Brighton Festival 2011 Launches

Three weeks of unrivalled arts celebration 7 – 29 May

Brighton and Hove comes alive with a powerful and exciting programme of cultural events in celebration of this year’s Guest Director – Aung San Suu Kyi with her dedicated plea for peace in Burma. She won the Nobel Peace Prize for her passionately fought battle for democracy in Burma. This year’s Festival is her message ‘use your liberty to promote ours’. This year presents a political edge and focus on global issues. The big art commission, at the Old Municipal Market, is from Kutlug Ataman, the Turkish artist famed for his wry takes on how people navigate cultural codes. Here water takes centre-stage in works tackling manmade “natural” environments: the video installation Mayhem was shot at the Igazú Falls in Argentina. At the University of Brighton Gallery.

One of the other key pieces of art on show is Lynette Wallworth’s installation “Evolution of Fearlessness is silent”, as the piece is about the voicelessness of a series of women who have suffered devastating experiences and unimaginable brutalities. An interactive work, you enter a darkened room and are free to mount the steps to approach a screen. A nebulous orange glow around right shoulder height invites touch and as you place your hand on the screen in this exact spot, a woman appears. She walks towards you and places her hand on yours, palm to palm, with the cold screen in between. She remains, looking ahead (in theory at you) until you remove your hand at which point she recedes into the shadows to become a diminishing silhouette. The stories of the women who appear are told in a free booklet available at the exhibition space, and also on display as a folder of notes in the dark space under a reading lamp. While the poetry of the idea is undeniable, there is something that doesn’t quite work technically. Perhaps this is a spatial problem. In order to have your hand on the screen and not fall off the raised platform, you are actually too close to the image. You can’t really fix focus on the subject unless you quickly jump off the platform and stand further back, by which time the woman is disappearing. The intention of intimacy is also diminished by the fact that each viewer will be a different height and so the idea of looking eye to eye is only partly achievable. The stories in the booklet are succinctly and poetically told, a testament to Wallworth’s skill both with people and their stories, though reading in small batches is recommended, as the sad accumulation of misfortunes and terrors eventually becomes unimaginable. The decision to isolate the words from the images is obviously a considered one, separating the work from standard documentary mode, however I can’t help feeling it is not the strongest choice for communicating the stories of these brave women. Visit The Festival

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