Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ancestral Unemployment

Michelle Naismith
13 Min. 50 
with Meryll Hardt, Douglas Park and Michelle Naismith
produced by Komplot and Les Halles, centre d’art contemporain, Porrentruy, Switzerland
©, Copyright, Michelle Naismith, 2010

 Michelle Naismith was inspired by reading a recent article in the Dutch press. This article discusses the obligation for the unemployed to undergo regression therapy, to determine whether their past lives is the cause of their difficulties in finding a job in this life. In her interpretation, Michelle Naismith plays on the gap between the mundane and the mystical. This new film, silent, with a text superimposed on the image takes place in the suburbs of Brussels, on a large roundabout which is for the artist a kind of Greek amphitheater. A preexisting public sculpture stands there: imposing standing stones used for staging in the manner of a readymade. Three characters evolve on this roundabout in a choreographed "performance" in the manner of an enigmatic ritual.

Gang Forest exhibition with David Evrard, curated by Komplot. 

Les Halles, Porrentruy, Switzerland, 2010 +
For some time, Michelle Naismith had expressed interest in a measure at least in the Maastricht area of the Netherlands, whereby long-term and recidivist unemployed jobseekers and other benefit-claimants were offered (or even made to undergo) past-life regression assessment and therapy. Apart from a modest news item in a U.K "quality" newspaper, there seems to be little or nothing much covering it — or even from "survivors". Finally, thanks to Komplot, Michelle Naismith had the opportunity to direct a moving-image work based on her impressions of this.

I'd already previously worked with Michelle Naismith. We were both on the 2001-'02 Cycle Post-Diplome Internationale, then the 2002-'03 Groupe de Recherche Multipoint residencies, both at and with Ecole Regionale des Beaux Arts de Nantes. Before that, we'd both contributed to Dr Clementine Deliss' Metronome publications. We’ve also both been in the same shows, publications and even recordings. During our time in Nantes, myself and Michelle Naismith began our 'Disquiet Tectonica' "collaborative research project on new audiovisual writing and uncanny architecture", with Kris Delacourt and Nico Dockx ('Disquiet Tectonica', Nantes, 2002; 'Tectonic Disquieta', Ghent, 2002; 'Pyrotropism', Venice, 2003; various activities, Antwerp, 2003-'04).

Michelle Naismith also made her videowork 'le Palais de Justice (I choose also black)', 2002. A whimsical fantasia about the possible wrongdoing and misadventures of a giant vegetal fetishistic walking egg and the then-recent law-courts Nantaise (since then, with vertical Jenny Holzer digital “Truisms” endlessly flowing down the façade). I helped out and appeared in ‘Le Palais de Justice (I choose also black)’, as well as writing ‘Anti-matter after-dark star-fucker (o-pti-minous amoro-u-sity)’, published in presence: new works of contemporary art from scotland, for whatever reasons hardbound(?!) survey exhibition catalog (or book?!), Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, 2002.

Then later, 'Au Revoir Moodle Pozart', 2003 (and spinoffs), in which I acted the "Chronicler and Personal Assistant" (thanked by "Moodle Pozart" in the subtitled captioning for "rigour bordering on that of the professional detective" — an employer’s character reference!). ‘Au Revoir Moodle Pozart’ provided the perfect excuse to make "scriptspeak" become characters, action and storytelling — while staying recognisably clunky (in the tradition of other literary, æsthetic and typographical "scripts", by Erik Satie, Joan Brossa, Ian Breakwell and Juan Cruz etc) in ‘Disrehearsal’, (which furthers the 'Au Revoir Moodle Pozart' theme of self-importance and control set against shortcomings of everyday-life), serving as exhibition catalog preface to Au Revoir Moodle Pozart, solo exhibition catalog (but softcover, that time), Fruitmarket Gallery (again), Edinburgh (still same place by then and now), 2003 (also up on Michelle Naismith's website).

1 year on from then, Michelle Naismith invited me to attempt reacting to another work, also featuring "Moodle Pozart" (or some such similar personage), 'Puis Je Caresser l’Espoir' (archaic genteel French: "Please might I caress the hope" as in "of possibly having the cruet-stand?" etc), which led to my ‘Contr’acte Apreslude’ (translated into French by Yves Cotinat — but without any English for my Erik Satie ripoff title I made up especially), alongside everything else, somewhere in an untitled broadsheet newspaper publication, La Valise, Nantes, 2004. As said earlier, I only ever saw 'Puis je Caresser l'Espoir' some time later, while manning Temporarycontemporary's Biennale! video show, London, 2005.

It might need saying, just for my and the work's practicality, as well as ethics, I always insist upon and strive towards gleaning as much insight and lowdown about the artist, work and project etc, then do my utmost to cover, include, address and use everything to the max and beyond — unlike what way too many more orthodox and conventional essayists and critics admit and "justify".

Michelle Naismith caressed the hope of a 2nd coming of "Moodle Pozart", possibly as some kind of musical (or even opera), using an ivy-overgrown multi-storey "parking" car-park. I followed up 'Disrehearsal' with a sequel, 'Behind-The-Scenes Action-Replay Out-Takes'. Only, long-term delays or even permanent cancellation put paid to that venture.

