Reactor Halls E04: Terry’s Back Passage (Reboot) Compèred by Eǝrth Rod
‘For the ladies: Come and see the sex god. And for the guys: Come and do better or I'll take you outside and you can beat me up’, said Roger.
Nobody was beaten up in the playground and nobody did better than Roger Caney. Caney's ode to Ikea and reworkings of I'm Waiting for the Man and My Generation had folks hung-jawed and thwarted for the duration of his recital. Pick of the week, Caney's tragic, farcical, yet cutting quips for me eclipsed the lot nearly.
Not on the bill, but ready and waiting on standby, was Andy Barrett. Face hidden by a full head mask (think pink play dough Zardoz) taken from his participation in Adam James' Mudhead project last Summer @ V22, fully naked from the outset like he was at Reactor Halls E03, Andy had Reactor’s regular punters wondering at what given moment he might get actively genital. The only solid theory dropped in the box tonight was that Andy was definitely not a secret member of Reactor. ‘Is he a bomb from a rival studio outfit?’ Asked one comment. ‘Is he the pet project of some highly self-rated half-wit of a saboteur, sent to scent the hallowed Halls with his huge pink musk-valve?’ Implied another in double writing (perhaps a parent?). ‘An over-ambitious entry-leveller with more balls than face?’ Offered one comment in the box. Or perhaps Andy is simply what he confessed to be to the others in attendance (some of whom were families); a victim of teenage body-fascism who’s decided to take a naked stand (and wear a metal ring around his balls). Now, not only do I teach in a Secondary school, but I also went to school as a child, so I can definitely say: some of that bullying is awful. Surely no one disagrees that this has to stop.
Tonight NTU’s Ruth Williamson, Lucy Hodgkiss & Emma Lloyd resembled artists in some of those books in the Boots library or in those archive videos showing people performing basic actions whilst dressed in black. I trust that will change rather soon, however, and they'll look back on it with a smile as they find themselves advancing faster than their peers who opt for the safe zone of the studio. There's nowt like a well-planned escape. Second Year Art students don't often vacate the bubble to see what can be learned elsewhere, missing out on the benefit of showing work to folks other than their peers, nor do they get to be reviewed by people other than their lecturers. Not that I shall be that reviewer, for it was Bruce Asbestos (Trade Gallery) that had the above to say. He actually attempted it twice in my notebook, before he eventually gave up. ‘It is like I am trying to say that something is good for the fact they attempted it, but I was not overly keen on what they were doing, only keen that they were doing it.’ He pointed at the word GOOD written on the page. ‘I hope that you can read my longhand, Sir. That says GOOD, I think. Is that how you spell GOOD, Sir? Is that what GOOD looks like? It's hard to tell anymore.’
Somebody who I shall simply say is definitely practitioning what GOOD looks like (just as a point of reference, Bruce Asbestos of Trade Gallery), is Sian Robinson Davies, the opening act. I choose to mention this here because, like Williamson, Hodgekiss and Lloyd, Davies also brought with her an older audience to the venue. It is often a thing which people are weary of doing, fearing a conflicting mix in the crowd, but actually a move which can turn out to push and challenge complacent performers, force new considerations and awaken old appreciations. It was like being at a school talent show.
A further highlight for me was something which I immediately found had notes of Reeves & Mortimer, something I find comforting and reassuring. Gabriel Stipes & Lizzy Day I know nothing about, but as Yoko Ono & Vincent Gallo their dialogue intrigued me. Stipes, in particular, was a curiosity of a performer who prompted me to survey the room and conclude early on that I was very glad to be in that audience. They got a genuine and very appropriate pop from both parents and youngers alike.
One lad had a skeleton on his head. First I saw, he had a little house that had been rendered on a mortar-board that he was wearing. He had the standing microphones pressed against his ears. Oh, fab, binaural, I thought, but that was not the tech. He put a mask on that made him look like Skeletor in jeans and picked up an electrified guitar, teasing those in attendance with a murmuring wah-wah, before moving into moving song. His name was Simon Raven. Always appearing to have not really bothered, always with his face slightly covered, but always-refraining credibility. Some people went for a cigarette at this juncture, but many stayed and enjoyed the set. I sensed that they were very much his audience. Real potential.
Daniel Oliver, one of the dads in attendance and a trained hypnotist, presented a reduced version of his Weird Séance performance work. The man the youngers are calling MindWarp had every eye in every head that was watching engaged. There’s no surprise in the fact that Ian Brown is currently getting quite into Oliver. ‘Unconscious Visible Reality’, Brownie remarked, upon being pushed for a quote regarding the work.
Oliver’s ally in practice, Mr Ferris, performed his teaser for the upcoming first part of his Lost Rants series. In keeping with the uncertain conclusion to his piece performed at Reactor Halls E03, tonight he explored this construct further. He seemed to begin his performance and then drift off. Tapping at his ear, it seemed that he was listening to some sort of audio feed. ‘Wow, there's loads of you’, he remarked after a period of empty gazing at the crowd, ‘and none of you can hear it. It’s a really great performance.’ He then attempted somewhat aimlessly to enter into song, but it was hopeless. Something was spouted about an old school fascist wave that history had neglected to notice which used passive-aggressive stoner techniques to encourage you to forget choice. He said something about them putting down his dog-breath bitch before apologising and leaving the building. An intriguing mould set for this series of performances due to begin soon.
Next up, rape jokes, inappropriate fingering and Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now. Not sure if Yvonne Lake’s decision to shout at the upright mic from her low seat as she strummed through the Smiths classic was deliberate or just too late. I do get it, obviously, but I am looking to echo the audience's gauging with this one. I've seen Ms. Lake singing on the internet, but never in the flesh. I'd be keen to see some of her music-free performance work. Well done, Yvonne.
One of the significant themes of Phil Henderson’s stunning curatorial venture Terry’s Back Passage (reboot) which also featured the work of artists Wayne Burrows and Helen Henderson, was the splendid mix of early-years practitioners, ranging from very young, young, to medium-aged to over-aged, alongside more experienced artists. Hungry and carefully planned work, alongside experienced rather too confident work, offered all an opportunity to reflect on practitional approaches as well as a perfectly administered reading of Derick & Clive at the hands of Henderson (the great Curator) and Reactor’s own Dan Williamson. Reactor has a history of plateauing new opportunities not only for the benefit of early-years artists, but also to keep the less-on-the-pulse-these-days in check by facilitating that integration all for the good of the art community. It saddened me, once again, to see some of Reactor's Nottingham contemporaries not managing to make it to school.
Mr Ferris works in a mainstream Secondary school and is based in South East London. He has been making artwork for 10+ years. He works solo and collaboratively, most notably through his work with Daniel Oliver. Mr Ferris has recently begun a new collaborative project with designer Melanie Woelzemueller entitled Mudtrap.