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Wales in Venice 2019: Sean Edwards curated by Bluecoat Head of Programme, Marie-Anne McQuay

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Sean Edwards selected to represent Cymru yn Fenis Wales in Venice 2019, curated by Bluecoat Head of Programme, Marie-Anne McQuay Arts ...

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Artistic Director Bryan Biggs' top five performances at the Bluecoat

Our Archiving the Arts Centre exhibition finishes on Sunday 5 May and is attracting a lot of interest, especially from people who remember some of the exhibitions and events it features, stretching back over many years. There are films, photos, sounds, posters, publications, and lots of other material reflecting the developments in the many arts activities that the building has witnessed, and here are some performance highlights I have selected:

1. 1985: Circuitous Routes
Jonathan Froud
was artist in residence at the Bridewell/Walker Art Gallery and collaborated here with choreographer Gregory Nash and composer Jim Beirne, the Bluecoat’s live programmer on a beautiful dance, music, visual art commission with young people. The performance was staged in the front courtyard before moving inside to the Concert Hall upstairs. It’s all captured on wobbly video, which we are showing in the exhibition. The fashions are very 80s, and it’s great to see the energy of the young dancers, some of whom went on to bigger things, and Beirne’s music combining early and minimalist styles still sounds tremendous.

2. 1997: Jeremy Deller’s Acid Brass
This was Deller’s first significant commission, part of a two-part series we staged over two years, Live from the Vinyl Junkyard (1996) and Mixing It (1997). The remit was for artists to respond to the reported death of vinyl with the arrival of CDs and the emergence of sampling and ‘re-mix’ culture. Jeremy proposed a live concert by the UK’s leading brass band, the Williams Fairey from Stockport, playing a night of acid house anthems such as Voodoo Ray, What Time is Love? and Let’s Get Brutal.

The implausible notion of two ‘grass roots’ music phenomena both (at the time) outside the mainstream music industry - working class brass bands and house music, with its illegal raves and home productions – coming together, worked brilliantly. At the first gig, which we staged at LIPA, the Manchester media legend and factory records boss Tony Wilson was MC for the night, providing a potted history of house music’s development from its Detroit and Chicago origins, between the Wiliams Fairey’s stomping renditions. Acid Brass was an instant hit, going on to be remixed by Bill Drummond and further performances at London’s South Bank Centre and elsewhere.

3. 1990: Sun Ra & his Arkestra concert
U.S. jazz legend Sun Ra was persuaded to play at the Bluecoat by our live programmer at the time Jayne Casey. Despite being only a small venue, the large Arkestra, looking splendid in shimmering neo-Egyptian/extra-terrestrial stage costumes, squeezed into the Concert Hall upstairs and played a memorable, almost two-hour concert, illuminated by rudimentary lights and a single glitter ball. The gig was videoed but we never knew what happened to the tape until, courtesy of local jazz fan Bob Lamb, it turned up in the U.S. Bob kindly lent it to us and the digital copy is now showing in the gallery. Years later we commissioned David Blandy for our Biennial show and he included film he’d made re-mixing Sun Ra on film.

4. 2002: Mad For Real
Mad for Real are two Chinese artists Cai Yuan and JJ Xi, whose many public interventions have included jumping on Tracey Emin’s bed whilst on display at the Tate. As part of You Are Here, a programme of live art we organised with Live Art Development Agency for the 2002 Liverpool Biennial, they performed their Soya Sauce & Ketchup Fight in the Bluecoat’s front courtyard on a sunny September afternoon. The idea was simple: the artists, one armed with bottles of the familiar Chinese sauce, the other with the popular British equivalent, would battle it out in a large perspex box specially constructed for the occasion.

The idea was loosely related to a sort of ideological battle between East and West. Unknown to us, Cai and JJ soon stripped off once inside the box, which by now was dangerously awash with red liquid and attracting a large audience. Luckily the sight of two completely naked men be-splattered from head to toe in sauces, did not attract complaints but was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience, until one of the artists slipped and cut his leg badly on a smashed soya sauce bottle and had to be taken to hospital in an ambulance, bringing the event to an abrupt close.

5. 2009: Angie Hiesl Twins
Angie Hiesl
is a renowned performance artist from Liverpool’s German twin city of Cologne. With the Bluecoat’s long-standing cultural exchange with artists and venues there, we had wanted to work with Angie for a long time. With funds from Capital of Culture, we were finally able to realise this the year after Liverpool ‘08, commissioning her to create what was her first significant commission in the UK.

For Liverpool she developed her ongoing project working with identical twins, involving two pairs of local sisters and three whom she’d worked with before in Germany and elsewhere. The performance installation was staged at the A Foundation (now the Camp & Furnace) in the raw environment of the Blade Factory where, for over 90 minutes, we were entranced by the elegant, sometimes humorous and disturbing actions of the ten female performers. The whole event was filmed and this is included in the current exhibition.

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Liverpool’s centre for the contemporary arts, Bluecoat showcases talent across visual art, music, dance, live art and literature. As the most ...

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