Tuesday, 11 October 2011

EAST POP RED Exhibition and Performance

I am showing two paintings in EAST POP RED, an exhibition at Red Gallery, following on from the EAST POP WEST exhibition. I will also be doing a performance with Marco, the second part of our 'Pins and Needles' East-West performance, which began in West London. Details below.

Not No Un (She Is Not Being Moved)

The opening night is on Tuesday 11th October 2011, from 6pm - 9pm.

The exhibition is open from Wednesday 12th October to Tuesday 18th October, from 11am to 8pm.


'Pins and Needles' performance will take place in the gallery from approximately 6pm on Thursday 13th October.

Red Gallery
3 Rivington Street

Nearest tube stations are Old Street and Shoreditch High Street.

More information on the Red Gallery and Eastpop websites

Details of the previous exhibition, EAST POP WEST, and the first part of my and Marco's performance Pins and Needles - West, are in the posts below.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

East Pop West / Not No Un / Pins and Needles

I will be doing a performance with Marco at 7.30pm on Saturday 1st October 2011, as part of the East Pop West event. Our performance is called Pins and Needles.

I am showing two new paintings in the exhibition; together they are called Not No Un (She Is Not Being Moved).

East Pop West is open from Friday 30th September to Sunday 2nd October,
12 noon - 10pm.

Admission price £5 / £3 concessions

East Pop West
Unit 1
Goldhawk Industrial Estate
Vinery Way (off Brackenbury Road)
W6 0BE

Nearest Tube is Shepherd's Bush (Central Line).
Vinery Way is a 10 / 15 minute walk down Goldhawk Road (on the left).

More information on the East Pop West website.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011


NOT NO UN, my installation of nine paintings for the exhibition SEXY100.

SEXY100 is a group exhibition of 100 artists at 'wall to wall', a temporary space in an old office block, that's usually a makeshift warehouse for a food re-distribution charity. As well as three open-plan floors, dingily-officey-carpeted, the building has many small cubicle-style rooms, with sliding doors, louvred blinds, dusty shelves and office detritus. I made my installation, NOT NO UN, in one of these small rooms, creating nine new paintings to fit in the space of three wall-mounted shelves (dust left in-tact). I also created a tenth, related, painting, 'SHE IS NOT BEING MOVED (RED)', which was hung on the top floor amongst work by other artists. Each painting is 10 X 12 inches, in acrylic paint.

The exhibition is at:
'wall to wall',
8 - 9 Spring Place,
Kentish Town

SEXY100 is open from 9th to 30th September 2011, daily by appointment.
Call 07587 454 613 or email stimulusltdworldtour.co.uk.

More information about the exhibition and the curators, Stimulus Ltd, can be found at BIG DEAL and Stimulus Ltd websites. The invitation and map are on my previous blog post, below.



Monday, 5 September 2011


I am showing ten new paintings in the exhibition BIG DEAL SEXY100, curated by Stimulus Ltd. The private view is on Thursday 8th September 2011, from 5pm until 9pm, with performances and work by 100 artists. The exhibition is at wall to wall, 8-9 Spring Place, London N5. It's a ten minute walk from Kentish Town tube on the Northern Line.

Here are links to BIG DEAL and Stimulus Ltd websites.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Wrapping: Sun and Moon Performance

Tin foil and crumpled flag, after the performance

On Saturday April 23rd 2011 I did a performance with Marc Vaulbert de Chantilly as The Sun and Moon. We were invited to perform by Micalef, for the final event of his exhibition The Wine Presses of Luvah. The event, at the Freedom Bookshop gallery, Whitechapel, was the third during Micalef’s exhibition, where he read his new Blake poems, and hosted various performances, including The Hoova of Luvah. Micalef added new poems for each event, which were based on things that happened in the previous readings and performances.

