I just found it upstairs.’
‘Well,’ she said. ‘If it’s nothing, let me see it.’
‘No, really, it’s nothing, Margaret.’ He slammed the book shut and left the room, declaring, ‘I’m going for a cack.’
‘Oh, okay,’ replied Margaret. ‘Enjoy.’
It was not strange that George should want to go for a cack; he usually went up to five times a day, depending on what Margaret had cooked him. But what was strange was the fact that he was reading something other than the Western Mail or Page 3.
Whenever he would leave in the nights, George would say he was going for a drink and would not be back until ten – accurate enough. Only, when he would get back, she could not smell the slightest whiff of drink on him.
Overcome with suspicion, Margaret switched off the television, slipped on her coat and walked out into the night to find George.
The village pub was called The Goat and Compass – a name which Margaret had always found peculiar. Why would anyone want a goat and a compass? Perhaps you could ride a goat and use the compass to tell you where you were going.
Margaret pushed open the heavy wooden door to a near-empty pub. She approached the bar, where a young girl slouched tapping into her phone.
‘Er, excuse me,’ whispered Margaret. The girl looked up and said nothing. ‘Hello, I wondered if you would know where my husband might be. He said he’d be here, but I can’t see him. His name’s George, if that’s any help.’
‘There’s a load of ‘em upstairs,’ mumbled the girl. ‘It’s like a social thing or something.’
‘Oh, good,’ replied Margaret, genuinely relieved. ‘I’ll just use the toilet then and I’ll be off.’
But the girl had already turned back to her phone, her fingers striking like lightning across the screen.
Margaret carefully ascended the steps to the toilet so as not to disturb her husband’s club. Once at the top of the staircase, however, she could hear something choral, something harmonic, some vocal exaltation resonating from the room to her left. A rising, echoing chorus of surging male voices, declaring love to a Great Architect. If only he had told her. If only George had said, thought Margaret, that he had only gone and joined a choir. He wasn’t so dull after all. She moved towards the door, charmed by the smooth gush of the choir’s refrain, and opened it only slightly, but was greeted with something far stranger within.
Inside, several men were congregated, clad in brown hooded cloaks, encircling a small, plump man in the centre, also hooded. The central man was blindfolded and visibly unnerved. His reddened, sagging body was shining in sweat and he was shaking.
A bell tolled. The choir stopped. Another man – whom she could not see – boomed to the congregation.
‘Render the candidate slipshod.’
Without hesitation, the closest hooded figure knelt to roll up the shivering candidate’s right trouser leg until it was above his knee and removed his right shoe. Margaret could do nothing but hush her breath and watch.
‘Expose the candidate’s left breast.’
As controlled as clockwork, another man came and slid the cape over the candidate’s shoulder so that his firm nipple and flaccid breast was out for all to see. Margaret could recognise it anywhere – it was her husband. She bubbled with indignation. He’d lied to her. She had lost all sympathy for him – even as the men tied a golden rope around his neck, she felt no obligation to go in and stop them. All she wanted was to show George up to them for what he really was – a liar.
But before she could, a gong sounded. In a tone of finality, the master of the ritual spoke again:
‘Divested of all metallic substances, neither naked nor clothed, barefoot nor shod, right knee and breast bare, you are ready to begin Initiation. Now, hold the instrument to his breast and lead the candidate around the room.’
The chorus began their soft, ethereal chant again. Margaret watched George – pathetic, sweaty, snivelling little Georgie Porgie Pudding and Pie, kissed the girl and made her remain in a sexless marriage for over 20 years – being led around the room, a dagger held to his nipple. He wept with fear. He looked ridiculous. It was like watching an animal being led to the slaughter.
He’s like a goat, thought Margaret. A pathetic little goat. But not even as tragic as a live goat. No. A stuffed goat, yes. Lifeless, loveless, just staring blankly ahead, rotating around and around, no idea, no aim, nothing but dead skin and pillow flesh. No life left.
And as if that wasn’t enough, the Master now roared, ‘Prepare the Goat!’
The Goat they were referring to was brought out on wheels and George was made to sit upon its back. The Goat was treated with such reverence from the men. They had been told what it meant to them. The Goat was filled with the sins they had committed. The horns, the beard, the cloven hoofs – the Goat marked the Devil himself. By riding the Devil’s back, the men were able to free themselves of sin. Once all the men had gone through this act, they were truly accepted. It was George’s turn.
George clung to the horns of the Goat for dear life. The Master went behind the Goat and took hold of a large lever which protruded from the Goat’s backside.
‘I shall now buck the Goat until you fall from it, denoting your sacrifice to the Lord,’ said the Master.
And with a singular wrench of the lever, the Goat’s backed bucked and George was propelled through the air, flew over the Goat’s horns and landed with an almighty thud upon the floor. A barrage of mocking guffaws ensued. Margaret felt herself open the door and rush into the room. That was when he saw her. His hood had fallen back, his stunned face on show. They all saw her. She stood, held the room still with her appalled glare. George sat up, eyes wide and cheeks burning with shame. The others gawked.
A pause. This was broken by the Master pulling off his hood revealing the beaming face of Mr. Barry Blacksmith, a great friend of the couple and proprietor of the pub.
‘Oh, alright, Margaret?’ he said. ‘We’re just having a bit of fun by ‘yer, we are. Initiation for the, er…’
George plucked up the courage to mutter, ‘For the, er, Drinking Society, it is.’
The other men tore off their hoods quickly – as though Margaret were a symbol of the law – and all simultaneously confessed that it was all a bit of fun really, yeah, just a bit of fun, it is.
Margaret, however, was unconvinced. Instead of allowing relief to replace her resentment, she walked out of the room, out of the pub, out of the town, in silence and in disbelief.
For she was no weakling. For she would not surrender to her lying husband’s newfound religion. For she had seen the full, gruesome extent of what we become when we believe.
Artes Mundi can be seen at National Museum Wales,Turner House Gallery and Chapter Arts Centre.

