\ site

161027182916

grey line [twilight]

grey line [twilight]

Tomorrow we perform Grey Line – an interventional new public art work for radio, that Rosa Casado and I have been developing since spring, and that has turned out be simultaneously one of our smallest and largest scale works. The piece has been commissioned by Consonni, and takes as its context and broadcast platform an all-day radio symposium and public event within their LaPublika programme, into which we will intervene throughout tomorrow…

 

Grey Line [twilight]

 

Grey Line will attempt to track the twilight edge of the shifting shadow of night, as it slowly moves across the surface of the planet – following the progress of one day’s sunset, and its passage, over a scattering of disparate and diverse locations across the earth, towards and over the public event site of Tabakalera in Donostia, northern Spain. As this thin line of twilight slowly and relentlessly travels around the world – from the Pacific, across Asia and the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa, to the Atlantic – we will open a series of short live audio connections to people stood out on the earth’s surface.

By giving us temporary access to the microphones of their mobile phones, these individuals will allow us to eavesdrop onto whatever may or may not be audible around them, as daytime passes into night where they stand – in Nagoya, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kathmandu, Kuwait, Hebron, Athens, Donostia and Bamako – as they step out into their own landscape to watch the shadow’s edge reach them.

These provisional live audio connections will attempt to open moments of access out onto the relentless journey of one day’s perpetual sunset, and onto one of the planet’s inevitable rotations… carrying familiar sounds of other public spaces… or only fragments of recognisable sound… or simply offering a reflective minute of somewhere else’s silence…

 

Image: Brookes 2016

 

160526203133

Carrying Rubén [exhibit]

Carrying Rubén [exhibit]

The traces of the carry and assemblege are now set-up and running within this open and developing public gallery space here at Azkuna Zentroa.

In other parts of the gallery are now also an accumulating mountain of the city’s rubbish – already about a tonne of it, diverted into the gallery from its usual route between collection to recycling (Belén Cueto and Rosa Casado) – and a 120m² living garden of invasive and locally illegal species of plant and animal (Kris Verdonck)…

The remains of the carry itself have now settled into a quarter of the space: the entire unedited footage from both journeys of Wednesday’s action here in Bilbao running on a pair of wall-mounted monitors, the equivalent footage from the original Cardiff carry in 2001 running on identical monitors on the opposite wall, and my table of timelines and documents – minus the machines and mixing eqipment I used, but otherwise as I finished with it on completion of my performance here – still standing in the middle of the floor between them…

 

Carrying Rubén

 

Carrying Rubén

 

Carrying Rubén

 

Carrying Rubén

 

Carrying Rubén

 

…From a city scale public intervention to gallery proposal in just one day… These traces will be available here, along with those accumulating from the other works within this gallery programme, until the doors are finally closed this Saturday night June 4th…

 

Images: Brookes 2016

 

160525184122

Carrying Rubén

Carrying Rubén

As I write these notes – in the gallery space of the Azkuna Zentroa here in Bilbao – Salut Bueno, Nazario Díaz, Amai Fernández, Axier, Joel and Rubén Mateos Lima are preparing to help each other across the city centre, on foot, and without the aid of Rubén’s wheelchair.

We have already made this journey once today: from 11:00 this morning Salut, Nazario, Amai and Axier carried Rubén from Plaza Nueva to this gallery space, in a series of short journeys of precisely nine minutes duration – attempting to reach agreed locations within these allowed times, and being filmed by Joel and I as they walked. At each location, they then paused for a few minutes rest, and posed for a group polaroid, before moving on… In front of me, on the 12m tabletop I have now laid out in the centre of this vast 45m room, and which is providing the focal hub of this work and its performance, I have a series of nine polaroid snapshots and eight numbered video SD cards – already the only physical documentary remnants of that journey.

 

Carrying Rubén [performance still]

 

Carrying Rubén [performance still]

 

This evening, the rest of the group will all attempt to retrace that same journey exactly – across a city that, within the space of a few hours, has changed it’s nature. Cycle couriers Osvaldo Navia Canelo and Ricardo Flores Rojas will bring the video footage back to me here, within ten minutes of it’s making, out there… And here in this room, with a time delay equal to the time it takes for the videos to be filmed and then carried here, I will assemble possible views onto both journeys from the material available to me… That time delay will mean that the group will arrive here, carrying Rubén down and into this gallery space, some 30mins before the completion of my reconstruction of their journey – allowing us all to meet and watch the composite footage of their arrival together…