Micalef’s request/instructions/suggestions for our performance were only that Marco would be the Moon and I would be the Sun ('wear something diaphanous'), and that we 'do something about Blake's Albion'. Marco suggested we buy lots of tin foil – we decided on two large, wide rolls – and use two balls of grey wool; he suggested I wear yellow. We found nothing suitable and yellow in the charity shop, so Marco brought a yellow T-shirt of his own, with a mythological print on the front and back, for me to wear over my green dress. I wore my hair – which is long and yellow-ish – down. Marco brought a silver suit, trimmed with gold, for himself, and wore gold trainers with it. We changed into our costumes in the tiny toilet underneath the Freedom Bookshop gallery.

It was unseasonably hot weather on the Easter weekend, weather for shorts and dresses. At the event both Calum and John had arrived in shorts and intense, bright yellow T-shirts. This was coincidental, and not part of the exhibition, but perhaps the same awareness of energy and heat had prompted their choice of clothing as informed ours in the performance.

Micalef read a set of three Blake poems, after which we began our performance. There was already a large and worn Union Jack lying on the gallery floor. In a previous performance Marco had lain under it as Albion, with a horn held erect like a giant penis, sleeping and then rousing. This was referred to in one of Micalef’s subsequent poems. I began our performance by taking the flag and carefully folding it into a neat pile, placing it back on the floor. As I did this, the small but noisy audience paid little or no attention, continuing to talk and to encourage a dog to scamper around noisily on the wooden floor-boards right beside me. Marco felt afterwards that he liked the way people kept talking at the beginning, but also found it sexist – they talked as I folded, but when he arrived in the performance they began to watch and be quiet. Perhaps it appeared I was just tidying up for Marco. I felt the tension and ambiguity of performing, unnoticed, wondering ‘when will people realize we’ve begun?’, and the gradual focussing of attention on our activities. There was a juncture between being there ‘just doing’, and ‘performing’. I thought, as I folded the flag, of the women in the launderette folding sheets, and of times with my mother, folding sheets, ‘me to you and you to me’. The lack of attention - or respect? – for this part of the performance seems consistent with the quiet invisibility of such tasks. The folding was a preparation, a preparatory meditation, a clearing away before a beginning, and an allusion to bed-making (itself entwined with the cycles of day and night, sun and moon).

When the flag was folded, Marco walked over to me, in his thick, wool, shiny silver suit, and I helped him to sit on the floor. He sat with his legs straight, outstretched, and his back vertical, forming a right angle, parallel to the wall. He sat extremely still. I took one of the rolls of tin foil, which I had been holding like a wand, and began to unwind it, wrapping it around Marco’s head. His head was recently shaved and so as I wrapped it in foil I could press the thin metal directly on to both his skull and face. As I did so I thought of the lampshades I make at home by wrapping my own head in foil to form a lampshade-like shape, and a residue of my facial features, which then hangs from the ceiling, shedding out light. I was careful to press gently but firmly onto the foil to capture Marco’s head without hurting him. I felt I was looking for his features, looking for and making the ‘Man in the Moon’. Marco said afterwards it felt very caring, as I pressed the foil to his face.

I began to wrap the foil further down, towards Marco’s neck. I wrapped by circling him, moving my whole body around him, orbiting. As I wound myself and the foil around him, concealing his neck, and shoulders, I followed my progress by unwinding a ball of soft, grey wool, binding and tying it over the foil, holding the shape in place. Marco said this part of the process felt precarious at times, that the foil ‘case’ might slip off, or burst apart. It would have spoiled the effect if bits of the moon had broken off. Breaking the illusion – however nursery rhyme-like or absurd the illusion was – would undermine the potency of the performance, the ritual. The precariousness of the ‘encasing’ demanded my focussed attention and careful application of pressure, a certain amount of balance and quick dexterity to get the 'moon’ wrapped up. It was important to entirely encase Marco, to make a solid and complete shape of him – to transform him into a shape, an object, but an abstract entity too. I felt as I wound and bound him that I was making something precious that could be broken – the ‘object moon’ and the ‘idea moon’.

