Sunday, 15 February 2009

#5: AuntyNazi: STOLEN via YouTube

The AuntyNazi name has been stolen. There is an AuntyNazi channel with football footage and naive political nonsense and probably videos of a boy falling off a bike and a girl in hotpants not really breaking any rules, just sort of tickling them. So AuntyNazi have had to set up a different channel. This is it:

Click above to view the full AuntyNazi video channel or see below for selected samples from Era #1 (2003 - 2005).

Look out for future uploads.

#4: Reviews of the last show.

Saturday, 13 August 2005

Reactor: Function V

Experience One

I stood outside the gallery for a few moments longer than I would have normally. I'd never been to a Reactor Function event before, and despite myself I was nervous. I'd heard stories of people being taken off by shadowy figures and having unspeakable things done to them. I don't know if I was dreading this happening to me or if I...wanted it...

The masked figure at the door ticked my name off the list and let me in, and I realised that the entrance space was unusually full of people. We were being herded forward with no way to escape. There was the unnerving feeling that we were cattle being led to the slaughter.

I was surreptitiously given a way out - someone handed me a card offering me the chance to take part in a cultural experience, I snuck off up the stairs to a room covered with exotic fabric to be greeted by a man speaking an Asian-sounding language. Through gestures he led me through a series of rituals, answering my questions with polite but firm gibberish. I felt out of my depth and angry that I didn't know what was going on - echoing the experience of being introduced to rigid cultural practices as a child.

By the time I emerged, everyone else had moved into the main exhibition space with AuntyNazi barking arbitrary rules at them such as only ten people being allowed in the bar at one time, and announcing that the event had 'started'. The audience stood around with almost identical expressions of mild fear. I realised I probably shared this, and distracted myself by looking around.

The layout of the show was much like any ordinary exhibition, with individual performances going on in discrete areas, and the space as a whole had not been altered. Works included a picnic where audience members read a jumbled argument from an autocue; an artist who spent most of the event on the floor, moving at timed intervals; a man standing in an alcove turning with a camera in his mouth, his body partly obscured and recreated by screens; someone explaining how their plastic polar bear was a van; a rambling talk; and a (possibly) live typed commentary.

What really brought the event to life were the complementary performances by Reactor and AuntyNazi. The latter, with crude masks and loud proclamations demanded most attention, but if you focused on the surface alone you'd miss their own subversion of authority. Every demand for obedience to Health & Safety laws was accompanied by dangerous behaviour; every announcement of a new activity from the timetable was combined with muddled flicking through notebooks.

Meanwhile, in the background, Reactor could be seen ushering people through a door, followed by disconcerting bangs and screams; and moving scary-looking objects that seemed destined for use in violence and intimidation. Finally they shepherded us into a room, built up the terror by filling the room with smoke, and eventually let us escape into the street through a window.

Gratuitous non sequitur to be used as a quote: Lies, confusion and shouting - some of my favourite media.

© Ana Milgram 2005

Experience Two

Every now and then, for my whole life, I got this thing where I felt odd. The best way to describe it is to say that I felt like I was detached from the world like about a foot back from where I actually was. That and feeling like I wasn't myself. Whenever it happened I'd feel like that for several weeks before it wore off.

Then a friend of mine who sticks needles in me in the name of acupuncture told me there was a reason (a husband/wife block - whatever that means) and fixed it in about an hour.

So when I turned up to Reactor's Function V event (That's V for 5), guest curated by AuntyNazi, feeling all husband/wife blocky and like I wasn't myself, what happened next was quite unexpected.

As around thirty "audience" members stood around on the slipway in the entrance to Spectacle, and while a guy in a cardboard mask (Luke) crouched, tapping a twelve foot length of drainpipe with a sledgehammer, another guy in a mask leapt up on top of a ten foot high pile of packing crates while introducing himself (Daniel) and Luke and the show while giving a general health and safety talk while the pile of crates swayed under his weight. During this time Daniel popped a lens from his glasses that fell to the floor and made a big fuss about it. A friend of mine called Ed bent down to look for the lens and I went over to help too. I can only guess that this was the reason why Daniel then leapt to the floor, threw his arm over my shoulder and proclaimed to the audience that I was called Steed. And it made sense.

