Monday, May 02, 2011

Text Festival

Quite an amazing few days on the whole. First, there was a trip to the very baroque old city of Bruges, with its churches oppressively over-decorated on the inside but quite restrained outside, with its strange fountain of a man's head with two snakes coming out of his mouth. No doubt symbolic of something or refering to one of the more bizarre Greek myths. Then there was the chocolate, which is all gone now; but I've still got the nice tin box it came in.

No chance of pretending that I wasn't being terribly touristy, I'm afraid. I was not being all superior and pretending I was travelling. I went into the ferry's piano bar and joined in the singing of Billy Joel songs and even requested some Sondheim.

That was Tuesday to Thursday taken care of. What to do about the Royal Wedding? Well, I did a very good job of ignoring it, instead. Went to the park and watched ducks. Ate an icecream.

But the highlight has to have been the Text Festival, which was a remarkable event. First, the exhibition has lots of interesting things in it: and is spread across three sites. Phil Davenport's piece in the Transport Museum was very good, and I loved the way that one had to search there for these text pieces among the horse-drawn trams, buses, lorries and other transport paraphernalia. A wall full of old station signs seemed almost to be a kind of poem in itself; and the small postcards from arthur + martha were very moving in a way that there work with often marginalised people often is, because they use those peoples' actual words.

The first performance in Bury Art Gallery at 11pm was very good; with the highlight being a wonderful mix of sound and text poetry from Helen White & Moniek Darge; Márton Koppány and Marco Giovenale were also very good. Of the pieces in the exhibition, I really liked Tony Lopez's piece; but there were many highlights. Even some of the small works were interesting.

At 4pm we all traipsed into the Parish Church, which was a very strange venue for a reading of avant garde poetry but somehow seemed to work. Phil Minton's Bury Feral Choir was the first act, who filled the hall with some at times very unspiritual sounds, included laughter, what sounded like the chatter of a lot of old women, long o's and um's and all kinds of sounds. Somehow, in that setting, it did seem to sound spiritual, which makes one wonder about the meaning of place in the work. Then Satu Kaikkonen & Karri Kokko from Finland filled the space with the sounds of the Finnish language. Because there was no translation, there was no way of telling if there poems had a meaning, but the sounds and their performances were both beautiful. Finally, we had Ron Silliman. I don't really know his work as much as perhaps I should, but then it's always seemed a rather daunting read. He read an extract from Northern Soul, a poem he started at the last Bury Text Festival; and I rather revised my opinion having heard his voice. His neon piece in the exhibition is not the highlight, and isolated sounds a bit patronising ("Poetry has been bury, bury good to me")
but in the context of the larger piece, which meanders from Bury to America in a very entertaining way, it doesn't seem so.

I shall be back to this blog later to finish off the account of the Festival, but the last event deserves a blog all to itself: the remarkable Ursonate by Kurt Schwitters.

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