Sonia Boyce gave a lecture this morning at Glasgow School of Art, titled as above and showed us a few of her recent video works, all very different but hugely moving. At one point she made a generalised comment about the orientation of her work being “where art and community cross over”.
The first piece was titled Crop Over, funded by the Harewood House Trust and the National Art Gallery Barbados. Cropover is an annual carnival that occurs in Bridgetown Barbados; it started during the seventeenth century, the colonial period when the island was full of sugar cane plantations and still reliant on slave labour. The carnival was orignally a variant of harvest festival, and occurred at the end of the sugar cane harvest, signifying wealth for landowners and the start of a period of no work and therefore poverty for estate workers. The wealth of the Lascelles family who built Harewood House derived from the West Indies, slave trading and lending money to planters. This 2 screen video starts showing a carnival stilt walker wandering through the empty but luxuriously wealthy grounds of Harewood House, past sculptures, topiary, grand staircases and beautiful fountains. It then moves to a plantation house of similar grandeur, in Barbados again carnival performers looking quietly around, and finally transitions into the wildness exuberance of the carnival itself. At one point a group of Bajan performers are recorded doing a maypole dance, as I have seen done in the English home counties. You can see a tiny clip of the film at this link: http://www.atomictv.com/cropover.html but really it doesn’t give an indication of the power of the piece which was very moving.
Sonia Boyce described her work as being collaborative, and the opportunities this manner of work provides determine the outcome. She was offered an opportunity to work with David Skinner at the University of Oxford. For this she brought together Renaissance Music and Greek sound artist Mikhail Karikis. Karikis took apart a a piece of chamber music and reconstructed it, with the purpose of developing a dialogue between the voice of an old master and a contemporary troubled voice. The piece was performed by Karikis and chamber music choir Alamire and I found it very moving. Boyce described her feelings towards the piece as follows: it is quite utopian, about the stranger and the hosts, and how at the start there is no communication, but this gradually changes and blends, and towards the end the hosts start incorporating some of the sounds of the stranger. A powerful artwork of huge contemporary relevance.
Below is a clip of the piece I found on you tube:
Chamber Choir Alamire and Mikhail Karikis perform For You Only You, a new work written by Mikhail under the direction of David Skinner at Madgalen Chapel, Oxford (April 2007). The project is by British artist Sonia Boyce and the film by David Bickerstaff.
There is a video of the work under construction at this web address : http://www.atomictv.com/fyoy.html