YC Review Hide Chelsey Gillard



Created by Deborah Light , Chapter Arts Centre, Studio , February 23, 2013

When confronted by a naked, giggling woman as you walk into the theatre you know the show you are about to see is either going to be attention-seeking or daring. Deborah Light’s innovative first full length piece of course fell into the latter category – original and thought provoking.With a cast of world-renowned female performers HIDE showed how much is possible in a stripped back space. With just their bodies and a few mobile studio lights these women explored the boundaries between our public and private lives – as the programme asks, ‘are they showing themselves? Or is this a show?’
Wonderfully timid Jo Fong physicalised the constant battle between a performer and their onstage psyche, telling us ‘this is a show’ whilst performing conflicted choreography that showed a performers struggle with nerves more than words could ever convey.
Rosalind Haf Brooks on the other hand strived to make a connection with her fellow performers, even resorting to sniffing their clothes just to make contact. By turns equally humorous and touching in her pursuit for human interaction.
Most of the text based content came from the beautifully androgynous Eddie Ladd who chronicled the stages of her life by describing what length her hair was at any given time. She revealed that she has not always been Eddie, but as a performer she needed to change her name to avoid having the same name as another.
Each of the women contributed something new to the mix, each dancing in their own unique way and each bringing a different set of emotions to the performance. The fractured nature of the piece allowed them to disappear and reappear, transform and dissolve exploring the multiple layers of human nature.
The lines between performance and life were completely blurred – what was a performance and what was truth didn’t seem to matter as the piece delved further into what’s underneath the surface of our external facades.
Exciting and engaging, this is the kind of work that will encourage discussion and linger in your mind long after the event.
Chelsey is a member of the Young Critics Scheme for further information contact