I am very much looking forawrd to this. It has already been a great day – from stepping out into the crowded city streets this morning, to seeing Rubén being carried in through the gathered media of the formal press launch of this festival on our arrival here to complete the first journey… A lot has happend in the fifteen years since Carrying Lyn back in 2001. That act, as we shaped and performed it for the first time, undoubtedly revealed possibilites that have informed much of my subsequent work. And revisiting this work here and now, in the cold light of those subsequent experiences – and with the commitment and open daily pragmatism that Rubén and his friends have brough to this task, within the central streets of their city today – has not only clarified, but also expanded, its intentions and proposal…

 

Images: phone shots – Brookes 2016

 

160520145401

reconsidering ‘Carrying Lyn’

reconsidering ‘Carrying Lyn’

I am currently in Bilbao, preparing Carrying Rubén – a commissioned reconsideration and re-enactment of the multi-site Pearson/Brookes work Carrying Lyn, that Mike Pearson and I conceived and performed in Cardiff back in 2001, as our first multi-site city work…

Almost exactly fifteen years later, next Wednesday May 25th, I’ll perform Carrying Rubén – with Rubén Mateos Lima, a local performer with advanced multiple sclerosis, and a small but committed group of his friends – within the central streets and Azkuna Zentroa Gallery space of Bilbao, as the opening performance of the city’s new exploratory site-specific art programme Prototipoak.

Following the structure of the original work, the group will carry Rubén across the centre of the city, videoing themselves as they go. They will make this journey twice: firstly in the middle of the working day, and then again that same evening – attempting to retrace their earlier journey exactly, across a city shifting in character as it passes from day to night.

Throughout their evening journey, cycle couriers will rush the video footage being shot out on the street back to the gallery space, where I will attempt to assemble and reveal the event, in real time, with a twenty-minute time delay, from the fragments of material that becomes available – incorporating material retained from their first journey, polaroids, maps, and a series of short recorded reflections on the contemporary city.

 

Carrying Rubén [press image]

 

Carrying Rubén has been commissioned as part of the gallery thread of the Prototipoak biennial. The large subterranean gallery space has been curated by Rosa Casado to function as a porous informal hub space within Azkuna Zentroal, from where five works will attempt to open a series of specifically framed views out onto aspects of the landscape and use of the city around it.

The other four works within this gallery programme have been commissioned from artists Kris Verdonck (Belgium), Graeme Miller (UK), Belén Cueto (Spain) and naturalist and sound recordist Carlos de Hita (Spain)… The five of us have been working with Rosa over the past six months to shape specific new works from the projects she selected, all of which have had only one previous manifestation.

And this week we are working around each other. And will be accumulating fragments and traces of our actions within the public gallery space as we go…

 

150606101227

no matter how many people believe in it

no matter how many people believe in it

Here are a handful of photographs taken during our performance of What if everything we know is wrong? within a cleared out floor of Alhóndiga in Bilbao last weekend.

This latest manifestation of the work was commissioned by Azkuna Zentroa as part of their final 3, 2, 1 programme – and was again retitled specifically for the occasion, in this case as A fantasy is still a fantasy, no matter how many people believe in it. The title taken from a statement by the science fiction writer Algis Budrys – and published in Playboy Magazine in 1963 – within an article entitled 1984 and beyond, which transcribed a speculative conversation about the future between twelve notable science fiction writers of the period, including Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clark, Ray Bradbury…

In Bilbao we introduced a verbatim recorded reading of that transcript into the room of the work, once we had built it. As part of a reflection on our understandings and imaginings of the future. And more specifically, as a record of how others have previously envisioned our present in the past…

 

What if everything we know is wrong? [performance still]

 

What if everything we know is wrong? [performance still]

 

What if everything we know is wrong? [performance still]

 

What if everything we know is wrong? [performance still]

 

What if everything we know is wrong? [performance still]

 

What if everything we know is wrong? [performance still]

 

Photos: Eva Zubero, for Espacio Azkuna Zentroa

 

150304102957

in the beginning…

in the beginning…

Today sees the public launch of ILIAD – our new large-scale collaboration with National Theatre Wales. The project is our third work for NTW, since the company’s inauguration. It continues our attempts to reactivate classic and historic narrative texts in contemporary Wales, as reflective or resonant situations in the present. And will hopefully push forward some of the propositions we initiated across both The Persian, which we located within the landscape of a Ministry of Defence training range in the Brecon Beacons for NTW’s inaugural season of 2010, and our most recent collaboration Coriolan/us, commissioned and realised in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company and London 2012.

