by Jilliene Sellner

As we move through mid-September we have so far experienced an impressive first half of Coastal Currents. It seems to me as though the curated program has raised the bar this year and exceeds expectations.

Bright Beginnings
The festival was kicked off by a colourful and upbeat launch party at Azur complete with
neon clad hosts and guests, Sadie Hennessy’s boyfriend auditions and the ever impressive illuminated bike ride. I’ve so far seen amazing work at the open studios, such as a beautiful collection of black and white film photographic prints at A&E Photobooks at Roadfactory Studios (found in the backroom of Hill & Coulter greengrocers), Agata Read’s new take on the local landscape, in her detailed delicate colour photographic prints and Dominic Zwemmer’s charcoal sea drawings and a stunning depiction of Ecclesbourne Glen. Around town much of the curated programme continues to intrigue, including Deborah Bowness’ unexpected wallpaper interventions Paper Trail, Chris Dobrowolski’s curious Washed Up Car-Go at the Rock a Nore car park and so much more I can’t possibly include it all here. All that I’ve seen so far is inventive and original work and has raised the bar in terms of contemporary art festivals in the UK.

Anne Parfitt, The Red Nightie

Anne Parfitt, The Red Nightie

Nighties and Peonies
Norman Road has been a hub of activity, including opening night of both Becky Beasley’s Bouquets at Solaris and Anne Parfitt’s The Red Nightie at Project 78 Gallery, both of which presented moving works at an evening which also generated an enjoyable and unique social atmosphere.

The Red Nightie is a playful, non-sentimental exploration of mourning. Parfaitt was a full time carer for her mother, Dorothy, until her death. Using a specific motif, a red night-dress, the series of drawings are tender, comical and very moving. Parfitt applies a light touch in her drawings that manages to express with candour the experience of caring for a loved one. The image of feet, akin to the devices of the red nightie and the hospital bed, is particularly accurate in communicating the experience of care and Parfitt does so in a way that is bereft, disturbing and yet funny. The exhibition continues at Project 78 Gallery until 29 September, open Wednesday-Saturday.

Live Long & Die Out
PICTURE: Melanie Wilson

Melanie Wilson; Rehearsing with singers, Live Long & Die Out

Melanie Wilson; Responses and conversation with the audience, Live Long & Die Out

Upcoming Events: Melanie Wilson
There is so much more to come in the programme of Coastal Currents. One stand out event is Melanie Wilson and Fuel’s production Live Long and Die Out.

Wilson is an award-winning, multi-disciplinary performance maker whose work is sustained by social and political issues. Through a contemporary interplay between sound art, experimental forms of composition, language and live performance, she opens up paths of inquiry and conversations with audiences.

Live Long and Die Out is produced by Fuel, which produces fresh work for adventurous people by inspiring artists. Founded in 2004 by Louise Blackwell and Kate McGrath, Fuel develops and produces works in collaboration with live art and theatre artists in the UK, engaging a wide variety of audiences. Their aim is to bring events to theatres, the streets or purpose built structures to create an immersive experience that allows the audience to have a voice in the presentation. This framework sits perfectly with Wilson’s practice which concentrates on sharing ideas and opening up conversations about difficult questions, often working through environmental or feminist areas of inquiry.

Her current work, Women of Record, is a sound work for headphones installed at Knole House as part of A Woman’s Place, and inspired by the lives of Lady Anne Clifford and Lady Frances Cranfield, both residents of Knole. The work invites connections between their experiences as 17th century women and the lives of contemporary British women, using Knole as the thread.

Fascinating, Unsettling
Wilson continues to delve into these connections and themes running through our lives with Live Long and Die Out, which is a conversation with an audience about climate change ultimately and the piece hones in specifically on the question of why we have children. In no sense is there any judgement about asking that question but this project is really interested in asking that, because of the point in our history that we’ve got to where that action is applying a lot of pressure on our resources.

The project asks the audience to respond to those questions and that material is essential to the development of the body of the work as the basis for an improvised musical translation of  the audience’s input; a group vocal expression as one organic voice, doubtless symbolic of the structure of the production itself.

For Wilson and the performers, there is an anticipation of what the audience will bring, what sort of reaction and dialogue can be produced with bringing such a big and timely, if often swept under the carpet, question out for discussion. The combination of audience participation and peeling away at such an immense existential question looks to be a unique opportunity and experience.

Saturday 29 September 7.30pm – 8.30pm at Opus Theatre. Booking essential.

See the Coastal Currents website for details of this and all events.

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