As I also said earlier (same as around the time when 'Marcel' was filmed), prior to traveling out to Belgium to act in 'Ancestral Unemployment', Tony Gross stereotypecast me again as a Columbo-type personage, in his 'Kane's Revolution', the 2nd of his "Columbo" films, addressing issues of “urban renewal”. A more recent Tony Gross ‘ Columbo work (Black Hole Scenario / after 'Jardin d' Hiver' 1974 by Marcel Broodthærs) was made after my return from an event in Belgium (Secret Liaison Hideaway Airspace (amœba joinery simple growth), with Nico Dockx Museum of Display, various curators, Extra City, Antwerp, 2011), in which I act “Columbroodthærs” (a Columbo and Marcel Broodthærs hybrid), typing away, near a remake of Marcel Broodthærs’ ‘Jardin d’Hiver’ installation, with everything optically distorted and mutating.

As would have been better-timed around the filming, “avant premier” or both for ‘Marcel’, the Eurolines® bus left London-Victoria same day as the Papal "goodwill" visit. Without having any shared belief, agreement or even interest myself, following the previous Pope John Paul 2nd would’ve been at least comprehensible to me — but never this present one, Ratzinger! The number and variety of fellow-passengers! The driver played Sacha Baron Cohen’s ‘Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan’ “Borat” movie — to which nobody objected. At Kent, the bus collected 2 senior German men, whom, after the cross-channel ferry, kept us all awake with their talking — until told not to and why — then message got through. In Brussels next morning, I got a taxi to meet up with Sonia Dermience. That Sunday, public transport was free and private-car usage was discouraged, causing clearer roads — but more crowded trams, buses and metros. We went to Komplot's new (and present) building, in Avenue Van Volxemlaan, near and belonging to Wiels Kunsthalle, with remote-control gateway door. Familiar people and strangers alike had studios in the vast former industrial building. An exhibition, Nothing Political, was on, with works placed throughout the premises. The same evening there was a live performance about humour. I operated the paybar. Appropriately, serving up Vedett® beer for sale. Very promising, given meaning of “stardom” (as in being “stage-lit”)!

Several days later, filming for Michelle Naismith’s 'Ancestral Unemployment' commenced. As I was told beforehand, using a traffic roundabout in the Stahl district or outer-suburb of Brussels, where theres an early 1990's public artwork by a certain Florence Freson (My and other's enquiry and research attempts drew blanks — until Michæl Dans identified!). For those unfamiliar, a standing-stone circle, of quarried megaliths, arranged into an ensemble, growing in an otherwise ordinary “natural” habitat. As though some outsize Bernd Lohaus split rubble, ambitious and grandiose Ulrich Ruckriem masonry, more accessible and urban Michæl Heizer earthworks, less classical Michæl Kenny, Matthias Gœritz’s ‘Satellite City Towers’ etc, then doubtless other artists and works.

Over the coming days, Michelle Naismith, Meryll Hardt and myself posed and moved on and around Florence Freson's sculpture, engaging with the rocks, all wearing smart and presentable interview suits. Our millinery was a nun's wimple and mirror disc for Michelle Naismith, while myself and Meryll Hardt got crowned by white headbands (also mirrored), courtesy of Dorothée Catry. A few scenes were in the middle-path, between 2 hedges, using an office desk and chairs. Hubert Marécaille and Frédéric Bernier filmed Michelle Naismith, Meryll Hardt and myself out of a moving car, sometimes with us on the traffic roundabout itself — and even by Frédéric Bernier — using mountaineering equipment to climb high up 1 of the menhirs — more than worthy of a performance and spectacle alone in itself! Needless to say, our antics yielded countless looks, gawping, comments and pressed-horn beeping from the passing motorists. Fortunately, the distraction caused no accident, crash or pile-up. Nothing further beyond any of that is known of.

Tragically, during the 'Ancestral Unemployment' acting and shoot, I got some bad news by text message, as well as other SMS, phone-calls and emails saying similar around the same time. The much loved (and now missed) London art event regular and partygœr, Richard Martin, had very swiftly passed away. An unrogueish Will Hay, Richard Martin was an irreplaceable personality, presence and 1-to-1 company, forever missed and lamented. In 2004, he set up his own "Art Pops" newsletter mailout, regularly updating everybody with art event and party tipoffs. Not long before ‘Ancestral Unemployment’, I'd heard he wasn't well enough to make and send his latest dispatch. He wasn’t seen around. Attempts to contact him met with no reply. It seems he'd suffered a brief (but hopefully not too distressing or painful) cancer. While worldly and realistic about human and social matters, Richard Martin would never hear an unkind word against anybody — and none could be said about him — if such subjects ever arose — he'd say what was needed — then move on to better. An unfortunate irony is he worked for a South East London welfare agency, somehow dealing with those who'd been bereaved. I regret not attending any memorial events — but equally, the fact I ended up never accepting his offer of visiting his house to curate an art exhibition of artwork and other material in his collection. R.I.P Richard Martin 1954-2010.

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