I spent 3 days last week helping out for Longplayer Day. You never know going into something as a volunteer how you’ll get to participate and what you’ll learn. I have to say, despite the opportunity coming round at a busier time of the year it was a fantastic experience. Got to meet loads of interesting teachers/artists. The curators were very open in answering any questions about how they set it all up – funding, time frame. They really took their time to explain everything and welcomed me into the whole process.
I was working with curators James Bulley and Nellie Fey, both of whom were incredibly supportive. The first aspect of the role was really just to flyer as much as possible around south east London – at least it was a good week for weather!
James, who works at Goldsmiths, which is where the beginning of the day happened, made sure to take me around to the spaces that would be pertinent to me (collecting equipment etc) and like I said was very open to answering any questions as I was curious how things like this get funded – which seems to be a mixed, complicated and perhaps frustrating process at times.
The whole point of the day was to explore and promote durational sound art – this meant there were a mixture of artists and approaches. Starting off was this piano, which Aine O’Dwyer performed on. I had to help get it working as it had a bubble machine on it but sadly to no avail. As soon as we were finished at Goldsmiths, the whole day was spent walking as a group around New Cross, Deptford, Greenwich and then over the river finishing at Trinity Buoy Wharf.
Practically I had to help at points by moving a bit ahead of the group to check that the artists in the next location were OK, but James and Nellie had also planned it exceedingly well stationing volunteers along the way. It was also incredibly hot so someone had to drive around from location to location with water, food and first aid – a practicality that I would not have thought of until this experience. It was also the hottest day of the year, which both made it a beautiful day to walk but being out in the heat it was important to seek shade. It made the whole day even more atmospheric though, which was perfect as it seemed as if most of the works didn’t just play with duration but also the space and mostly outside space they were in.
This led to some trickier moments as one artist performed in the pedestrian tunnel between Greenwich and Isle of Dogs (??) in what happened to turn out to be rush hour. Even though the curators had checked the space before, rush hour will always be busy. There were definitely a few frustrated cyclists, but they’re normally frustrated anyways…
We also at a later point watched a performance piece by Tim Spooner, who after James acquainting me with his work (weird puppetry basically) I was excited to see. We had an issue though because the outside space they had chosen to perform they thought was a part of public space (mixed with in a private residency) but residents complained and quickly security came to shut it down. After having a conversation with security though they were actually really nice, they obviously didn’t know how to react to stumbling upon what they saw, which was actually really great! It shows though, through this particular kind of creating process where you are using outside space you may come across issues or have to be bold where you choose.
A few particular highlights were watching Trinity’s Head of Composition and Music Technology Dominic Murcott’s ‘Harmonic Canon’ (or at least a taster of it). Dominic and his friend literally built these enormous bells (an object i’d never really thought about in depth before) and to listen to the sound that they make was incredible. His friend (who actually made the bells) was talking a bit about the physics (??) behind how they work, and was really quite incredible. I say incredible because obviously I can’t remember the details of the makings of it, but I remember being fascinated. The memory of acquiring knowledge as opposed to remembering the knowledge itself is quite a bane in my life.
After that, we then had the pleasure of watching a piece by Charles Hayward, a well known Musician and Artist and a big character in South East London. He played right next to the river along with this wonderful Violinist. They setup on a wharf i’d seen many times across from Greenwich, and of course suddenly watching improvisational art based music in a space that you wouldn’t usually associate with it – I found to be a very freeing feeling, contextualising spaces differently, particularly an outside space felt playful and refreshing.
Another great experience was watching a piece by Richard Wilson. Was actually very humorous, was my personal take.
We watched him from across the River as he played at another wharf with other artists too. It was a mixture of sound and sculpture. A really funny part of the whole thing is that the curators and Wilson had made a decision to not do any fireworks or anything like that in case (I presume) that it frightened other people, London being in a funny time right now. Anyways, he absolutely did use fireworks and because it was in a random place and a seemingly randomly sounding piece I thought it was just so funny. And it was amazing to see. It had a feeling of randomness and playfulness, which I think are 2 things when in combination work very well – a good way to approach most things and is not done enough.
It was a long day and we walked very far. We actually had a good crowd that stayed all the way through and other people (who had the programme) met up at different points. That was something the curators wanted to see whether worked or not, but it really did. Finally we reached Trinity Buoy Wharf, a place i’d never been to, and found myself walking there with Jem Finer, me making awkward conversation of course. And we arrived here.
This is Jem Finer’s piece, which is what the whole day was based around. A durational piece to last over 1000 years. At that point truthfully, I was very tired and didn’t stay too long having work the next day but I ended the day feeling elated. I couldn’t have expected to work with better people, a more beautiful day and because we all had to walk in a group then got to really get to know the audience too. I met one man at one point who felt very strongly that he had to defend the Queen and the monarchy and he also loved Charles Hayward. The day was full of rich characters and I was so glad to be a part of it all. As well as learning more about the pragmatics of what would be a more unusually curated event, I could easily see the benefits of it too.