Here is a sample of my review work, written in response to Gaynor O’Flynn’s Being Human 108 I-WE-INFINITY event at Rich Mix London, a celebration of cross discipline art and creativity, which took place on 19th October 2013. I would love to review anything artsy and cultural; please get in touch via Twitter for any commissions .
In the red and black space of Rich Mix’s main space on the edgy strip of Bethnal Green Road, a cluster of aesthetes, culture-vultures and music-makers gathered together for what was billed to be ‘a day of music art film debate’. Cross discipline artist Gaynor O’Flynn, director of the Being Human collective, had drawn this crowd together to celebrate the launch of her latest project 108 I-WE-INFINITY, an event comprised of screenings, debates, conversations, displays and live performances from a range of media.
This was not simply an exhibition, but a thought-provoking analysis of the processes that contribute to the production of art, on both commercial and creative axes. And true to its title, everything was shaped by the number 108. The Royal Society of British Artists exhibited 108 portraits by its members, played out in a powerpoint accompanying a discussion of how art and business can work in powerful tandem. And as a gentle break following a controversial discussion on the derogatory nature of the term ‘world music’, we were spoilt with a display of 108 design samples from the East London Design Show. Hipster rucksacks, trendy desk lamps and gemstone jewellery were some of the images fading dreamily in and out on the black painted façade.
On my arrival, the dark auditorium obscured the majority of my fellow attendees faces. Only the bright stage illuminated the guest speakers, and crimson light bounced off the table-tops, filling the room with a subtle energy. This dingy anonymity was not to last for long. The buzzword resounding throughout the day was ‘collaboration’, a term not only discussed in relation to the ways in which different arts can work together, inform and improve one another, but a word resonant in the relationship between the audience and the speakers. After hearing from an expert panel, questions were extended out to those listening, creating an interactive community. And of course, the panels themselves were a collaboration of representatives from all areas of the arts.
I arrived as the room pondered the development of ‘Interactive Sound and Art’. The discussion twisted and turned, demonstrating the intellectual worth of the day’s mission. With democratic access to the technology, the music market has become somewhat saturated, but this sense of participation is something to be celebrated if we consider music as a tool of personal expression. On the other hand, as more and more is produced, the sense of the craftedness of music diminishes, just as money loses its gleam with hyperinflation. One speaker suggested we ought to go on a sort of ‘media diet’, consuming a spoonful of data a day, an allotted amount of audio to help us appreciate once more the uniqueness of individual compositions. Or, as another suggested, perhaps we need not worry about the genesis of modern music, as a backlash against technology has been felt in the return to folk sounds. This to-ing and fro-ing of perspectives set the mood for the rest of the day, and it was here where O’Flynn’s event triumphed. More dynamic than an internet forum or blog, we were not just receptive to art in a passive, static position, but able to probe, question and altercate as well as spectate.
One fascinating, and for me, novel element of the day was the focus on the importance of the word ‘gatekeepers’ for the future of media and the arts. Perhaps a strange term to some, the talks continually stressed the role of human curators to control point of view and allow arty types with niche tastes to pursue their particular interests. Independent media magazines, such as Songlines, It’s Nice That, and Huck magazine are crucial in this field, ensuring that what people want to see is out there to be enjoyed. The premise of this particular discussion set up many interesting points about the diversification of media. Sadly however, too frequently attention was deflected from these pertinent questions, as the discussion meandered into more mainstream chat of matching content to display.
It was in one moment during the later interview with the artist Karl Hyde that the real value of Being Human’s intent shone through. He is a synaesthetic artist, apt for an event that mixed media in a heady whirl of colour, sound, film and words. As he showcased a snippet of his film Life on the Outer Edges, Hyde stressed that there was beauty to be found in decay, art present in the outer edges of urban sprawl. O’Flynn retorted that we seem to spend our lives rushing through to something more beautiful and that the film’s success lay in revealing the things we might overlook by giving us more time to think about what makes art art. And this, of course, was the point of the event, a chance to see things differently, to look at art more slowly and deliberately.
Collaborations, as Hyde argued, provide artists with reactions from others, allowing them to see themselves through someone else’s eyes. Anyone who considers themselves a lover of the arts should step into the world of Being Human. They may find themselves not only learning more about art, but about themselves as people, themselves being human.