Krismas Special – some 2018 sparks
21st December 2018
Hi, Kris Nelson here, LIFT’s new Artistic Director and CEO.
The past year was full of movement for me. Lots of planes, lots of boxes, lots of reunions with people I’d not seen in too long and many new beginnings. I moved away from Dublin after four amazing years, went home to Canada to get some winter family time, attended some festivals in Vancouver, Yokohama and Brisbane, went travelling, and moved to London – and that was all before April.
Through it all I had some amazing artistic experiences which moved and inspired me. Events worth sharing and talking about and that in some way have been sparking my thinking for LIFT 2020. Here’s the season by season breakdown:
Winter (Burnaby, Brisbane, Saskatoon, Vancouver, Tokyo, Yokohama)
The Original People’s Party – Image by Mick Richards
- Visiting my hometown’s brand-new art gallery, The Remai Modern during their buzzy LUGO Night (think Tate Lates but it’s the Canadian Prairies and it’s -40 degrees outside, so everyone’s wearing lots of vintage store fur unironically). The gallery has been transformative for Saskatoon, presenting leading international live and visual art in very exciting ways – and the building is a stunner.
- In an East Vancouver studio, I had my cards read by the amazing visual artist and art fortune teller Cindy Mochizuki. After all, isn’t Tarot reading the original intimate one-on-one, audience participatory experience? While I’m still waiting for the Knight of Cups to take me away to his Brighton seaside cabin, I do think I’m zeroing in on the presentation of a retrospective of a female master artist in LIFT 2020. Cindy’s predictions were good fun, artistically interesting and made a good guiding story for a year full of airports, nights in the theatre and new post codes.
Other highlights: Walls of glorious analogue synth sound from 100 Keyboards by ASUNA in a bunker in Yokohama and Ho Tzu Nyen’s droll and damning film performance about Singaporean colonialism, One or Several Tigers. The celebratory and bonkers power of Niall McNeil and Marcus Youssef’s King Arthur’s Night for Neworld Theatre in Vancouver, The Original People’s Party, a landmark takeover of Brisbane Powerhouse by international Indigenous artists during APAM (still reeling/still glowing from Emily Johnson’s transformative late night outdoor gathering there).
Spring (Brighton, Brussels, Colombo, Dublin, London, Manchester, Utrecht)
- Moved to London! Started working at LIFT! Mastered the TfL! (two truths & one lie there)
- Spring was a blur of festival preparation, launches, city walks, readings, showings and being a newcomer to London. Say yes to every invitation was (still is) my motto.
Summer (Amsterdam, Berlin, Duisberg, Liverpool, London, Wiesbaden)
Wiesbaden Biennale – Hessisches Staatstheater als Parkhaus – Image by BTrost
- LIFT 2018 – I mean, pretty good, right?
- Fun Home. I’ve read the graphic novel back to front and was delighted to see the production in action. I may or may not have made I’m Changing My Major To Joan my summer singalong anthem (come on, it’s a banger) and may or may not have been applauded by construction workers outside my window after a particularly big sing of it one summer Sunday.
- Argentinian director Mariano Pensotti’s Diamante, an 8-hour multi-character epic about a German settlement in the Andes impressed. Wandering through this life-size maquette set in a giant warehouse let me live out a cinematic/theatrical/soap operatic experience.
Wiesbaden Biennale curated by Maria Magdalena Ludewig and Martin Hammer. Best festival weekend out by far. Fearless. Urgent. Fun. Under the title BAD NEWS, the Biennale turned the state theatre stage into a drive in cinema, the lobby into a working supermarket, a disused shopping centre into a playground for radical live artists like Marlene Monteiro Freitas, Florentina Holzinger, Trajal Harrell and Rosana Cade. Not to mention a city-wide celebration of eros and a bronze statue of Turkish President Erdogan causing a kerfuffle worthy of the New York Times. Things I can’t get out of my head: getting a voyeur’s backstage pass into a 24 hour live streamed / internet TV show featuring a cultish family fantasizing about the origins of contemporary neo-Nazism in Germany and drones flying chillingly over the detritus of a former chemist outlet gone bankrupt the moment they were about to replace all their workers. Couldn’t tell in either case where artifice ended and the real world began.
Autumn (Dublin, Düsseldorf, London, Rennes, Riga, Seoul, Warsaw)
Maison Mère by Phia Ménard – Image by Jean-Luc Beaujault
- Chilean collective Mil M2’s mobile billboards posed irreverent and important questions to passersby in Dublin during Dublin Fringe – timely as the city was about to head to the polls to decide the fate of Ireland’s anti-abortion laws.
- Salome at the English National Opera marked Australian director Adena Jacobs’ London debut. Reviews were kinda medium, but Jacobs’ visual language was phenomenal. The moment when cast members strung up a giant-sized pink, plushy, decapitated My Little Pony and mounted it like knights on a parapet got me all kinds of grinny.
- A trip to Rennes in November featured stunners of political performance; Dorothée Munyaneza’s (Rwanda) Unwanted, Amir Reza Koohestani’s (Iran) Hearing as well as the visually poetic (and devastating) Maison Mère by Phia Ménard (France).
- A visit to Warsaw’s Teatr Powszechny with English presenting colleagues revealed a theatre devoted to super-charged political performance and a venue for Poland’s most vulnerable populations.
- Home in London, I loved ear for eye by Debbie Tucker Green at the Royal Court, particularly for Lashana Lynch’s staggering performance. Her turn as a student sparring with her white professor was agile and mercurial, calculating and intelligent, full of impulse, technically perfect – she left me breathless. It was the best performance I saw on a London stage this year.
Other notable performances of the year include:
- Brexit Means Brexit, the ongoing durational performance by the Conservative Party pretending they’re a governing party (can’t list it as a favourite as I’ve never really liked Theatre of Cruelty, but audiences describe it as immersive, if not all-consuming). Free.
- My Bluetooth Speaker is Louder than Yours (a ‘stumble-upon’ site-specific installation running all summer at Hampstead Heath’s Men’s Pond, Clapham Common, Victoria Park, London Fields and other civic greenfield sites). Free.
- London is The Best, a choose-your-own-adventure-multi-player-multi-platform life game I’ve been enjoying since April. Definitely Not Free, but great, innit?
Bring on 2019!
I’m looking forward to a year of getting to know London better, of uncovering new layers of the city and its character. A year of inspiring performances, experiencing the work of artists who are defying genres, delving into contemporary experience and wowing audiences. And, by the end of 2019, we’ll have a festival prepared for June 2020, so next year’s list just might give some more hints about the LIFT 2020 line up and that’s an exciting thing indeed!
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.