It was such a hot evening that as I circled round Marco, bent over doing it, I began to feel light-headed and a little dizzy, over-heating slightly. Marco, I realized, inside a thick suit and an ever-growing tight foil casing, must be starting to sweat, heating up with the radiating, reflecting, intensification of the foil. His whole head was entombed, his mouth and nostrils covered. I hoped he could breathe ok.

I encased Marco’s torso, with his arms strapped to his sides, with swathes of foil. I tied him up with more wool. Then I put one hand on his back, and one under his legs, stretched out on the floor still, and guided him backwards to lie on his back. As he tipped back he retained the ‘L’ shape, his legs rising up into the air, to form the inverse ‘L’, or almost-crescent shape. The movement was comical, absurd – a ‘tipping up’, as Marco said afterwards. The cartoon-ish-ness of this movement suited the foil ‘moon’ we were making. I began to complete the crescent, this time winding the foil from the top of Marco’s gold toes downwards to his belly. Part way through this process I heard a muffled sound from his foil-head which made me aware that he was overheating and struggling to breathe. I poked a hole through the foil, where I guessed his mouth was, for him to breathe better and steam to escape.

Time was pressing, with the audience’s short attention span, the heat, and Marco starting to steam inside the foil and his legs becoming exhausted – ‘it was like being at the gym’, he commented about the legs-aloft posture afterwards. Marco was blind for the duration, his eyes enclosed in foil, his hearing similarly muffled, suffering a strange sensory deprivation combined with sensory-intensification, of the heat and posture. There was finite time to complete the moon wrapping. Timing was all important; duration was palpable, emphasized by the condition of heat and tiredness, energy manifested. I thought of the cycles of sun and moon, imagining the sun as having tasks, tasks to achieve before night, preparations to complete, routines that must be performed and punctual. The darkness dependant on the energy of the light. The formation of rituals by the intertwining of light and dark. Marco said afterwards that I was dancing round him like a maypole, as I wound him with foil. It had felt like an abstracted, dance-like ritual.

Marco, his back flat to the ground, his legs outstretched, was now entirely encased in foil. His body became an object – a crescent, a silver-moon-crescent. An absurd toy, improvised moon. Man in the moon. I took hold of his legs and guided them to the floor, stretching him out flat, almost feeling like I was breaking him in half. No longer the moon crescent, now a body, a 'mummy', a light and heat emitting presence. John said it felt as if Marco was emitting radioactivity, that the audience should be protected from the energy – that the foil was to protect the audience from radioactivity, like a special suit. I was conscious of Marco and my heat, from the activity, the circling, the wrapping, the reflectivity. I had the impression of a piece of salmon or meat wrapped for baking. Geraldine commented that ‘You trussed him up like a kipper’.

Once Marco was stretched out I took the folded flag and shook it out, like shaking a blanket or duvet. I laid it over him like a bed cover. I felt I was putting the moon to bed, completing a point in a cycle. The moon going in. I felt caring, patient, protective. I sat at his feet, crouched, like at the foot of a bed – watching, guarding, paused, waiting. Though the pause was brief – necessarily as Marco was too hot and the audience distractable – my moment crouched at the foot of the moon was a clear, weighted punctuation.

I rose from my post and pulled the flag-cover from the sleeping moon and cast it aside. Then, I held up Marco’s legs back into a crescent and began quickly to unwrap them. I roughly unwound the wool binding, tangled, and tore off shards of foil, ripping and scattering them like sun-moon-light across the floor. I held his legs, revealed now to the innard of silver and gold suit and gold trainers, and pushed the legs down as I guided his body up to sitting, into the ‘L’ shape, his torso still wrapped. I continued the reverse process, of unwrapping, tearing the foil from his body, feeling the heat beating out. When I pulled the last pieces from around Marco’s head, his face emerged, red and streaming with sweat, having endured the intense reflective heat, basted inside the foil shell and in the thick wool suit. He was the heat emitting core. I squeezed and gently shook his shoulder to ‘wake’ the moon, a gesture of ‘time to get up’. He opened his eyes, and I helped him to his feet, the silver core now animate, amidst the scattered foil shards.

