Rose English (b1950) came to the fore on the 1970s feminist art scene, in particular with her 1975 performance Quadrille, a ballet for six horses and hoofed dancers presented at a dressage show – and her work crosses boundaries between performed installation, vaudeville, film, spoken drama and opera. She has appeared on stage and in films and has been writing, directing and performing for 35 years.
English has been working with Chinese acrobats for more than a decade and her collaboration with them has evolved through various performances and exhibitions, including Ornamental Happiness – a show in song and circus – at the Liverpool Biennial in 2006, and Flagrant Wisdom commissioned by the National Glass Centre in 2009. Her current exhibition at Camden Arts Centre, A Premonition of the Act, is described as “reconfiguring elements of a major yet-to-be-realised performance”, hinting at two live performances that will take place after the show has been taken down, on 11 and 12 March 2016.
The centrepiece of the exhibition is the sound work, Lost in Music, an operatic piece for 10 voices and percussion, scored by Luke Stoneham for English’s libretto. It plays in a darkened room, on the walls of which extracts from the score and English’s notes, as well as images of the acrobats at rehearsal, and glassware being blown, are displayed in light boxes: image juxtaposed against word; sight against sound. Next door, three screens show breathtaking footage of the acrobats, performing complex and almost unimaginable feats with the specially made glass vessels – a selection of which are displayed on a table nearby. A girl carries a tiered tray of champagne flutes on her feet; a boy tosses a seemingly weightless vase lightly into the air. One slip and disaster would ensue.
The work as a whole has been described as “a meditation on the temporality of ephemeral work” and “a meditation on the correlation between word and image, inspired by the Sister Sledge hit Lost in Music and a resonant line from the writings of Walter Benjamin”. Studio International spoke to English about her inspirations, aspirations and the practicalities of producing such complex and enduring – if ephemeral – performance pieces.
Rose English: A Premonition of the Act
Camden Arts Centre, London
12 December 2015 – 6 March 2016
Camden Arts Centre, London
11 and 12 March 2016
Interview by ANNA McNAY
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY
Click on the pictures below to enlarge
Eva Hesse: Studiowork. Camden Arts Centre, London 2009
Currently showing at the Camden Arts Centre are a number of experimental objects or works-in-progress by Hesse. These can be viewed as a means of understanding the processes by which works are created.
Allora and Calzadilla: Clamor
In England, during the early 1940s, there had been a real belief that a German attack was imminent, so much so that a battalion of bunkers sprang up over the country, with a particularly high concentration in the coastal regions of Kent and Suffolk. These installations, known as 'pill boxes', constituted the main, but feeble, line of ground defence, should the enemy invade.
Daniel Buren and his Invention Trajectory
Daniel Buren has had a stimulating and now distinguished continuity in Britain. The arrival of his exhibition, 'Invention II', at Modern Art Oxford recalls a long association, firstly with MOMA Oxford (1973) and in the pages of Studio International. His own texts here are notable for their clarity and perspicacity.
Starting at Zero: Black Mountain College 1933-57
Radical educational establishment and sanctuary of the avant-garde in art, music, poetry and dance, Black Mountain College survived for only 24 years, but its influence spread far beyond its isolated North Carolina location. This exhibition, and its accompanying catalogue, offers 'a kind of afterlife to [the] artists' practices'1 by assembling the sometimes contradictory memories and records of the college's experimental achievements in paint, print, dance, pottery, photography, poetry, theatre and music.