This year's festival was focused around performance art, very topical given the rise in popularity it is receiving in London and elsewhere in the contemporary art scene. The evening event at St. Mary's was just one element of the Festival, other performances that were played out over several days to the end of October included works in unexpected places such as a ladies toilet, parked cars, a pub, and so on. I'll admit I didn't have the opportunity to make it to any of these pop-up performances but I thoroughly enjoyed what I experienced on the first evening in the Minister. Soon after entering and taking my place in the pew I was enthralled as two women from Siobhan Davies Dance did a live performance of a piece entitled 'Songbook' by Matteo Fargion. Given the holy surroundings I was sitting in I found the work, much of it non-sensical dialogue, both absorbing and confusing, kind of like a Latin mass. The second part of the Dance troupe's contribution to the Festival was a film piece from the same project ROTOR 2010 entitled 'The Score' written by Siobhan Davies herself, here I was on more familiar visual ground. The film of dancers movement shot from above was projected onto the beautiful, worn floor tiles in the small chancel area to the right of the altar. I could have spent a lot longer enjoying the abstract hypnotic movements if it wasn't for a small child that found it great fun to try and step on the heads of the projected dancers as they wove their colourful pattern across the tiles.
There were several other performances on the evening, I was looking forward to 'Playing The Minster' by Michael Fairfax after having missed the opportunity to hear 'David Bryne Play's the Roundhouse' in London, but was somewhat disappointed. Perhaps it was the position in the church where I was sitting, or that the 'source' sounds the Minister produced were lacking, but it was mostly just an undistinguishable noise that lasted a few minutes. There were additional projections and sound-scapes in various parts of the church to take in once we were allowed to move around after the set performances, the snippets of 'The Walk' by Chris Lambert played from speakers in the choir area of the Minister was intriguing, I particularly liked the fact that it had a very local element, it was a combination of recorded conversations with townsfolk mixed with audio recordings of walks through Reading.
|Still from 'The Score' by Siobhan Davies Dance and 'Piece' by Julia Rogers|
Another local element was the stunning installation 'Piece' by Reading artist Julia Rogers which she describes as a visual response to the audible sounds of the Minister, both inside and out. The work was suspended spheres of varying sizes, "like thought bubbles emanating with the prayers and thoughts of those in the congregation". It was an interactive piece, a few of the spheres were at a level that you could insert your head into, once in you were enclosed in the muffled sounds of your own body played against those from the external world. The 'Piece' worked well as a link from the auditory to the visual art element of the Festival, and it was beautifully presented against the dark architectural beams of the ancient Minister.
There was much more on offer to the Reading arts going public throughout the month, films and performances, along with an Art Walk which included a few pop-up shop exhibitions, but it was this evening that was the main event, it seemed to have the most thought, time and effort put into it by all and a fine evening it was too!