It occurred to me later that Ed had worked with Reactor before and may have been an undercover performer.

One rule: Ten people maximum in the bar area at any one time.

At various intervals people could be seen both leading members of the audience out of the back door (we joked that they were being led off to a gas chamber) and carrying assorted objects through the gallery and out of the same back door; fire extinguishers, ammunition boxes, etc.

I found the whole experience quite disorientating, so therefore, for clarity...

Performances I actually noticed:

1] The main AuntyNazi performance of compering involving the renaming of audience members, announcements about the show, and dangerous health & safety announcements. Also, the bit where Daniel walked up and down gesticulating wildly while shouting "This is a background performance" and variations thereof for about five minutes.

2] A woman called Tina who had two TV/VCRs set up as autocues while she and various other audience/participants ate sandwiches while reading the dialogue aloud. I was so busy trying to remember to keep my mouth full of sandwich and keep up with the text that I have no idea what any of the dialogue was.

3] There was a woman in the bar area drawing portraits of people and, I think, talking to them, then sticking the pictures on the bar room wall.

4] A projection in the bar area appeared to be a description of people passing though the space, but someone told me it was playing off a laptop somewhere and was pre-recorded. I didn't believe them.

5] A guy dressed like a tired ballet dancer looking through a toilet roll; unrolling it as he turned in quarter turns while two videos played a live rotation and a recorded rotation of the same space.

There was one scary moment when Luke put his hand on my back and asked if I was ready, several times, in the dark. I wondered what was going to come. Then he rushed off to open the lift doors for...

6] A monologue by someone in a scary mask that sounded like a cross between Alfred Hitchcock and Bill Hicks in the dark with a torch, but his mini disk broke down (on purpose?) and when he asked if it was ok I reassured him.

7] An attic space like a kind of ashram where a guy called Harminder was just ending whatever it was he'd been doing (I think Ana had seen him earlier).

I went outside to show someone what I thought was a red lynx on the building next door and noticed some reactor guys carrying the same fire extinguishers, ammunition boxes, etc. as earlier out of the back door again and putting them in the back of a van. "Oh, I see".

I pointed out to Jude (made up name) the security guard that at one point there were more than ten people in the bar area and he told me that most of them were reactor and therefore did not count.

The whole event was a very interesting experience that I still feel like thinking about more and that was a week ago. If there's ever a Function VI, I'll definitely go, but I still want to know if the woman in the red jacket who was on the phone all night was dictating what was being projected on the bar room wall.

The finale was frankly the best way of getting the audience to leave a show that I have ever seen. We were herded into a back room and locked in. There was red light, a box in the middle of the floor with hazard tape around it, and an announcer telling us there was a count down to something explosive. The box kind of exploded in a lame way, but then smoke started pouring in through a vent and I thought about the earlier gas chamber 'joke'.

Then a loading bay four feet off the ground was opened up onto the pavement outside and everyone clambered out onto the street. Baffled. I wasn't sure if I was still Steed or Stuart again.

© Stuart Milgram 2005

Function V, Spectacle Gallery, Birmingham, 13th August - 2005

Performance Art is nothing new. Historically, for example, all we need look at are tribal rituals through to abstract expressionist New York "happenings." However, in relation to ‘Art’ as we now know it, performance is based on a sense of theatre; one that eliminates any barriers between the various disciplines of art and allows the ‘artists’ to combine, neglect, absorb, or become the art they are creating. This idea of performance art is one that has been in practice heavily since the 1950s and has been an effective way for artists to express themselves in an immediate sense. They exhibit not only the ‘show’ but also current affairs through artistic-theatrical activities derived from reductive experiments and the dematerialization of work into the simplest form; presenting the artist rather than the art. It captures situations in society, politics or indeed art through physical gestures freed from traditional ideology. It is perhaps still the most accessible and ready art form around today, even though it has recently been contended by the digital image; I believe it still remains the purest form of art.