Over the coming months Mike Pearson and I will be shaping our ILIAD. It’s a project that will be defined by our durational attempts to stage Christopher Logue’s epic poem War Music – a striking poetic reimagining, that he worked on for over forty years, of the main events in Homer’s account of the last years of the Trojan War.

Logue’s text unfolds across five separate books, which he published between 1981 and 2005. And we plan to perform it verbatim and in its entirety. Initially as a series of separate and consecutive episodes, then followed by two extraordinary omnibus performances of the entire work – the first all day, and the second overnight.

We have never worked directly with the text of a poem in this way before. And importantly, this poem has never before been staged in its entirety. But we will, inevitably, find out exactly what sort of event and work this massive task enables and adds up to.

To begin, here is a copy of the first short video ‘taster’ we made to send out earlier this morning. It combines footage shot on the coast next to Llanelli, where we will perform the work, with a couple of lines from Logue’s own preamble for his text, that we have drawn out as a working subtitle for the project as whole…

 

 

131030095142

autumn in New York

autumn in New York

West Broadway 29/10/2013

 

untitled [ West Broadway 29/10/2013 ], digital photograph, dimensions variable, Mike Brookes 2013 – from the ongoing small pieces of everything series.

 

131019232943

walking

walking

As our final public work here in Providence, Rhode Island, today we walked the now ascent shoreline of the natural cove that shaped the original geography of this city – a body of water and salt marsh reclaimed and almost completely covered by developments of the city’s centre over the last 150 years.

 

Providence cove [event detail]

 

Accompanied and met by local residents, we followed the streets and paths that now sit above the water’s edge, meeting the scale and geography of the cove’s now absent water – as mapped on city surveys of the mid 1800s – through a simple navigation of the developments and daily uses of its area in the present…

 

Providence cove [event detail]

 

Photos: David Higgins

 

131017232935

introduced birdsong

introduced birdsong

Today we conclude our Historic parking lots of Providence project, highlighting thirty of downtown Providence’s surface level parking lots that – contrary to assumptions that they are spaces of transition, neglect, or failed development projects – have in fact been designated as parking lots, and have remained unchanged and in use as such, since at least the 1950s.

 

introduced birdsong [detail]

 

Our intervention into the autumnal city streets today – which we are calling Historic parking lots of Providence / introduced birdsong – completes a line of work that we initiated here back in August with the proposition that the selected lots might be collectively nominated for listing, their impact and character being considered against the National Register’s eligibility criteria of ‘age’, ‘integrity’, and ‘significance’.

 

introduced birdsong [detail]

 

Actively considering the selected lots collectively, as a single site, as a single element of the city’s use and structure, we have introduced identical small movement-sensitive audio devices, each containing the recorded song of a single bird – in this case a Lincoln’s sparrow – into all thirty lots simultaneously, for one working day.

 

introduced birdsong [detail]

 

With this act, the work finds a initial form, that we hope might at least enable direct and daily personal encounters, at a city scale, while allowing us to subtly shift the aural ambient of this city centre in actuality. And its realisation has – as we had also hoped – already provoked questions, conversations, encounters with bemused police officers, and amusement for some of the area’s parking lot attendants…

 

Photos: David Higgins

 

131004183702

greetings from Salina

greetings from Salina

Wrapping up one thread of our engagement with aspects of this city’s past and present – as both a playful exploration of the shifting character of downtown Salina, and an attempt to generate a tangible trace and record of the people we have met here – we have been inviting locals to join us in the realisation of a participatory work we are calling Greetings from Salina / crossroads of the nation.

100 residents have been trying to inset themselves into a series of 20 large scale images we produced from original archived postcards – of the area around the central intersection of Santa Fe and Iron Street, where the city originated, dating between 1900 and 1975 – generating an accumulating series of new and personal postcards…

 

event detail

 

…we are leaving the resulting postcards here, to be exhibited until the end the of the year, when they will be available for collection by all those who appear in them…

 

Image: Mike Brookes

 

130918013739

still thinking about parking lots

still thinking about parking lots

parking lot #1

 

Fountain Street and Mathewson Street, pen and watercolour on paper, 100cm x 175cm, Mike Brookes 2013 – from the parking lots of Providence series.

 

parking lot #1

 

Further details from the parking lots of Providence series can be found in the archive [ here ].

 

130912161737

postcard from the past

postcard from the past

postcard #20

 

Greetings from Salina [looking north on Santa Fe Avenue], one of a series of twenty digital images adapted from archived postcards depicting 20th century views of Santa Fe Avenue in Salina KS, dimensions and proportions variable, Mike Brookes 2013 – from the participatory image work Greetings from Salina / crossroads of the nation, part of the just a little bit of history repeating project.