Experimentica Festival Review

Experimentica Festival Review

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Experimentica is a festival for challenging, provocative and imaginative artworks. From 12-16 of October, the 11th annual event took place at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff.
Experimentica 1.1 showcased both emerging and established artists from Wales and beyond. This year it focused on pedagogy, art and performance.
I’ve selected and reviewed my highlights, bringing you some of the best of what the festival had to offer.
Iwan ap Huw Morgan: Gweledigaeth/ Vision
The theatre at Chapter was turned into a sacrificial-altar-meets-builders-yard. Ladders, buckets and tools were interspersed with candles and mysterious objects such as twisted lumps of metal. This hinted at what the audience could expect from a work described as “ritualistic performance” and a “visionary experience.”
Gweledigaeth/Vision began controversially with Iwan ap Huw Morgan lowering his trousers, pushing aside his underwear and plunging a needle into his upper thigh. He then slowly poured the drained blood down his face and into his mouth. He seemed to be making a sacrifice to some unseen force in the room. Boundaries blurred between live art, ritual and self-harm.
Moving on instinct alone and rampaging angrily across the space, he released raw emotions, taking them out on the inanimate objects that surrounded him. It was intimidating and striking to watch as an audience member, yet seemed like a cathartic and meditative exercise for the artist himself.
I felt like my presence was incidental and unnoticed, as if Iwan was immersed in the primitive rituals he performed and cut off from reality. It would have been interesting if a greater level of audience engagement was incorporated into this performance, as it was with most other artworks at the festival. Or perhaps this would have broken the spell the performer was weaving over onlookers.
He appeared to undertake a series of quasi-religious ceremonies and rites throughout. Like a druid for the contemporary age, he performed ablutions over buckets of water, seemingly acts of spiritual purification.
Iwan proceeded to daub himself in paint, with echoes of a Celtic warrior preparing for battle. At the end, marking the climax of the performance, he cried out loudly. Was it in pain, or triumph? Anger or ecstasy? This felt like the culmination of a performance which was itself a rite of passage.
He then marched out of a side door, and the audience remained still, stunned into silence. Slowly people funnelled out of the theatre, and a woman declared: “Nobody clapped. You know a performance artist had done well when no one claps.”
Iwan ap Huw Morgan
Iwan ap Huw Morgan during his new ritual performance work, Gweledigaeth/ Vision
Elbow Room: Intercourse
Formed in 2010, Elbow Room is a cooperative of three creative practitioners which aims to develop creative activity in public spaces through a collaborative, open and engaged approach.
 Intercourse, the work they presented at Experimentica, explored ethical issues around themes of surveillance and public/private observation. The idea was for members of the public to enter a room in pairs. Isolated inside, they were free to perform any actions they wanted. This was screened live in the cafe bar.
Intercourse posed a vital question, not just about art but life itself: What are the boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable in public?
I spoke to Cinzia Mutigli, Co-director of Elbow Room, about the ideas and inspiration behind this artwork. She described visiting Chapter’s Common Room and finding it a really interesting space. From there, the concept of Intercourse “built up quickly over a glass of wine”. Initially, they thought of installing a bed, but decided that was “too prescriptive”.
Staring competitions, hand stands and arguments are just a few examples of what the public did in the empty room during Experimentica. There were even a couple of people who pretended to be dung beetles while inside!
However, Cinzia revealed to me that, “so far nobody in there has pushed boundaries yet.” In a way I’m disappointed that I never saw anything truly outrageous and uninhabited take place during Intercourse. This was a space without rules: people could let go and take risks. Yet so far, no one really had.
Does this mean the work has been a failure? I don’t think so. It has at least succeeded in helping to answer the question of how far people are really willing to go in public.
Pester & Rossi: Survival!? Survive-It!
Survival!? Survive-It! is a product of the imaginations of Pester & Rossi, aka Ruby and Nadia, graduates from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art. They describe their work as “an experiment in bizarre and unpredictable worlds”, and I couldn’t put it better myself.