More crumpled foil and flag, after the performance

The performance ‘proper’ came to an end here, but after a minute or so I returned and began to gather the foil shards and compress them into a ball, in a gesture of tidying. Marco joined me, scavenging on the floor for foil, to create a huge sphere of foil, a ‘full moon’, from the remnants of the performance. The foil-moon-ball was later placed, by Marco, on top of one of Micalef’s sculptures, to become a final element in the sculpture, a full moon hovering above a Loovah-lampshade.

The foil-moon on top of Micalef's Loovah-Lampshade sculpture

To read about other performances I've done, including more with Marc Vaulbert de Chantilly, please click here.

Monday, 14 February 2011

AISLE Performance

As part of GHost III, an evening of performance and film in St. John's Church, Bethnal Green, Marc Vaulbert de Chantilly and I created AISLE, a ten minute performance resonating with ideas of penance, pilgrimage and ritual. Ghost III took place from 6pm to 10pm on Friday 17th December 2010, organized by Sarah Sparkes and Ricarda Vidal.

View inside St. John's Church, Bethnal Green, looking towards the altar end of the church. Taken during the rehearsal for AISLE - you can just see the blurred crawling figures near the white screen.

The dark pews in the dimly lit church interior for the AISLE performance.

The lights in the church were low, the pews dim, so that their occupants were barely distinguishable. The aisle of the church was comparatively more illuminated, its flattened well-worn pink-red carpet singled out by the lighting as the one route through the church. As the audience mumbled and rustled, after the previous performance ended and whilst waiting for ours to begin, Marco and I made our separate ways from where we had been sitting to the top of the aisle. We knelt down and began to untie our shoe laces. We took off our shoes, and then our socks. Our naked feet indicated the beginning of a ritual, with a sense of awe or respect for the forthcoming actions; coupled with intimations of a dance; and suggestions of insanity and deprivation. Observing shoeless people I notice that they are perceived as the abject, the utterly vulnerable, the insane. On the occasions I’ve removed my shoes in public I’ve been met with concern and consternation. Perhaps looking comfortably hippy-ish or high-heeled exhausted mitigates against this – but as an otherwise-outwardly-normal person shoelessness is a breach of sanity and comprehensibility. In our performance we wanted to evoke the ritual and niceties of religious and other ceremonies where shoe removal is involved - outside a house or a temple, in a newly carpeted home – suggesting reverence, occasion, respect – but to destabilize these ideas during the performance. We wanted to unsettle readings of our rationale, to make interpretation awkward. Bare, naked feet felt liberating, comfortable, practical. It was a route into closeness with the ground and integration with our movements – and a nod to nakedness. Our bare-footedness was carefully planned, yet it went barely noticed at first.

Kneeling to remove shoes at the start of the aisle.

Ghost-blur kneeling to remove shoes.

Starting to crawl.

From our bare-foot-kneeling position we lowered our whole bodies onto the ground and stretched out our arms before us, prostrated. We began to slither-crawl forward. The moment of transition from not-crawling to crawling had the sensation of diving into a swimming pool; of being on a clear and significant threshold - a sensation which was familiar from previous crawl performances. We had done a practice crawl at my studio a few days earlier, where we used the hallway, at the end of a long corridor. The floor is stone, or concrete, and was freezing. We slid side by side on our bellies in the narrow space, negotiating our movements and interactions. The cold slammed into our stomachs, my top riding up so that my belly and midriff were directly in contact with the freezing surface. When we arrived at the church to rehearse on the day of the performance we saw that the aisle was carpeted, and I had a sense of almost-guilt, that the crawl would be so much more comfortable and warm than I had expected and intended. Yet, during that rehearsal we were responded to with the comment ‘You must have done something really awful to have to do that much penance!’ So the resonance of pain and suffering seemed still to be present.

