its not often i ramble here on anything, but i think the tempting failure weekend needs to be poured into letters. i was honoured to be chosen to perform, in a duo with the magnificent yol, at the main performance event – the climax to a week of performances and workshops. i arrived on the thursday, to take part in a workshop with the mighty joke lanz (sudden infant); a fun, open experience and a brilliant introduction to my weekend. he started by giving us an overview of his work, most of which was known to me; but i’m always up for seeing pics of a young, cute dave phillips! ha. from there we played around with some toys, mainly small little sound devices before breaking for lunch. twas at this point, that i had the first of several healthy meals that would blight my decaying infrastructure. upon our return, we split into duos to create off the cuff performance pieces. this resulted in three heavily contrasting, enjoyable duos. ours (sonia and myself) involved a ladder and with hindsight was a near-perfect metaphor for “SOCIETY?” etc.
the workshop was very relaxed and open and i think everyone enjoyed themselves. it was a bit of a jolt when joke announced “how about we split into pairs and create something?”, given that we barely knew each other; but that pressure and necessary haste kicked the brain into work.
joke is a very warm jewel.
the main event took place over the friday and saturday, at the island (in bristol): an old, labyrinthian police station. it turned out that yol and i were first up in the main space. before the weekend, i’d briefly met him twice and maybe spoken to him for twenty minutes in total; thus our performance was based around the risk of collaboration with the least planning and preparation. we merely established a starting point – and ended up finalising this in the minutes leading up to the performance. so, we played out that start and then…
i think that when you improvise with someone “blind”, you often end up blowing through ideas very quickly – and that was my initial feeling after the (very short!) performance. but listening back to a rough recording, there’s a bizarre sense of narrative, even distinct sections. all good.
the one advantage of playing first, is being able to enjoy the rest of the event without a huge fucking lead balloon tied to yr head. thus follows words in a vaguely chronological account.
i enjoyed the spectacle of ana cavic’s “A floral tribute”, which was visually arresting (though i will admit now, that it mainly brought back memories of when a friend of mine ate a daffodil and was violently sick). jonathan rogerson’s “Desert Island Deaths” was an odd piece (thats a compliment, not a criticism), equal parts perplexing and bleak, funny and warm. he cut an impossibly beautiful figure. NW (who i’d met in the workshop) appeared next, with one of the weekend’s highlights; again traversing a line between humour and visceral brutality. my brain is compelled to point out a visual similarity with pyramid-head from the silent hill games, but “box” was an amazing performance. a portable vomir. hellen burrough & phil bedwell’s “union” was a beautiful piece: a tender, shimmering tension of intimacy. this was followed by joke lanz’s “LOVE BITE/S LOVE”, which was an action based around repetition and rhythm, a locked-in circle only broken through outside intervention.
the island is a meandering complex of rooms and alongside the main space performances, there were numerous others hidden around the building. i missed many of these, mainly because my “humans, please, away” circuit activated a lot and i couldn’t bring myself to voluntarily pass a door. however, i did see some of FK ALEXANDER’s (again, a workshop attendee) “Clean time 276”, a duration piece again framed around repetition. the most striking thing, for me, was her black metal-esque make-up: she looked genuinely malevolent, possessed. before this, i’d always considered corpsepaint/etc a bit…silly; but it amplified the intensity of her gaze immensely. throughout practically the entire evening, chelsea coon’s durational performance “Phases” had taken place; a truly wonderful piece, ear-piercingly loud through being so quiet. placed next to the main space, she would be in the corner of my eye constantly, like a slow-motion sadako. a beautiful work.
i awoke the next morn at my gracious hosts’ (jess and dan) and later on, dan and i faced the question: “can a modular synth and an hnw pedal chain produce wonder?” the answer is: possibly, check back when we’ve done a lot of editing.
after another body-confusing, healthy meal, i arrived at the island in time to catch most of alethea tamarit raban’s “s/kin”; this had the effect of turning a body inside-out, like a disembowelled soft toy. alice kemp’s “untitled with ribbon” was next and one of the things i had been looking forward to. i wasn’t disappointed. a wondrous, tense ritual; occult in the truest sense of the word. for some reason, it gained masonic connotations in my mind; but yea, another highlight for me. (as was fiiiinally making her acquaintance.) rachel parry’s “Fuck me gently into the good night II” was a cleansing, cathartic experience, for both performer and audience. “fuck through the eyes, fuck through the throat, fuck through the hand, i will not be a good citizen.” a really powerful piece. i only caught the tail-end of dan cooper’s party levitation, but that was perhaps the best time to enter the space: a wall of noise, strobing lights and the air thick with sawdust. this is what happens when you smash a load of guitars up. thomas john bacon & lee chaos were next, with an atmosphere of anticipation. i had been talking earlier to someone, about how i often feel intense sound through my whole body and how if i’m tired or really hungry, it’ll finish me off. this is what occurred maybe three-quarters of the way through “The Lived Body: REDUX”. i had to escape and eat crap. the bass was pummelling me, but at the same time, i have to also acknowledge that i’m annoyingly squeamish. its something that upsets me, but its definitely worsened by hunger/tiredness (watching Antichrist, having been at work since 6am and not eaten properly, ranks as the worst of these experiences. ha). so, i had to withdraw from the blood, cries, salt and throbbing drone of the main space. its a shame i’ll carry. the closing piece was a durational action from kali rose, which involved the audience in a really resonating way; like many of the performances, it was something which bounced around in my brain for days afterwards.
tempting failure was a lot to take in.
the whole weekend was incredible. on the practical side, the entire event appeared to run effortlessly – my thanks and respect to organisers and volunteers – and offered a successful platform for a broad range of work. on a more personal level, tempting failure was exactly what i needed. i’m easily stuck in a rut and the festival dispelled that. i walked away feeling recharged and pushed forwards, forced to re-evaluate. this has been tested already with new work hours and some drudgery, but i have invested my festival wristband with all of tempting failure’s memories and power and stuck it where i can always see it. it’ll frown on me when i slack. but ja, the experience convinced me to pursue more performance-y directions and interests, so we’ll see where that ends up. i went knowing no-one and left with new friends and contacts.
i wish i was still there.
again, the lesson is: find good people, create something together; when the creation’s goodness ends, REPEAT
my heartfelt thanks, in particular, to thomas, helena and hannah (and also the sound chap who might have been called andy) and my apologies for either talking to you not enough or not at all.
footnote i): it was interesting to see how many performances involved other people, not only the audience but also “assistants”. the latter was pretty revelatory to my independence-obsessed brain.
footnote ii): tattoos. i couldn’t help but note that many tattoos at tempting failure seemed apt or “right” – in the sense that most other “everyday” tattoos seem like mere decoration. for many of the performers, it raised connotations in my mind of old freakshow or circus photos. i mean that as a good thing.
(please note: i didn’t take any photographs at tempting failure – and if i had have, they would have been of the amazing building – so the above photos are culled from “the internet”. they are: sonia/ich (taken by joke lanz), joke lanz, chelsea coon, alice kemp and a motley band of wonderful folk. plus a duck from mr lanz. if any of the photographers wish to get in touch, i will credit them. thanks awfully)