 Survive-It! (part experimental laboratory, part quirky art workshop) involved the public thinking of items they would need to survive if they were ever caught up in a disaster, such as an earthquake. Pester & Rossi then crafted this for you out of colourful playdough. Their “lab” displayed an interesting selection of products, from torches to swords and even night goggles. There was nothing they wouldn’t have a go at creating. In return, you had to bring them an item to swap it with. Books and CDs were just some of the objects traded in.
When people ask me what I saw at Experimentica, it’s this work that has most captured their attention and imaginations. After telling people about it, I always get an excited and enthusiastic response.
Unfortunately though, it didn’t say in the brochure that you had to swap items in order to take part, so I couldn’t get fully involved. All I had with me was my purse, mobile, notebook and camera, and understandably I didn’t feel prepared to part with them! It would have been good if the trading aspect had been better publicised.
Nevertheless, this lively duo brought a sense of fun and play to the festival, which otherwise could have become a little too focused on learning in a strictly academic or intellectual sense. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of them in Cardiff and beyond in the future.
Mark Bell
The word karaoke come from the Japanese term for “empty orchestra”. Mark Bell’s experiment with “visual karaoke” adds a twist to this: instead of singing along to the lyrics, you have to move your body to match the images.
Dressed in a head-to-toe silver catsuit, Mark proceeded to launch himself around Chapter’s Stiwdio, as he tried manically to keep up with the characters displayed on the ceiling-high screen.
Visual Karaoke was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s a concept that’s difficult to get your head around at first unless you see it, but it’s entertaining and addictive viewing.
One of Mark’s opening videos was a dance sequence by Vicky Lynne— a man in drag. It was interesting watching a man trying to copy the movements of another man who’s trying to move like a woman! During this performance, the audience couldn’t stop laughing.
My highlights were the performer’s attempts to mirror the movements of famous music videos. His efforts to keep up with Christopher Walken in Fat Boy Slim’s video for the song ‘Weapon of Choice’ were hilarious. So was watching him try to dance along with Kate Bush in her famous ‘Wuthering Heights’ video.
Mark’s performances were also punctuated with short videos of him discussing the ideas and inspirations behind his experimental work.
The event wasn’t a complete success though. Towards the end, Mark misjudged his audience, announcing he was going to do visual karaoke to the first twenty minutes of The Sound of Music. He might as well have said “I’ve got bird flu”, judging by how rapidly half the crowd exited the building. For a minute all I could hear was the sound of feet walking to the door.
It all started to go a bit wrong from there. The video began to stall, and he had to try and iron out the technical glitch before re-starting his performance. Mark must have been running late (or he was about to collapse with exhaustion from running around so much) as he fast-forwarded most of The Sound of Music. It ended quite anti-climactically, and people didn’t seem sure whether the show had finished, and if they should leave or clap.
Mark’s performance was thankfully redeemed by the audience-participation elements and sheer potential of his entertaining idea. Onlookers were encouraged to shout at him and guide him as he ran around the room. People were able to control the images on the screen to dictate his movements. The audience was even invited to put on suits and have a go at visual karaoke themselves. All this added to an uplifting sense that performance art can be fun and accessible.
Who knows, perhaps in a few years time Cardiff will have its very own visual karaoke bar? I certainly hope so.
Random People: Live Art Live Blog Launch
Random People was founded in Aberystwyth in 2007 as a platform for collaborative projects in the field of performance. They are the team behind the innovative LIVE ART LIVE BLOG. This blog aims to increase the visibility of live art events and improve access to live art, which is sometimes seen as exclusive.
A live art blog launch wouldn’t, of course, be complete without some live art itself. This came courtesy of artist Kathyrn Ashill, who proceeded to eat the Experimentica Manifesto in front of a surprised audience.

Live Art Live Blog Launch (photograph courtesy of Random People)

Forever Academy
This session involved a lively discussion about antidotes to conventional art schools, and setting up alternatives. These new schools would become “pitstops” for people along their creative life. They would encourage artists to come together, form relationships and engage in conversation.
Current issues affecting artists, as well as their hopes for the future, were also debated.

  •  Want to join the debate? Check out for an insight into the festival’s events and to be part of the conversation about them.

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About thebethanjames

Writer, thinker, dreamer. Media and arts obsessive. News junkie and night owl. Newbie blogger.