Nottingham Trent University
East Midlands

I enter Beth Bramich’s purpose-built studio space and reading resource for artists, at a time when the performative element is not currently happening. I am drawn to the vinyl lettering labelling the space:

A Place for Reading and Talking About Art

I interpret this as in instruction. I am alone, so talk about art with myself, but the conversation is not going anywhere. The potential of the bookshelf reoccurs to me, and I cannot resist. I spot Sophie Calle: The Reader amongst the crowd. On page 153, Calle is deep in conversation with Louise Neri:

There was a huge discussion because the journalists wanted to know why, as an artist, I was allowed to do something in their newspaper that they were not allowed to do: to intrude into someone’s life. Many people liked it because they thought it was a fiction, but when the guy answered and gave his name, proving that he really existed, it became evident that it was not a fiction, and the same people started to dislike it because of the outrage. Then others, who didn’t like it initially because they thought it wasn’t risky enough, started to like it. It was a complete mess!

The word intrude stands out, and I realise that Beth’s work contains a complex web of intrusions. I want to sit down but I’m not sure whose studio space this is. I’ve been lured in, but kept at a distance; echoed through the strips of wood that semi- reveal/conceal. My instinct to stand back politely becomes challenged, as it will be a missed opportunity not to explore. Simultaneously, other visitors are observing and avoiding me, creating an unspoken tense social dynamic. I realise that I’ve taken on the role of a performer when I just want to read a book.

The piece contains such a diverse wealth of possibilities depending on if viewers are brave enough to make the first move, and what they choose to engage with. The instruction to read and talk about art has encouraged me to tune in to the rest of the degree show from a critical perspective. After listening to Sophie Calle, I have become genuinely excited by the idea of madness emerging from something relatively structured, through the reversal of opinions. However, my judgement of other works has become heavily biased as a result of critical engagement taking place in a space segregated from the rest of the show. I am no longer seeing them for what they are; rather how they fit into a set preconceived interests. Nevertheless I realise that I would like to see more pieces that present a risk to the artist and viewer; and are potentially messy and intrusive.

Next to A Place for Reading and Talking About Art is Gavin Frankcom’s Game of Death: another title with a humorously broad tone, when isolated from the context of the Bruce Lee film.

For the performance element of this piece, the artist is dressed in a red tracksuit, which echoes the fabric of his mountain sculptures. He ties a rope around his waist and plugs his headphones into the Game of Death soundtrack. He places his head in a white box face down on the floor, and begins an endurance mime of mountaineering, periodically changing his pose. The back of his neck reddens and his head begins to shake with tension.

The viewer witnesses the artist locked in his own internal struggle to a dramatic soundtrack that we can only imagine. I am an outsider to a potentially intense internal conversation. As the surrounding audience come and go, I speculate around the artist’s state of mind as he battles with himself. Has he managed to push through the pain and potential boredom? Is he on the way to an epiphany? Failing that, is he engaged in a slow-burning process of self-reflection? Either way, I feel compelled to watch as a way of offering support. After about half an hour, he unplugs his headphones, unties himself from the rope, and leaves. His sweat remains in the imprint where his face had been. I hear that this game will be resumed at a later date.