My foots steps sounded on the steel steps as I disappeared below street level. What was I walking into? A girl with paddle straight hair the colour of corn, sat on a picnic chair in the dimly lit entrance. We exchanged smiles, I raised my eye brows and slipped past her. Paint chipped walls of the Regency town house, the colour of caramel and yellowed white, rose 9ft to a crumbling frescoed ceiling. My steps became punctuated and I tip toed straight down the long corridor, ignoring rooms to my right. Plaster exposed wooden slats and friable brick. No sound came from the room. A few people where standing completely still, as if freeze framed, at the entrance. A gangly woman, with orange tights, red jersey dress and oversized limp crimson straw hat, with a third trimester bump seemed to dance around the room as she bent and petered, exploring the room. My feet had rooted. I was transfixed…A 10ft square skylight was dropping innocent light onto a large table below. The table was pure, snow bright. Covered in flour. At random points the flour towered, clinging to kitchen implements, a silver whisk, a glass water jug, blue tableware, candles…I took three steps forward and saw what looked like imprints from shoes and the marked history of sculpting hands. It took my breath. I had to blink away threatening tears. It was the light. The dusty pink brick, uncovered behind the painted walls. The solo white tea-pot, high up in a nook on the chimney breast.
Two artists Jane Fox and Irene Mensah, had each inherited cookbooks from their grandmothers and had been inspired to create an installation to depict a food dream space out of objects and ingredients that their grandmothers would have viewed with practicality and perhaps reverence (due to economic difficulties and rationing) of a different kind. Scribblings of recipes from generations past, the artists conclusions and the unanswered questions seemed to hang in the air. I have not a clue what they wanted me to think, I didn’t even know what it was that had triggered something inside me. Art has the power to rock me sideways sometimes. I had a similar experience when visiting Lanzarote a few years back whilst on a yoga retreat. Cesar Manrique http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%C3%A9sar_Manrique , frequent host to the Hollywood stars of the day, friend of fellow artists who included Picasso & Miro, had built his home around the lava flows and constructed rooms to house his, and his peers, paintings and sculpture. Most of it I didn’t have a clue what it all meant. Squiggly lines, one-eyed woman with balloon sized breasts, slashes of colour on monotone canvas? But, as I had walked around my emotions were stirred, whisked, drained, thrown, and then smoothed inside of me. I’m not being pretencious (or am I?), some art is just pure crap (or maybe I just fail to ‘get it’.). But sometimes I feel it.
The Brighton festival certainly dishes up innovative, quality art, theatre, cabaret and more comedy than you can shake a stick at, each year. In 2010, Brian Eno put on the most amazing art installation (http://www.dreamthinkspeak.com/home.htm). It involved walking around an old, redundant department store. With no pre-knowledge about the details of the exhibition, I entered blindly into pitch black rooms, each as different as the last; to stir a scene and find I was actually in a supermarket freezer, women gripping shopping baskets and shouting at me in some Eastern European language from the other side of the glass; I stepped into a mock Ikea scene and into kitchen cupboards, to crawl out the other side and into a vast room, with fake snow covering the floor and knelt low to peek at miniature villages with pin pricks of light from tiny houses and street lamps. It was bizzare…I even ended up being pulled into a changing room and a lanky Russian girl, who motioned me into a changing room and cajolled me (with smiles and nods) into putting on a vibrant red ball gown. I was paraded up a red carpet. The people milling around and the actors then awarded me rapturous applause! I couldn’t speak for about an hour after that experience, my brain had flipped out at the enchantment of it all and my inability to grasp what was the artist was trying to get me to ‘understand’ and what had actually happened. I LOVED IT!
I checked out a few other Open Houses and walked up New Street, where groups stood watching street performances, and sat on pub benches drinking beer. I watched people walk by in outlandish outfits and wondered whether they were part of some play or whether it was just the garish attire of ‘normal’ Brighton folk.
Later, I met up with my friend Anthony. After a swift curry, a cup of tea at the beach, and a chat, we went to a play in a pub. I won’t deny, I didn’t have the first idea what it was all about but Anthony seemed delighted at the experience! So that was good enough for me.
I had forgotten (slap wrist!) my camera so I only had my little cheap phone to capture the day…I share with you the scant image that I have (does not do justice) and the link to the Mutter Matter (flour on the table) exhibition.