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Theatre

b&bI’m sad to be missing the new exhibition opening at the WW Gallery next Tuesday night, especially after the cheeky preview I got of the show at Broughton & Birnie’s studio in March. Go see it if you can, words can’t do justice to the experience promised.

Broughton & Birnie | BERLIN
The Forger’s Tale: The Quest for Fame and Fortune

22 May – 13 July 2013
Preview 6-9pm Tues 21st May
Also open on Saturday 18th May 12-8pm for EC1/WC1 Galleries Day

Open Weds – Fri 11 – 6pm; Sat 11 – 4pm
WW Gallery, 34/35 Hatton Garden EC1N 8DX

 

WW Gallery is pleased to present Broughton & Birnie’s The Forger’s Tale: The Quest for Fame & Fortune, an immersive installation and exhibition chronicling the tragic events that led to the demise of twentieth century forger Georg Bruni.

Focusing upon the events surrounding the sale of a forged Picasso painting to a Nazi collector, the show takes a detail from the original Forger’s Tale exhibition, about the life and times of Georg Bruni held at the Crypt Gallery in May 2012. Weaving fact and fiction in a richly detailed forgery of their own, Broughton & Birnie play with plausibility and authority in a post-internet world of self-constructed realities and identities.

The Quest for Fame & Fortune presents an experiential narrative, in which the viewer is led through Bruni’s story room by room. From the documentary cinema kiosk, to the Collectors and Regenerate Rooms surveying German art from the Berlin Dada exhibition and the Degenerate Art Show, and finally to the wild and grotesque performance of the Cabaret; the spirit and atmosphere of Bruni’s Berlin is evoked.

Akin to the information overload encountered on the vast data resource of the web, the experience of Bruni’s world overwhelms us. Pandering to an information hungry and status-obsessed society, Broughton & Birnie offer a sprawling maze of information within which the viewer is able to pick up and follow individual threads. But as counterfeiters they have also left a deliberate trail of deceit. Visual clues including familiar faces from reality television and politics, a-historical props and incongruous paraphernalia: all allow the audience to peel back layers of forged historicity.

Within Broughton & Birnie’s retelling of Germany’s social & political upheavals, the astoundingly creative artistic culture, and the legendary nightlife of the short-lived Weimar Republic, we find parallels with contemporary life that make for an unnerving satire. Combining archive material and old photographs with the manipulative processes of new technology Broughton & Birnie capture the spirit of a past era whilst performing a wicked parody of current pop culture and politics: forcing the two worlds to collide in a flagrant deception.

About Broughton & Birnie
Kevin Broughton and Fiona Birnie have been working and exhibiting together since 2001. They are interested in the influence of the media and technology on society – its role in our perception and relationship with the real world. The technique of collage is at the heart of their work providing an essential metaphor and means of expression for the myriad individual constructs of contemporary reality.
Kevin Broughton
1987-90 West Surrey College of Art & Design – B.A Degree in Fine Art Painting
1992-94 Royal College of Art – M.A Degree in Painting
Fiona Birnie
1985-88 Exeter College of Art & Design – B.A Degree in Photography
Both live & work in London (UK)

Vladimir: Nothing you can do about it.

Estragon: No use struggling.

Vladimir: One is what one is.

Estragon: No use wriggling.

Vladimir: The essential doesn’t change.

Estragon: Nothing to be done.

 Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett

LastLandscape Joe Duggan

“I wanted to tell a story, a great story, and I wanted to do it with large pictures because I thought that would look spectacular.” Joe Duggan

Life is Not Enough is a picture book specially conceived and designed by Irish artist, Joe Duggan.  Printed in a limited edition of 500, each copy is numbered and signed by the artist.

Recalling the Grimm Brothers’ in its darkly suggestive telling, and taking its narrative frame from the Stations of the Cross: Life is not Enough draws upon the great canons of Western storytelling to portray the journey of a wandering soul searching for meaning in his life, whilst he grapples with love, marriage and misadventure.

Originally conceived during an artist residency in Newfoundland, Canada, the story is told in prose which is as spare and unforgiving as the landscape which inspired it. In capturing both the brutality and the romanticism of a place at the end of the world, Duggan succeeds in telling a story which is universal and particular: the story of a man, and the story of man as artist. Its stripped-back storytelling is a return to basic archetypes in which we may or not find that the narrative strikes a personal chord.

