Yinka Shonibare’s Guest Projects on Andrews Road in London is an inconspicuous space persistently aswarm with creative energy and excitement. Conceived as a ‘laboratory of ideas; a testing ground for new thoughts and actions,’ Shonibare studio invites the submission of exhibition proposals – three of which are chosen yearly to be exhibited in the space.
This year, launching the new season of exhibitions at Guest Projects is Physical Center – a two-month long programme of performances, screenings, exhibitions and lectures, organised by a collective of artists and curators from Britain and America.
The common conceptual thread tying the programme together? An emphasis on the physical nature of the body, or more specifically, new and emerging concepts in physicality.
But before we can discover the new, we must begin at a beginning…
Entering Guest Projects on the opening night of Physical Center was very much a flashback to decades past – instantaneous transportation to an era known to many only through photographs. A buzzing ‘Happening’ that would make Allan Kaprow beam.
No audience, no performers – in this space everyone is implicated as a part of the work. Chaos, chance, random collective activity – overriding aspirations that can’t help but be read as utopian.
Orchestrated by the artist Juliana Cequeira Leite, Re-Discovering the Origins of Sculpture supplied the material and the space – and as people entered in they were invited to create and construct with complete freedom. Starting slowly and escalating to feverish speed, participants fabricated a motley of creations – and in this swarm of frantic activity a modern day Merzbau was erected.
All without words. Not necessarily by choice, but by necessity.
The continuous, rhythmic activity was presided over by the experimental music of Teeth of the Sea, completely overwhelming and infiltrating the space as well as the individual psyche. Tones resonated and sounds echoed in a deafening way, spilling out into the street and across the canal.
The sheer decibel level of auditory activity made verbal communication impossible. Everyone was forced to work together without a reliance on words – returning instead to pre-linguistic communication techniques. Physical gestures, bodily contact and facial expressions used to convey needs and desires. Physicality used to convey psychology.
From these primordial origins, Physical Center will spin out over the next two months to explore diverse notions of physicality. Ed Fornieles will explore the embodiment of foreign identities through the re-enactment of an all-encompassing American college party, Francesca Steele will push the physical and psychological boundaries of the body through her bodybuilding routine and Professor Kevin Warwick will explore the trans-human reality in his cybernetic lecture on the union of the body and technology.
There is much more to come – this has only just begun.
Physical Centre will undoubtedly raise a diversity of issues in it’s exploration of embodiment – and we will just have to wait and see what new concepts of physicality will possibly emerge from this ambitious programme.