Following an international programme marking half a decade of curating and commissioning, spanning Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom in 2019, the Block Universe 2020 programme began in the United Arab Emirates.
In Dubai, Block Universe was invited to curate a programme of performances at Quoz Arts Fest, hosted by Alserkal, on January 24 and January 25. Presenting a series of works in the context of Dubai, the inaugural Middle Eastern programme for Block Universe reflects upon social and cultural histories; diasporic roots, migration and embodied or archival memory. Artists included Eglė Budvytytė (LT/NL), Alex Mirutziu (RO) and Himali Singh Soin (IN/UK). More information can be found here.
For Spring 2020, we returned from 25 May to 29 May 2020, with Sessions–our first virtual performance art festival featuring workshops, podcasts, spoken-word, live performances and music. Please find the programme detailed below.
Block Universe 2020 team: Louise O’Kelly, Founding Director & Curator; Marlies Augustijn, Assistant Curator; Tatjana Damm, Managing Director; Xica Aires, Head of Production. Thank you to our Art Fund supported trainees for their support: Emily Burke, Helena Davidson-Houston, Mumo Liko and Tuula Petersen.
Instructions for Living a Life
Podcast by Sarah Shin & M.J. Harding
“Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” — Mary Oliver
Instructions for Living a Life is a podcast journey by M.J. Harding and Sarah Shin through inner and outer space bringing together sound, poetry and instructions. A proposal for inhabitation as a practice of freedom and beauty as survival strategy, Instructions for Living a Life explores the coincidence of psychic, geometric and embodied spaces through rituals and exercises of listening, dwelling and breath.
1: Aura Satz, ‘Tuning Fork Spell’, 2020. Watercolour on black paper, beads.
2 – 5: Ancient tantric art from Rajasthan, India.
People are unfinished
Livestreamed performance by Jenny Moore w/ Nandi Bhebhe, Tracky Crombie, Sib Trigg, and Rob Bidder (aka housemates)
Part video-collage, part skit, part re-enactment of our new kinds of bodies and movements, and finally a gig in the dining room, think about it like unboxing ourselves after being in the house together for 8 weeks. it’ll start theatrically and end theatrically and there’ll be a moment in the middle where we’ll just play songs and read the YouTube comments.
I’m having trouble with objects and people / peripheral vision, cosmological indecision
I’m having dreams of this never-ending trip / lack of preparation peppered heavy with apparition
Move me out of the house.
I’m holding tight to the skin of my thigh / gradual coming to, pulsing wrist elbow ankle new movement
This is new movement.
This is new.
I’m having trouble with objects and people / cosmological indecision, peripheral vision
I’m having trouble.
We’re having trouble.
Moving without moving.
We are moving without moving.
This is new.
Tech and livestream support by Rubie Green.
Stills from ‘People are unfinished’.
Workshop by Inês Neto dos Santos
Since the beginnings of life on Earth, unseen microorganisms have been performing their collaborative dance on an infinite loop. The process of fermentation taps into the activity of bacteria, yeasts and moulds, teaching us the importance of community, cooperation and the interconnectedness of all things. In this session, we will learn the basic principles for fermenting vegetables, while exploring fermentation as a site-specific practice: a unique map of space-time points which relies on a constant symbiotic relationship linking humans and nature.
You can find the recipe here: Fermentation Recipe by Inês Neto dos Santos
Ingredients & utensils:
1kg of any hardy vegetables, such as: cabbage, carrots, parsnips, celeriac, pumpkin, onions… (just one or a mix!)
1 tbsp of seasoning: garlic, ginger, fresh or powdered turmeric, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, mustard seeds… (possibilities are endless!)
20g of sea salt (fine or coarse, must be non-iodised)
1L jar (or a selection or smaller jars)
1 large bowl
1 chopping board
Some freshly boiled water
1 notebook/paper for taking notes (optional)
1. Sketch note of the workshop by Elvia Vasconcelos
2 – 4: Stills from ‘FERMEN-TOUR’.
With [the ghosts]
is a digital collage film by Eve Stainton featuring costume pieces by Sophie Donaldson and sound by Caterina Barbieri
[the ghosts] as a queer romantic transmitter, as a mode of intimate teleportation and time traversal, a lockdown mediator. As a volume of horror that can be assigned to a lesbian experience, and as an absurd embodiment of this horror.
[the ghosts] as voices continually made invisible in society, as a volume holding the power to haunt, and bend reality.
As grief, heartbreak, darkness, acceptance.
As a force hanging before disappearance. And as a complicated texture that’s with me, moving me.
With [the ghosts] is a series of digital collage sci-fi choreographies made during lockdown, with love.
Stills from ‘With [the ghosts]’.
The full microsite including performance documentation to view through an augmented reality filter is accessible here.