The carpet of the aisle, ant's-eye view. And ghost-blurred crawling figures.

The screen at the end of the aisle, with two 'will o' the wisp' lights, which we are crawling towards. Crawlers'-eye-view.

When we began our AISLE crawl, the audience, attuned perhaps to vertical or louder events, carried on chatting and drinking and glancing around for the first few moments where we silently, subtly moved. Our crawl was a belly-flat-to-the-floor type of crawl, dragging ourselves along with outstretched arms.  We moved towards the altar, slowly, painfully, painstakingly.  Whilst we crawled, from above our heads on the balcony, a choir began to sing a repeated refrain of ‘again and again and again and...’ As each phrase was fading out a solo voice emerged from the opposite balcony to respond with another refrain of ‘again and again and again...’ the single and multiple calls merging, overlapping and pulling each other onwards. The music was mantra-like, enigmatic, ambiguous, but insistent. It was gentle and soothing in the tone of the voices, yet its cyclical and unceasing nature carried an element of threat and desperation, of compulsion and castigation. ‘Again’, a word which was embodied in its performance - an ‘onomatopoeic’ singing. Again, a word which I have repeatedly painted and drawn, on tissues, rizlas, canvas, and which Marco has sung in the lyrics of Rex Nemo songs. A word we have both pondered, and returned to; repetition, repetition, repetition. Again: I think of compulsion, addiction, meditation, repetition, history, pattern, inscription. As the ‘again’ refrain began, eyes were drawn around the church, and to the lit aisle with our crawling bodies, and our presence dawned on the audience.


Crawling heads down.

Crawling head up.

There was silence from the audience as we dragged ourselves forward. Marco pulled himself forward with his fists clenched, his legs a dead weight; tiring, he sighed and groaned at the effort, communicated visually and audibly. His body clad in lighter-coloured clothes than mine, and his accompanying sounds, drew attention to his figure, dominating the dual-crawl. I wore dark clothes, contrasting to Marco’s in colour, but similarly normal everyday type of clothing, baggy trousers and jumper, so that our crawl appeared perhaps spontaneous, part of the everyday world. I crawled differently - silently, smoothly, stretching out my arms and fingers, clawing into the carpet, dragging myself, legs slightly bent to give a little propulsion. I felt lost and contained within the world of crawling, the slithering movement, the sensation of the floor against my stomach, tops of my feet and palms. The visual and stylistic contrast emphasized the difference between the two crawlers – unified in an activity, a purpose, but possibly in competition, or negotiation.

Crawling down the aisle.

Our movements were low to the ground, an inversion or perversion of a conventional procession/perambulation down the aisle. I was aware of the history of processions along the aisle – the routine church services, communions, marriages and funerals that take place there - and of our laying our own ritual over these, our intervention in ritual. As a crawling couple perhaps we prompted thoughts of Adam and Eve, and the serpent, forever crawling and eating the dust – an image of conflated Christian mythology, contorting ideas of sin and shame and temptation into an ambiguous and malleable spectacle. Pilgrimages and penitent journeys which process hand and knee through villages and towns, streets and floors, to end in the church, echoed through the crawl – events of endurance and tradition in some places, but which are unfamiliar in Bethnal Green. Mexican and Polish friends pointed out these histories to me, after previous crawling performances, though the impulse to crawl, for me, came from somewhere internal and unorganized – perhaps informed, osmotically, by centuries of others’ crawls? Our crawl necessitated the audience to suppose their own idea of our purpose. Ahead of us, at the altar end of the aisle there was a large white screen on which two tiny ‘will o’ the wisp’ lights were roaming, flitting, searching. We moved towards these - drawn, beckoned, impelled, seeking, the lights giving a logic and object to our movements. ‘Never underestimate the power of ritual,’ Marco had said to me some time before we made the performance, words which continue to turn over in my mind.

