The rest is silence – GetInTheBackOfTheVan – Arnolfini

So. My undisputable bravery and ongoing investigation into the delights of live art continued as I set off on Saturday 11th June and made my way to the Arnolfini for my 1st perhaps 2nd? live art experience. I was more or less completely new to this kind of performance . Having heard numerous stories during Mayfest of participatory shows where the audience ‘members’ were pushed around in a wheelchair whilst blindfolded stopping only while a man rubbed his beard on their face, if I am honest, my first thought was:

Right, If  I need to leave/escape – shouldn’t I be sitting near the door?

Also I am so new to this art stuff I’m always slightly worried I am just not going to get ‘it’. So of course I was kind of nervous. However the Arnolfini’s 50th Anniversary theme, ‘the apparatus of culture’ was something I felt that perhaps I could ‘get’ more easily than something more obscure.

The were three parts to the performance. The first was the final half an hour of a 3 hour durational piece which had been running since the early afternoon, as the performers danced continually to the top 40 singles chart. Alternating the Macarena and Saturday night dance routines, only stopping when the DJ spoke or during an advert break, they would then drink one of several varieties of coca cola. We could move around during this performance if we wished.

The second and third elements were a piece called ‘Shut Up’ and ‘Pearl and Dean’ which I *think* explored the ideas around how (and this I apologise is a very basic, untheatrical lay-webber terms)

How technological (media) advances are subverting our understanding of time and space, and the peice was drawing attention to the (in) authenticity of broadcasting/communication/popular entertainment, consumption and the society of the (non) spectacle. How talking incessantly isn’t necessarily communication. How silence can shout a 1000 words.

Or at least that’s what I got out of it.

I’m sure there is a lot more that could be pulled out, but I need to practise my interpretation skills a bit (tres frustrating)

It was quite exciting for me in the final pieces as I had often wondered if performances could evoke the senses in different ways. I wasn’t sure of the symbolism or metaphor but on a physical level being in darkness and surrounded by talcum powder was a new art experience and a strong anchor in terms of how I recalled the work in my mind…and I was happy to report I didn’t want to run away once.

And nobody rubbed their beard on me.


For me the most powerful part was the experience was that first half an hour watching the end of the durational piece. Now I am not sure if this was because it took me half an hour to absorb it, and half an hour for my head to fill with a number of responses, or whether I just got this piece more easily than the others. Perhaps I interpreted more, because I wasn’t rushing to try and interpret? I don’t know, but it was pretty special in there, and it did make me think: the repetition of the dance routines, the predictable formula of the music, the fact that the piece continued to be played out whether we were engaged directly or not, was for me quite a strong comment on the ‘apparatus of culture’ I also noted that by the end (not sure if it was intentional or not) that both performers had somehow synchronised which variants of coke they picked up to drink.. I wasn’t sure if this was deliberate but it made think how much of our consumer behaviour is learnt and imitated either consciously or subconsciously. I did leave the gallery thinking about the apparatus of culture in particular the media and it also triggered a memory of something I made myself years ago for an old uni module (seen below)

There was a question and discussion session at the end and now, I am kicking myself I didn’t stay – (was a bit worried that I may not understand it so bolted). On the whole I was really reassured that all the pieces seemed so accessible and the audience seemed to have a positive response (in fact one audience member rolled around on the floor at one point!- a small one 😉 It was great that it seemed quite a cross section of individuals/families etc. and it’s given me confidence to try out and watch more work of this kind. It was a memorable, and thought provoking experience which certainly made me question and think about cultural production and consumption. Looking forward to more from GetInTheBackOfTheVan soon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s