With the annual artistic binge that is August in Edinburgh lingering like the ghost of a particularly stubborn hangover, it’s time for Glasgow to offer its own hair of the dog from the frontier of experimental performance and art.
This year’s Arches LIVE has a line-up that combines work from emerging artists as well as stalwarts of Scotland’s arts scene including Alison Peebles and Adrian Howells. Perhaps one of the most intriguing performances, though, is that created by musician and artist, Greg Sinclair, winner of a Critics’ Award for Theatre in Scotland.
Inspired by working with primary school children in West Lothian and Westerhailes, Sinclair’s I Do, Do I draws on both the Fluxus movement of the 1960s and his experience of creating his acclaimed work Sonata for a Man and a Boy.
Having completed a year-long residency with children’s festival Imaginate and currently an artist in residence at the Citizens’ Theatre, Sinclair’s work focuses on collaboration and blurring the lines between genres, mixing both music (he’s a cellist) and performance art.
The idea for I Do, Do I emerged through work he was doing in schools with children in Primary 5. Sinclair focused on Fluxus music, the avant-garde form that emerged in the 1960s prompted by the work of John Cage and developed by artists including George Maciunas and Nam June Paik. Their aim was to create work that celebrated quotidian experience and instead of using music notation they created “instruction scores” for a performer to interpret.
“I was inspired to see what young people would make of these instructions and I got them to write their own,” says Sinclair. “They were hugely imaginative, they came up with bizarre and beautiful things.”
One of the best known Fluxus pieces, by Paik, calls for the performer to hold a violin above their head and then to smash it on a table. Other works included setting a butterfly free in a performance space or making a salad. The instructions created by the children Sinclair’s been working with are no less imaginative.
“They range from very short things, sometimes just one word like ‘tap’ or ‘talk’ to very specific actions like ‘brush your teeth’,” Sinclair says. “And since the children know that I am a musician they’ve often included instruments in their scores, albeit played in unexpected ways, including kicking a drum across a stage.”
Sinclair’s task is to interpret these instructions and from that create a performance. His interest though is also to examine, as an artist, how much control he’s willing to relinquish and how many risks he’s willing to take, particularly with his cello. He’s definitely got doubts, he says, about playing it while jumping up and down on a table as one score calls for. He’s also not that keen to jump from a 6ft ladder through a burning hoop as another requires.
Fluxus was about expanding what art could be and Sinclair says he’s been delighted by how the children have let loose with their imaginations. “One girl wrote ‘run around a house on a horse wearing red lipstick and a dress,’” Sinclair says.
“They don’t have any limits with budget – they’re quite into ‘you need this prop and these costumes’ – or with ideas. One score has the instruction, ‘release a hippopotamus’ so I talked to them about using a toy hippopotamus but they were like ‘no, we think you should speak to the zoo about getting a real hippo’.” He laughs. “I love how it doesn’t enter their heads that that might be problematic, it’s just how it would be performed.”
• Do, Do I is at The Arches, Glasgow, 25 and 26 September. Arches LIVE runs from Tuesday to 28 September, www.thearches.co.uk
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He’s The Greatest Dancer
Ian Johnston, Gary Gardiner, Adrian Howells
Howells has been artist in residence at The Arches for the past 18 months. Here, with Johnston and Gardiner, he presents a performance piece about two men who love to dance.
25 and 26 September
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25 and 26 September
Every Pound’s a Prisoner!
An improvised performance created with objects from the shop where everything costs a quid. MacAskill, inset, had a budget of £49.99 for props and materials to create an installation in The Arches restaurant to be followed by a half-hour performance casting an eye over “the crap we fill our lives with”.
25 and 26 September