Fierce Saturday

The 2012 Fierce Festival program seems to have something for everyone this year. On Saturday we started off a classic site-specific orienteering adventure in which you’ve had a good time before you even find the art. A trail of yellow fierce balloons guided us in off the Lichfield onto a canal tow path, under cavernous bridges to Graeme Miller’s Track.

The idea is simple. As you can tell from the picture above, audience members lie on their backs on small carts, looking up to the sky as they are slowly pushed along a track. This is a cinematic tracking shot with the whole cinematic mechanism taken away. Ahead of us visitors were inserting their own mediation back into the system, filming the view on their phones – denuding the whole enveloping phenomenological experience down to pixels on a flat screen with tiny tinny sound.

In practice my experience of track was not cinematic but powerfully sculptural with the great geometric blocks of support pillars and carriageways slowly sliding in and out of vision with an engrossing arithmetic perspectival shift. Miller’s choice of route set up a beautiful symmetry as one road curved in and another out with the main motorway closing in over us at the close. The grey sky matched the grey concrete. Two or three grey birds improvising overhead completed the experience perfectly.

The experience was satisfying and complete in itself, but at the same time you couldn’t help but want it to continue on and on to Coventry and beyond.

Next up we gathered with a huge crowd outside Ikon to see Dachshund UN in which for an hour a team of Dachshunds are framed as delegates at an early incarnation of the United Nations in a scale model of the original forum. It sounds a little gimmicky but in action proves to be not just be amusing but engaging but highly theatrical. The set-up invites the audience to personify the dogs, they rapidly come to represent the countries whose name plates they stand behind and their self-contained actions are read as the motivated actions of politicians. It is wonderfully playful – exactly the aesthetic I enjoy.

There were obvious and compelling reasons for staging Dachshund UN in front of Ikon but I would have relished the opportunity of watching it somewhere with better sight-lines – such Chamberlain Square – where we could have sat on the steps of that amphitheatre and watched the piece as a theatre show from beginning to end.

Finally I took in Uninvited Guests‘ Make Better Please which unfortunately, from my perspective, carries its review in its title.

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