Crawling towards the table-obstacle.

Our crawl had been intended to be, at times, something of a 'battle' - we would verge across each other's path, tussle, barge. This battle would have its climax in our negotiation of an obstacle placed half way down the aisle – a table covered with a heavy velvet cloth, and a film projector mounted on it. The obstacle occupied half the width of the aisle and, we realized in rehearsal, that from our awkward horizontal positions it would be a case of under or around, one at a time. We decided to use the obstacle to further dramatize our struggle. When we were near to the obstacle Marco got ahead of me. I crawled faster and, there not being space for us both to pass through the gap side by side, I began to pull myself onto Marco’s back. I crawled and dragged myself up his legs, across his back, and slightly kicked in order to get over his head and beyond the obstructed bit of the aisle first. It became something of a race. I felt myself pushing my foot back into Marco’s hand or head, ruthlessly, attempting to ‘win’ - at the same time realizing the playful and sexual connotations of this over-body crawl, with its intimacy and familiarity and entwining. Marco’s passive acceptance of my over-crawl unsettled the gendered idea of competitiveness.

Crawling around the obstacle.

Gail crawling beyond the obstacle.

Hood up.

Gail crawls ahead of Marco.

On the other side of the aisle obstacle Marco’s hood fell over his head, concealing his face, making him appear monk-like. We again crawled side by side, the pace increasing as we saw our destination of the altar nearing. The choir’s refrain had continued to repeat, the lights on the screen continued to flit, and our movement and Marco’s groaning continued too. The build up of repetition in movement and sound, its cycle, progress and yet getting-nowhere-ness, created both tension and meditativeness – a sense of expectation and waiting, and also of being lulled, held, suspended...

Arms outstretched.

Crawling towards the light.

Marco elbows Gail.

Nearly at the altar and screen.

At the end of the aisle, by the altar, screen and lights.

...I arrived first by the altar, dragged myself onto it, still on my belly, and crawled off behind the screen. Marco followed, hauling himself up heavily, legs still unused. We concealed ourselves behind the screen, and listened as the choir’s refrain of ‘again and again …’ faded away. There was a pause, as, we presumed, the audience figured out that the performance had ended. Silence of the audience at the end, after their noise at the start. Then some kind applause, and a shout of ‘Again! Again!’ from someone in the audience. Later, we were asked of the time we spent behind the screen, ‘Were you shagging at the altar? I hoped so.’

Crawling round the corner...

...and onto the altar...

...Marco's feet disappearing...

Music performed by members of the Hackney Secular Choir and Kate Kotcheff.

‘Will o’the wisp’ lights by Sarah Sparkes and Ricarda Vidal.

All photos by Matt Rowe, except last two (below), by Sarah Sparkes.

You can see a short film of AISLE by Sarah Sparkes and Helen Bee on YouTube.

There's more about GHost events on the GHost blog...

...and on the GHost facebook page.

You can read about two previous performances I did involving crawling, 'Dishclout: The Human Duster' and Crawl on these earlier posts...

...and my first collaborative performance with Marc Vaulbert de Chantilly, 'Silent Bell Ringing'.

Here's a link to my AGAIN painting in the exhibition 'East End Promise'.

Rex Nemo & the Psychick Selfdefenders + Hackney Secular Singers play Girls Division and Set Your Spirit Free ...at Supernormal Festival, in this YouTube video.

For GHost II, at St John's Church in 2009, I made Crossbones, a short film of the ephemeral memorials at the unconsecrated graveyard...

...and for GHost Hostings, at Senate House in February 2010, the Reverand Marc Vaulbert de Chantilly gave a sermon-performance - you can see a short film of the sermon here