 

130907173712

thinking about parking lots

thinking about parking lots

For the first time in quite a while, I find myself drawing as I think. I have never really sketched works, unless I need to describe them to someone else. I think them through, then make them. As usual, these drawings are really just another case of making more than one thing at once – or, at least, shaping more than one form. But they are a sign of how at home I feel in the open warehouse sized studio we have been provided with for our stay here…

 

parking lot #1

 

Broadway and Atwells Avenue, pen and watercolour on paper, 100cm x 75cm, Mike Brookes 2013 – from the parking lots of Providence series.

 

parking lot #1

 

130831004552

here we are…

here we are…

Eighteen months after the last public work in the series – in which we ‘revisited’ the now absent buildings of the former Euskalduna Shipyard in Bilbao – we have shifted our focus back to the development of our long term just a little bit of history repeating project. And for this phase, we have moved to the US for the next few months, to work through two separate and distinct located commissions – one in the Rhode Island city of Providence, the other in Salina Kansas.

After an intensive initial ten day research tour of Providence – kindly guided by local residents, historians, archivists and journalists – it’s already time to pause, regather our thoughts, and preparing for the move inland and our introduction to Salina…

 

flag

 

Image: Mike Brookes

 

120918120642

screens and headphones

screens and headphones

Giving myself a little time and distance to reflect on the realities of our run of Coriolan/us last month, I have been spending some of my days slowly reviewing and combining the continuous camera and headphone feeds that we generated and broadcast live within the work – and which were captured and recorded on the evening of our penultimate performance.

Revisiting the details of these mixes, as they formed and unfolded in real time, I have been consciously avoiding the temptation to be drawn to any of the additional images or sounds – or even colours – of the event of that evening. Just focusing instead, as I layer these various mediated threads back together, on those that we intended within the live action itself – and which we met there, via the two large black and white projections and our personal headsets. Trying simply to reconstruct the specific media window that we had opened onto the things that were happening amongst and around us – without any attempt to represent the place and wider activity of the work in its actuality, or our experience of it.

As a real time record, that often not-so-simple act of reconstruction seems to have left me with something as direct as it is revealing – detailing many of our choices and their consequences, if only across the period of one single complete live performance. And while I made it purely as a personal reference document, here are a few low resolution clips – fragments of scenes lifted from the continuous flow of that whole. Small reminders for those who were there. A very partial taster for those who were not…

 

 

Coriolan/us  – Hangar 858, St Athan, 17th August 2012.

 

120825125357

an emptied place

an emptied place

Before more detailed traces and remnants of our Coriolan/us project begin to gather, I thought that I would mark its completion with a quick camera phone image, snapped across that portion of hangar 858 temporarily designated ‘rome’, a few minutes after being vacated by the 350 of us who had populated it for the duration of our final performance last Saturday.

 

hangar 858 chairs

 

After Coriolan/us – Hangar 858, St Athan, 22:00, 18th August 2012.

 

120617153737

what if everything we know is wrong?

what if everything we know is wrong?

Last weekend, commissioned to perform the initial work from our developing What if everything we know is wrong? project, Rosa Casado and I stepped into a large clear room in Artium – Vitoria’s ten year old contemporary art gallery – carrying a bag of pocket dictaphones, a small roll of tape, a black marker pen, and four polaroid photographs. This time we subtitled the event Nosotros pusimos los muertos y ellos disfrutan del cuadro – a quote taken from the writings of painter Antonio Saura (which translates roughly as: We provided the dead and they enjoy the painting). Ultimately using the place built by the work as a context to introduce a recorded reading of Saura’s polemic text Contra el Guernica (Against the Guernica), written in response to the arrival of Picasso’s Guernica in Spain in 1981. Our contribution to the gallery’s current celebrations of the painting’s 75th anniversary.

 

Polaroid #16

Polaroid #15

 

Turning our attention back to this work, after laying the foundations for it last summer, feels quietly positive and timely. And as we have often found in recent years – especially with our most direct interventions – the piece has matured since our last meeting with it, simply by having become a reality in our subsequent thinking.

So now we have gathered up our dictophones and moved the next phase of the project to Essen, where we have taken up residency in PACT Zollverein – another ten year old cultural centre, but this one housed within the former shower facilities of the largest colliery in the Ruhr – part of the vast Zollverien colliery and coking plant complex, closed in the late 1980’s, and now listed as a UNESCO world cultural heritage site.

