\ something happening

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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.

 

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but it will turn out wrong

but it will turn out wrong

For as long as I can remember, the flow of my work has been punctuated by periods of disengagement. Moments when, for one reason or another, I find myself stepping out and distancing myself – at least far enough to be able to take a look at where I am and what I am doing. This is one of those moments.

In busy times, as recent years have been, I might just need to stop and shake off the accumulating dirt and debris that inevitably attaches and gathers around the work as it rolls along. At other times, proposals simply serve their purpose, or reveal why they won’t, and I can do something else. Sometimes perhaps, I have just had enough – or enough of too little – for a while…

Whatever the provocation in this instance, I find myself in a familiar period of sceptical disinterest. And as I often do at such times, I have also found myself scratching around and pulling out specific fragments from the archive. Revisiting things that seem, in my memory at least – and if only in relation to the things that I am now looking for, or looking to avoid – to persist as moments of clarity.

Here is a fragment that I have been repeatedly returning to, enough to remaster a new video from the original dusty camcorder tape, from an informal fixed camera recording of my first ‘something burning’ – an action I subtitled ‘but it will turn out wrong’ – back in 2000:

 

 

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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

 

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some things happen, some things don’t

some things happen, some things don’t

At the heart of any event – memorable or otherwise – something concrete is happening. An obvious statement in itself, but still an acknowledgement that has engaged my thoughts a lot in recent years. And is again.

As I find myself focusing more and more on the structures and behaivours that might balance our intentions for Coriolan/us, I am inevitably asking myself what I might really be wanting to happen there. And over the past few days – as my thoughts have turned towards the crowd of people who will meet us there, and who will ultimately shape each performance of this work – I have again found myself revisiting the intentions and events of past works, particularly those that I have structured specifically to invite and animate social gatherings in public space. Events where the main thing that was happening was simply ‘us’.

Today I have been revisiting something happening / snapshot – the collective title for a series of located interventions that Rosa Casado and I have periodically performed since 2008. A series in which each work proposes a single direct act as the focus and impetus for a social event. At its simplest, these works do something, while spectators are invited to complete the work by entering and being photographed within it – the event taking shape both in the resulting series of photographs, and in the progressive and often strangely accumulative attempts to realise them. The generated images being immediately printed as postcards, and made available to anyone who appears in them.

While digging around in the something happening archive I found a copy of a press release, published one summer evening in 2009, when we were forced to cancel one such intervention. We had planned to step out of a building and walk across the city of Zadar in Croatia, crossing through the busy and narrow streets of its medieval centre, picked out and very visibly tracked by the searchlight of a low flying police helicopter – one of us dressed as a bear and the other carrying a camera. As in similar events, beyond our meeting with the city itself, our task was simply to capture and reveal the series of personel and passing encounters with the bear that would inevitably mark our journey, each within the flash of a single photograph. But as we prepared to start, the police helicopter – the only one available in the region – was called away to support a missing person search in nearby mountains.

Under the title “some things happen / some things don’t”, the press release reads: “Sometimes things happen that allow us to see ourselves. Sometimes events unfold in ways that allow us to recognise our choices and our assumptions. Often these events are at the extremes of our experience. The attempt to make something happen – something that might allow us to meet ourselves, and each other, within the actuality of our daily lives – could be futile. But not hopeless. Our attempt to make something happen in Zadar this evening was simply an attempt to make such meetings more possible – if only for a moment. We tried to combine events and circumstances, in a useful conjunction – a conjunction that might possibly enable much more than merely the sum of its parts. But, in this moment, we failed to overcome the project’s inherent futility. For some of us, the attempt itself has been revealing. But for most of this city, tonight, nothing will happen that wouldn’t have happened anyway. Events will unfold largely as expected. Maybe that is a good thing. And maybe it isn’t. We will try again”. The release is signed “Mike Bookes and Rosa Casado – Zadar, 20:00, August 11th, 2009”.

Along with this statement I found five postcards from the bear’s first outing – a journey through a crowd, of over three hundred people gathered in the unlit clearing of a wood in the middle of the night, in the rural north of Spain. Something in the quality and proximity of these snapshots reminds me what I would like to meet within the field of activity that will become Coriolan/us. The postcards show five simple images, produced at the initiation of an event, as it gathered and orientated itself. They are the only images from that evening that don’t yet show all the other people who were about to shape the work, but only glimpses of the place that it constructed – formed and revealed as a progression of flashlit moments, in the otherwise dark void of that night…

 

300 people and a bear

300 people and a bear

300 people and a bear

300 people and a bear

300 people and a bear

 

A selection of the images generated during 300 people and a bear / snapshot can be found in the archive [ here ].