So when invited to see Reactor’s FUNCTION V offering at Birmingham’s Spectacle Gallery I was intrigued to experience Performance Art first hand. I had previously heard of Reactor, a Nottingham based ‘collective’, who have worked on and with many other projects of this type previously and had quite the high reputation. Their work is said to focus "on developing works collectively, based around ideas of evolution and interaction…[challenging] the viewer to no longer be a passive observer but to directly respond and interact with the work." By putting an element of the ‘show’ in the hands of the captivated audience, the air of uncertainty is indeed heightened and I found myself on edge through the entirety of the evening for fear of being ‘picked on’ and asked to contribute in some zany manner that would please both choreographer and audience. I enjoy art as I am safe in the role of voyeur and was unsure in my new role as ‘crowd,’ and I am not 100% sure if I totally enjoyed the event as a result.

On entering we were informed of health and safety risks by two over excited gentlemen in small round masks who yelped out instructions to an audience masking their own fear by nervous grins. The large audience were then bullied and ordered into the main gallery space and kept in order by two stern security guards which made everyone immediately uneasy with shoulders hunched and gripping onto to fellow lab rats nervously. When the drinks bar was opened however, the mood lightened and I watched pleased to see people get involved when left to their own devices to include themselves in the show or simply gaze upon those who did.

Personal highlights of the show for me were Robin Close who milled about the space, unaware he was particularly being watched getting on with his work. Moving his television monitors from one area to another unravelling toilet role around his feet as he spun robotically on the spot, his television screens echoing what he saw through the toilet roll and what was being discarded around his feet. His air of subtlety was a lovely aside for many that gazed at him, and got lost in his repetitive motions. He held the viewer for a second longer than the others as his motion was comforting with an air of the familiar, unlike the rest of the evening.

My other highlight has to be Luke Ferrit and Daniel Oliver, the two boys who appeared high on E numbers with their Blue Peter style Halloween masks. A constant shock throughout the evening, they did however keep the event exciting and fluid. Directing the crowd from one moment to the next, without them I fear that the event may have actually been a little dull.

The guest curator of the event was the notorious AuntyNazi, which brought into the equation an interesting mix of artists. The other artists on show were: Jonathan Waring, Nick Holloway, Katie Doubleday, Katherine Cooper, Tina Carter, Joanna Callaghan, Roman Alaska, Harminder Judge and, of course, Reactor.

© Charlie Levine 2005

Reactor: Function V curated by AuntyNazi at Spectacle Gallery.

Works by Roman Alaska, AuntyNazi, Joanna Callaghan, Tina Carter, Robin Close, Katherine Cooper, Katie Doubleday, Nick Holloway, Harminder Judge, Reactor and Jonathan Waring,

Saturday 13th August 2005, Spectacle Gallery, 38 Freeth Street, Ladywood, Birmingham

#3: Tutorial Clippage (2003)

NOTE: These clips have been TEMPORARILY REMOVED due to engineering works. They will return soon.

In August 2003 AuntyNazi ran tutorials for students of Nottingham Trent University Art & Design Faculty.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

#2: AuntyNazi return to the ring

Following a 4 year sabbatical, AuntyNazi has had to reform. Luke has come out of retirement, Sooty Monkey is back from WAP, and Daniel Oliver, now a trained hypnotist, has resurfaced in London.

The Spiel Berg has been redefined.
Jude is vacant once again.
Steed is still to be agreed.
Polly shall soon be a pretty girl's name.
Luke has been issued with a brand new bag supposedly made from an old fashioned flag.
Sooty Monkey is suspected to be carrying.
Daniel Oliver is getting connected.

A pool, 6 slides and a labyrinth are under construction.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

#1: Hello & Welcome To This

I'm back from WAP
For the cardboard trap
Has mechanism, mask and map
A suitor with a stolen router
Terracotta hand and shooter
Heard the orders that were given
Back in time they shall be driven.

"Bang!Bang!" cried Cactus, "Bang! Bang!"

Keep reading &

keep it up!

Quite sincerely

-Sooty Monkey