“I wanted to show the everyday struggle and demystify the artist’s life by presenting the thinking, not just the making.”

Accompanied by a series of beautiful photographs, Life is not Enough presents a humorously bleak, yet visually poetic, vision of human existence.  Each photograph has its own theatrical set and depicts a scene enacted by Duggan and his friends: offering a surreal mini-epic which explores life’s predictability as well its will to randomness.

With every element controlled and directed by the artist himself, the book suggests an existence governed by an unconscious overlord; a force which neither judges nor designs, but just is.

“The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.” Murphy, Samuel Beckett.

At its core Life is not Enough explores fundamental ideas about god, religion and society. Through a series of dramatic ploys it also works deeper: touching upon complex ideas about art, aesthetics, psychology, reality and the essential absurdity of life. The book represents more than just the act of story-telling, it is also a performance: a theatrical spectacle which takes its cue from Beckett’s absurd.

Since its inception in Newfoundland, Duggan has spent almost four years completing the work. Known for his large scale photographs and installations this is Duggan’s first published book.

Beautifully bound in blue cloth as a hardback, Life is not Enough is designed by Joe Duggan in collaboration with Lisa Novac. Intended to play with the conventions of the book itself, its oversized, even awkward, format teases our expectations.

To purchase the book please visit Joe Duggan’s website: http://www.joeduggan.co.uk/index.html

This text is part of a commission from the artist, please get in touch if you’re interested in commissioning any writing from me.

Halfcut-Shelf-Life-725x1024Participation, as I may have suggested before, makes me nervous. Whether it’s art or theatre, the idea of having to be more than a silent, thoughtful viewer in the audience is enough to make me squirm with nervous tension.  This probably explains the beginning of my ‘Shelf-Life’ experience; blushing a deep red beneath a hard hat as I tried and rather spectacularly failed to blow up a balloon several times.

“Look after her, will you.” suggested one of the actors to my friend before we were sent off down an ambient red tunnel only to emerge from a giant fabric vagina into the giant hands of a doctor. Somehow surreal moments like this succeeded in curing me of my nervous giggles.

There was no need for me to feel like it was such a test, the silliness of Half Cut’s approach to philosophising on life endeared everyone to get involved; that and the skill of the actors in coaxing their participants into character whether they were nervously at the fringes of a wedding dance floor or remaining tight-lipped in group therapy. This was the ultimate beauty of Half Cut Company’s Shelf Life.

There was no particular mystery to the part I was required to play. This was a run-through of life and much of it was familiar; I felt especially comfortable being passed cheap wine in a polystyrene cup at a student party. That part, along with the cynicism of a recruitment company crushing my dreams of academia, felt quite close.

On the record book which I carried through my Shelf Life, along with my helium balloon, the disclaimer noted that part of the information I gave must be true. I could have given myself an entirely new persona, but it was difficult not to bring some real experience to the performance. Where did I want to live? Where did I want to go on holiday? Who did I want to be? All of these questions appealed to my instinctive desires as well as my imagination.

Shelf Life was not just about the individual, it was a collective promenade through the 5 levels of life and it was impossible not to respond to the collective. One participant in his 60s, Peter, seemed to come into his own as we reached the upper echelons of shelf life: “Shut the window” he demanded as we shuffled into our retirement home. As we were all herded out onto a balcony to release our shells (the helium balloons) into the cold autumn night, there was an affectionate chorus of “Shut the window!”. That was how we all ended our lives.

It interested to me to think about how our ages dictated or transformed each of our experiences. The programme suggested that the performance tackled the ‘meaninglessness’ of life, but it was its fleeting nature which struck me. One minute I was lauding it over all the single ladies at a wedding party, enjoying a cheeky kiss before being shipped off on a coach to middle-age. Then, at the next moment, I was sharing my anxieties in an Over-40s therapy session and wondering when everyone else in my group had the time to get married and have seven children. How had life passed me by so quickly? Why wasn’t I married?

I guess life can be like that.

Absurd and philosophical, Half Cut’s Shelf Life was ridiculously enjoyable. I recommend that you catch it while you still can.

Shelf Life will be at Theatre Delicatessan, Marylebone Gardens until the 10th Nov 2012. For more information visit theatredelicatessen.co.uk