Music by Stuart McCallum and costumes by Richard Nicoll.
Commissioned by Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art and produced by the Sorcha Dallas Gallery.
This 13-hour performance, created and directed by Linder, was the most extraordinary and engaging art experience I have had for years. It featured a cast of king, queen, star, beauty queen, muse, witch, and a couple of indefinable others, including Linder herself, plus a cloud of musicians playing electric guitar, trumpet, double bass, drums, piano, and more drums.
It took place in The Arches, a vast barrel-vaulted cavern underneath the railway in central Glasgow. This labyrinthine structure provided a series of interlinked spaces in which separate sections of the performance often happened simultaneously, and audience members moved around from one to another. This was a close-up experience, with performers and viewers on the same level, in the same space, the watchers sometimes having to move out of the path of approaching artists.
I was present for less than half of the thirteen hour performance. When we first entered this underworld in mid afternoon, the show had already been in progress for several hours. We went out a few times, to check into our hotel, to eat, or to drink. Each time it was difficult to leave, knowing that the action was still going on, and we would be missing something. It felt like a parallel reality which we could enter and leave, but which continued regardless, floating along in another realm.
Time in this underground cavern moved at a different rate. Rather than our world’s frantic speeding pace, and constant violent bombardment of instantaneous sound bites, this one was slow, sensuous, and inarticulate.
In our first visit, one performer was on her hands and knees on a table, licking a huge cake. Others were moving slowly through the adjoining space, rolling over each other, separating, freezing in position, dancing alone or together. Each wore a bizarre costume, some involving a touch of bondage, with high heels, breast plates, straps, and mouth constraints. Others in gold trousers, or with antlers sewn into the back of a dress. High heels were very important. Of seven main performers there was one male. This show reflected a female experience of commodification and power. There was a beauty pageant, a reverse striptease, mutual leg and chest shaving. Mirror gazing and posing. Breast enlargement and frilly knickers. Domination and display. Linder’s collages had come to life.
In this unfolding series of stunning three-dimensional images, there were no words, each performer created an identity simply though their movements and clothing. The musicians were intently watching and making supporting sounds for the actions. Sometimes they played uncomfortably loud, but generally created beguiling atmospheric sounds. We had no idea what was going on, but understanding seemed irrelevant. The show was slow, tranquil, and totally mesmerising.
When we emerged into daylight for the first time, and read the notes, we learnt that each character had a name, and there was a narrative in twelve episodes. Somehow this discovery was disappointing, it narrowed the experience, and gave definition to what had seemed intangible and almost infinite. However, when we returned, and tried to follow the tale, it was elusive, and slithered off into the shadows.
Over time, and we were in this world for over five and a half hours, the characters and their relationships gradually shifted around. The audience incrementally increased in number, with a marked rise around the ‘normal’ performance time of 8pm. We knew they had already missed so much. They had not witnessed the earlier jubilant, and joyful expectations of the star and the beauty queen, or the powerful, high-heeled glaring stomp of the king. Now, in external world evening time, these characters were no longer prancing and strutting, they were staggering and stumbling into decline.
This remarkable event explored the edges and spaces between visual art, theatre, dance, and music. It was a shifting series of live collages moving through space and time, allowing us to roam unbridled by words, and making us work, rather than telling us what to think. It was challenging, spell-binding, and exhausting.
This was the real deal.