On the microsite, you will be able to watch a performance as well as access a filter by scanning the QR code visible on the site, or alternatively via this link. You are invited to view the performance on the screen through the AR Instagram filter, using the back-facing camera. You can also use the front-facing camera to try the character on yourself. Please make sure you have an up-to-date version of Instagram downloaded on your smartphone. If you would like to share videos or photos please tag: @sakeemathecrook @_keiken_ @blockuniverse
Mind, Body and Screen
Mind, Body and Screen explores the interplay between Keiken and Sakeema’s collaboration in the project Feel My Metaverse (Keiken and George Jasper Stone) via a performance with augmented reality (AR), 3D avatars and conversation released via their website here.
This will be a revival of the AR performance of the same title, originally presented at Jerwood Arts in October 2019. Via the website the audience will be able to watch the performance through an Instagram filter, which augments the CGI character of Pando, from the film Feel My Metaverse, onto Crook’s body. The performance, choreographed by Sakeema, is powerfully intimate, exploring the inner, outer and other and crossing the realms of the virtual, digital, future and contemporary.
On the website, the audience can explore Sakeema’s CGI characters from the present, future and post-human self. There will also be a recorded conversation between Sakeema and Keiken discussing Sakeema’s dance practice, their interconnected collaborative process and the character Pando.
In the film, Crook played the protagonist Pando, named after an 80,000 year old clonal colony of Aspen trees with a shared root system, thought to be the largest living organism on earth. Pando is latin for ‘I spread out’. As part of their collaboration, Sakeema’s dance practice informed the development of the character Pando, and thus it was important to present a physical performance to highlight Sakeema’s dance practice, Mind, Body and Screen at Jerwood Arts. Feel My Metaverse is set in a speculative future where the earth is rendered uninhabitable due to the climate crisis and humans are required to live in a metaverse of virtual worlds. It also explores technology as an emancipatory tool, deconstructing physical limitations through sensory understanding and fluidity.
The online version of Mind, Body and Screen, including a microsite, performance documentation to view through an augmented reality filter, and an interview between Keiken and Sakeema Crook, was commissioned by Block Universe on the occasion of Sessions.
Mind, Body and Screen was initially developed as part of Keiken and George Jasper Stone’s commission for Jerwood Collaborate! and supported by Jerwood Arts.
Garments by Agf HYDRA ( HYDRA Sartorial Latex uniform offsprings )
Soundtrack by Khidja
Stills from ‘Mind, Body, Screen’
Performative gathering by Rowdy SS & Ekin Bernay with Malthus, Rebecca Bellantoni, Chantel Foo, Maria Fonseca and Miguel Moreira, Major Zcene, tyroneisaacstuart
Rowdy SS & Ekin Bernay have been invited to host an online version of their ongoing project [Homework]. [Homework] is an experimental collaborative project dedicated to creating space for artists from various disciplines, initiated in June 2019 at the home studio of Ekin Bernay as a result of conversations with Rowdy SS and tyroneisaacstuart, in collaboration with Performistanbul. [Homework] is an ongoing series that sees the need for a way for connectivity through collaboration and invites live artists to come together, share, in a live art ‘jam’ and aims to build a community.
Ekin and Rowdy use their respective practices and approaches in tangen to create a meditative space for openings, creativity, an invitation to individual or collective performative energy. Homework is artists taking space and time for experimentation.
For Block Universe : Sessions, ‘[Homework 4]’ will be reformatted and hosted on a digital platform. Everyone who signs-up for this event will be part of the performative work itself. This is an opportunity for artists to unite, coexist and co-create globally. We will be creating space within our homes to the potentials of moving, observing, creating within the current situation we are locked in.
Rebecca Bellantoni - live sound text readings and improvisations
Chantel Foo – movement, gesture and performance
Malthus - vocals
Performative workshop by Jade Montserrat & Nikita Gill
This performative workshop expands upon Drawing as Contagion, a chapter included in forthcoming publication A Companion Guide to Contemporary Drawing, eds Kelly Chorpening and Rebecca Fortnum (2020), written by artist Jade Montserrat considering the inextricable link between drawing, writing and performance. Drawing ‘Out’, ‘From’, ‘With’ – Lips Become The Surface will see Jade Montserrat responding to this text, read aloud by Nikita Gill, where the voice and lips become the surface from which Jade responds to fix charcoal to wall. The audience is invited to become part of the drawing by the very nature of their viewership, and become part of it again, should they choose, by drawing out, from and with text in multiple layered forms.
This workshop invites you to engage in a drawing practice, which can be done on any type of surface you prefer. You are encouraged to bring a surface and drawing materials into the workshop, but this could range from a digital surface like a google doc, a physical surface like a canvas or a piece of paper with chalk or pencils, but also your lips or mind can become surfaces that can function as mediums to translate text into an imaginary or word-based drawing.
Stills from ‘Drawing ‘Out’, ‘From’, ‘With’ – Lips Become The Surface’