The Tragedy of Richard Anthony and Cleopatra Taylor
14/15 Queen Street, Scarborough
This new installation by Simon Farid at Crescent Artspace in Queen Street reveals an extensive, detailed, almost obsessive process on the part of the artist; a process which comprises never-ending excavation, investigation, fabrication, documentation and speculation. It is a creative process which relishes, observes and ponders, examines and tests the blurring of ‘truth’ and ‘fiction’, the ‘real’ and the ‘illusive’.
“(The work) involves many histories, whether real or imagined. We are in Alexandria in 50BC, and in Rome in 1962, and for this production, maybe Scarborough in 2011?” Simon Farid 2011
Simon Farid delights in the juxtaposition and superimposition of people and places. He takes a great deal of time and trouble with a multiplicity of re-constructions and re-enactments of stories, events and situations. He sifts and edits and mixes, adding to and compounding layers of the ‘factional’ to those already embedded in the material. The film itself, excerpts of the film, re-enactments of excerpts of the film (the kiss), projections of enactments and re-enactments, plans and models of places and people, contemporary press images, journalistic articles and accounts, and so on. Ambiguity is to be found at every turn.
“It’s a proposal for a play or a film about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton falling in love, whilst playing Mark Anthony and Cleopatra. A tragedy. A complex thing, no doubt, one involving six protagonists; Liz and Rich, Anthony and Cleopatra, and Liz’s Cleopatra and Richard’s Anthony.” Simon Farid 2011
Such is the contemporary language of cliché and ‘the everyday’, frequently to be found in the contexts of press, media and cinema, that it might at first appear vulgar or inadequate. However, through the experience of this work, it is revealed as complicit in the artist’s approach and response to narratives, situations, characters and roles, which can be seen as both contemporary and archetypal. ‘Tragedy’ – the word carries a heightened sense of the dramatic, inextricably binding together ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’. Checking on the origins of the term I note a supposedly literal meaning, ‘goat song’, in Greek. Whether accurate or not, I rather like the earthy quality which this lends to the Hollywood version of ‘Cleopatra’ as personified by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
Simon Farid has been resident at Crescent Arts for the past 18 months. He graduated from Central St. Martins, London, with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art in 2009. He was the recipient of an individual award from Arts Council England, Grants for the Arts in 2010 for a research visit to Cairo and to assist the production of this work.
Simon Farid would like to thank: Helen Donnelly, Stuart Cameron, Amanda Holderness, Martin Emerson, Jessica Butcher, Tom Rosenthal, Faye Merralls, Joe Rizzo-Naudi, Mark Farid, Neill Warhurst, Crescent Arts, Arts Council England Yorkshire, The Lost Theatre, Scarborough Borough Council, Comet, CEL, University of Hull.