Louisa Fairclough -Compositions for a low tide at Whitstable Biennial 30/05/14
It is an extraordinary setting, the spit of land appearing as the tide recedes and a beautiful clear still evening, clouds patterning the sky.
I always think it’s a challenge to move a conceptual fine art audience I imagine they want to maintain a position of distance and cynicism, so that makes it all the more surprising how they responded. The initial intention of 20 people having an intimate experience with a live soundscape is disrupted by peoples’ desire to be part of it, to belong and participate. Additionally there is the clarinet playing from the wedding reception taking place in the house overlooking us, which gives a sense of being in a Woody Allen movie and people riding their bikes, walking their dogs, all part of staging something in a public place. Yet for me this gives an added tension of a different sort of meeting amongst other various sorts of meetings and a wider implication of not being able to control the environment; it emphasises how small and fragile the voices of the choristers are, how small and fragile we are.
Conversely, I am irritated by the seeming ineptness of the stewards to organize the participants and the curator to not have organised a small microphone for Louisa so that everyone could hear her talking about the motivation for making the work. I think, maybe unfairly and inaccurately, if this was theatre those dynamics of the interaction between audience and ‘performers’ would have been thought through!
However the sudden appearance of the choristers, dressed in their red robes and white collars, is very dramatic. I feel my heart quickening as they start to sing the four parts.
Speed – I want them to walk more slowly, let it have more time and so maybe our footsteps can attune into another rhythmic sound, I am surprised by my desire for control, it shouldn’t surprise me I am very controlling! As they continue to sing I hear the discordant pitch, I know the subtleties of the pitch changes having talked about with Louisa and wonder if it is lost in the heightened sound of footsteps with the additional people. The constant repetition jangles my nerves; I feel the tension, anxiety and pain of those two phrases – “what shall I do with my hands” and “can anyone see me swallowing?”. It’s not comfortable or comforting.
My brother commented afterwards that it would have been interesting if the choristers had not stopped on the threshold of the spit meeting the water but had continued into the sea whether the audience and participants would have followed, I wonder if they would, if i would?