Review: Billie Cowie & STK


Billie Cowie has two 3-D video projections installed at the Metropolitan Theatre space in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. Reverie Alone is best viewed lying on the floor. Projected onto the ceiling is an image of a woman, in white underwear (apparently there’s also a naked version). She appears to be holding on with her hands and feet to four handles on the ceiling. Slowly, in a seven-minute loop, she stretches and twists, swaps hands and feet, turns, arching her back and looking directly at us. Due to some visual trickery whilst appearing life sized when close to the ceiling when stretching her arms, legs and back appear extraordinarily long.

Though wonderfully executed, I found my fascination with the technical aspects of the piece overwhelming my appreciation of the artistic dimension. How is it the image stretches on this axis? Was it shot from above with the dancer on the floor or at some other angle? In the Flesh works the other way round and proved captivating.

Here you look down on large flat screen television and a small woman who is curled on the floor and works through a slow gently movement sequence taking her arms and legs to the edge for illuminated screen and apparently up towards us out of the screen. It was peaceful and touching, highly engaging.

Stoke Newington International Airport are a team of five young men who run a venue and make art in said borough of London Here, in the Super Deluxe Night Club the Roppongi district of Tokyo, they were hosting an event they call Live Art Speed Dating. In essence the speed-dating concept is a device for getting an audience of perhaps fifty though a series of six four minute long one-on-one performance encounters. As they were not up to audience capacity we managed to see a few more than six. Here they are in summery:

1: A Skype webcam link with a woman who is dressed in drag as a member of a boy band (remembering that members of certain boy bands tend to look like girls in their early careers. She lip-synchs to a terrible boy band song whilst fixing her gaze on you (or your image on her computer). It’s quite uncomfortable.

2: Pole dancing by a woman in a curious body stocking that extends over her head. The sound (which you listen to on headphones, is full of glitches and the lights flicker on and off). It’s quite uncomfortable.

3: A charming Japanese man shakes your hand over and beneath the table. A video projection of your clasped hands under the tale is projected onto a drawing pad on the table. He traces his finger over your hand and asks you to feel its path. Then together using oil pastels you draw your clasped hands. Very lovely.

4: Two of you listen as a DJ and human beat box do their thing. Nice enough.

5: You sit listening someone crooning a song and strumming a guitar via a string and paper cup telephone whilst watching through a telescope as a woman puts on a kimono and does a short dance. Very pleasant

6: A man plays you a song on the guitar and asks you to join him by playing a set of drum pads. Good (him) and Bad (me).

7: You watch a man across the bar as he falls in love and is rejected whilst a series of images on a laptop in front of you add a form of commentary. Sweet.

8: A man lets you play at twiddling the knobs on a piece of kit that generates geometric video graphics whilst music plays through your headphones. Brilliant fun.

The Stoke Newington Boys pump lots of good-natured energy into proceedings; dancing to the music and bustling around making sure no performance slots go to waste. They have recruited numerous other local acts I didn’t get to see. There are additional games to be played in the down time.

In one corner is a laptop logged on to an Internet chat-room, which pairs users randomly one–on–one. This means that for most of the evening there are images of a sullen, vacant, slumped young person projected onto the wall with occasional graphic images blokes masturbating. Very bad.


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