We will be here for the rest of the month. Three weeks to focus and develop our thoughts within the tangible calm and support of this venue, and the impressively pragmatic and expansive industrial architecture that hosts it. An opportunity to revisit everything we already know about this intimate work, acknowledge what is wrong with it, and find useful ways to live with it.

 

Polaroid #17

Polaroid #18

 

120528183549

hangar 858

hangar 858

Today the site for our production of Coriolan/us this coming August has officially been announced – Hangar 858 – a decommissioned WW2 aircraft hanger in St Athan, South Wales. Built in the late 1930’s, and beautifully directly engineered, the vast open space contained and framed below its sweeping single span cast cement ceiling is providing us with both a place to realise this work, and also a context within which we can start to locate it.

On our latest site visit with colleagues from National Theatre Wales we were accompanied by photographer Warren Orchard – and also by Pete Telfer, who will be heading up the team of camera crew working with us live within the heart of this performance, and who took the opportunity to grab some footage for a short video of the visit for Culture Colony.

Here are a few clips pulled from that footage:

 

You need to install or upgrade Flash Player to view this content, install or upgrade by clicking here.

 

Hangar 858, NTW site visit, 01/05/2012 – video courtesy of Pete Telfer and Culture Colony.

 

120319182652

lifeguard

lifeguard

A few short days in Glasgow, catching up with old friends and new – discussing Lifeguard, a new work with Adrian Howells and the National Theatre of Scotland, planned for this coming autumn. A work that hopes to locate itself within a recently derelict public baths in the city, requiring at least a partial restoration of one area of the site.

I have been asked to look at light. And am very happy to do just that. In a site that can only clarify my ideas as I work with it. And stood amongst the familiar functionality of its well used social space, the questions and puzzles raised by the architecture of this intimate place – echoing those running through much of my current work – are also usefully functional and familiar.

How to reveal and animate this place, temporarily rebalancing it for a new purpose, without denying either it or our intervention, and without turning it into somewhere else?

I am looking forward to finding a balance for those questions here, and other places, over the coming months.

 

pool tiles #1

 

120220150243

are we there yet?

are we there yet?

I always look forward to site visits. Even when they are likely to end in disappointment, they are still revealing. The collective decision to step beyond the theoretical that provokes them is always helpful in itself. Looking for somewhere to meet, a place where our intentions might actually happen – in reality – requires a pragmatic engagement with what we might really be doing that can only clarify.

It is always what things are, in their actuality, rather than what they may or may not imply, that engages me.

Both conceptually and culturally, our objectives can increasingly lead us into searches for the simply ‘not wrong’ – for workable relationships with the ‘good enough’, or at least the ‘not bad’ – either in an attempt to embrace all the ambivalence of real things, or simply through necessity.

But a few days ago, stepping out of the car after a long drive to South Wales, I found myself stood in the middle of somewhere – with its particular balance of the difficult and the inspiring – that could actually be exactly what I was looking for. A place with real scale and grand functionality – in this case born of 30’s rationalist architecture and the pragmatism of the period’s heavy engineering – but open and practical enough not to insist on any particular aspect of its own long story.

 

site 858

 

It might even be the right place. Or at least have provided a glimpse of what the right place might be.

 

120109144241

located or camping?

located or camping?

As Mike Pearson and I simultaneously turn up the heat on our Coriolan/us process with the new year, trading thoughts over distance for little while longer, it seems that we have reached that familiar turning point where we both start re-asking the hard and big questions – but this time in order to really answer them.

It is a turning point that I always enjoy. The chance to challenge my assumptions, sweep away the debris and start to nail some things down. And then we can really start to deal with the accumulating consequences of our decisions.

For me, at this point, the focus of my challenge is on all things ‘site’. Where might these thoughts and questions really happen? And how might they actually behave there? Do they live where we will meet them? Or are we all just passing through?

But today – in those productive little gaps that open up behind and between the things that I am supposed to be solving, where my thoughts often come to understandings that I wasn’t specifically arguing for – I realise that I have been mainly thinking about caravans. Doodling while I should be doing something else. Starting with a little eighties tourer remix…

 

80's caravan [blue]

80's caravan [green]

80's caravan [brown]

80's caravan [violet]

 

111027094128

a map to find meetings in places that aren’t there

a map to find meetings in places that aren’t there

Euskalduna plan #1

 

111023145722

time lapse

time lapse

Three photos of the just a little bit of history repeating site in Bilbao – firstly the working Euskalduna shipyard and docks, then its subsequent dereliction, and the present (the Guggenheim is nestling behind the tower block that now stands over one end of the site):

 

Euskalduna #1

Euskalduna #2

Euskalduna #3