Resident artist Steven Malorie Potter reviews Webb-Ellis’s recent exhibition at Crescent Arts.
One would be forgiven upon hearing a description of ‘hmmmmm’, for thinking it the start of a bad joke about contemporary art. Two artists, painted blue, dancing naked in a pink room to music only they can hear for 5 hours.
The reality of course is that the latest outing of collaborative partners Webb-Ellis is anything but a punch line.
A multi screened performance video installation ‘hmmmmm’ made its debut at Crescent Arts Gallery this March.
Though warnings were given, there was an initial shock upon entry into the duel exhibition space. It came at first from the vigorously unashamed sudden nudity and then from the fear that that nudity was not bound within a projection.
In that split second the fear that I too would be forced to don blue and shake my tail feather was all too real.
Luckily (for myself and everyone present) this was not the case, instead it served as testament to how well the installation met its intention to question the boundaries between self and other.
Projected within the same rooms the performance took place, the walls remained adorned in pink with the echo of the event in the form of several blue smudges. Entrants were met by the ambient sounds of Webb-Ellis’s movements and “occasional speech” rather then that of the music the artists danced to.
If the ambient sound and ‘lived in’ habitat of the still pink gallery allowed the artists to step through the projection into our plane of existence then the headphones that were provided for audiences to view the piece along with the soundtrack, were our looking glass to theirs.
The artists are aware that the element of ridiculousness exists, but rather than ignore it or exaggerate it they have chosen to allow the piece to take its own form “The installation may fluctuate between humour and gravity as we dance for the five hours”. This act mirrors their unplanned and ecstatic movements in the film and serves to strengthen the pieces exploration of perception.
Experimental performance piece turned metaphysical experience when one realizes the artists were physically present as well. One half of the duo would be on screen while the other would be talking to a visitor right in front of you, then they would leave, appear on screen and the other would smile as they walked by. Either the wine at Crescent Arts is of an exceptional high proof or Webb Ellis succeeded in their attempts to question “what does it mean to really be present”.
Though one visitor’s comments captured perfectly the lack of separation between artists, audience, past and present “Brilliant! Absolutely loved it! Wanted to dance again!” it was instead another comment that embodied the atmosphere of the installation and Webb-Ellis’s commitment to the pursuit of self discovery “Fuckin weird, but good”.
To find out more about Webb- Ellis’s performance and other pieces visit their website HERE.