Coal, tea leaves, chains, glitter, ropes, plastic, paper, fishing wires, and miles of clouds of talcum powder.
Curator, choreographer and performer Paul Michael Henry’s three day event Unfixis nothing if not ambitious in its use of props alone. Weaving together a variety of disparate genres and elements in a mini-festival, which looks at physical space and the ecology, it’s not your average pop-up boutique or arts scene, sponsored by giant soulless corporations whose chief concern is making a fast buck from fickle fashionistas looking to pose with their craft beers – that’s not to be completely disparaging of such festivals; they have their place and are enjoyable on their own terms. Its consciousness raising remit is what sets it apart from many of the larger events in the British cultural calendar.
It is nice to enter each new space ‘blind’, with no preconceptions. Alistair McIntosh’s piece is part lecture, part religious epiphany and is quite startling, lulling the audience in with a wry subversive wink, upending the advertising of tobacco companies and tabloids and taking in his own civil disobedience, before melting into a huge scream,evocative of Beat poets’ societal rage.
Soundscapes feature heavily – Iain FW’s piece is full of found sounds, while Islands’ Sonically Depicting is sweetly off-kilter and bucolic, reminiscent of Paul Giovanni’s Wicker Man accompanied by kaleidoscopic visuals, whereas Thee Unfix Splinter Testrocks a monolithic drone of slow-building intensity. The accompanying dance represents an untangling of ideas with Butoh performance from the wonderful Paul Michael Henry and Yumino Seki who tussle in wires, the better, perhaps, to escape and retreat to the simplicity of nature.
Performance art and visual art blur in Fermented Ink (Vol 2) – two suited androgynous figures with bandaged heads (Stephanie Black and Thomas McCulloch) prowl around a confined gallery space. Their movements are crablike and oppressive. Bunches of fresh flowers drop and rotten fruit is discarded as they grope to find their way to each other, observers, and a certain compromise. It feels like being trapped in a Magritte painting.
The possibilities – and otherwise – of communication in relationships are also explored in Invisible Lines where Saffy Setohy and Luke Birch, in lieu of finding a mutual dialogue, push and pull each other using a single line of fishing wire, and loss is the key binding factor in Laura Bradshaw and Murray Wason’s intensely personal dance / performance piece Afterwards.
Meanwhile Dr Laura Gonzalez, dressed very much like Freud’s most famous case study Anna O, presents a lecture on the 19th century predilection towards misdiagnosing hysteria, bookended by Sam Taylor-Wood’s clip of a hysterical woman, which is compelling and insightful, yet Gonzalez can’t resist cheekily enticing the audience into recreating Marina Abramovic and Ulay’s famous performance scream AAA AAA.
In a gentler mode, there is room for debate: contributing voices about our earth’s future (or otherwise) range from the Common Weal, the Green party and Glasgow University, amongst others. Workshops happen in the mornings, where dialogues and practice ideas are exchanged.
The sense of shared space, charging the rooms with a tangible feeling of something unexpected, defines Unfix, and nobody typifies this more than Butoh performer Ken Mai. Watching Mai is almost like an out-of-body experience – he becomes the only being in a room full of people – utterly mesmerising – exploring a hinterland between life and death, a whirling Shamanic figure, holy angel and sprite filling the room with sweeping gestures and an enormous operatic rendition of Dido’s Lament. An elegiac, yet