Ghost hosts: Spectres of Spectacle at AND Festival
Arts and literary crew Mercy put on a must-see event this month, featuring Maria Minerva and local producer Forest Swords. Tom Harcastle investigates.
We enjoyed last year’s AND Festival – a cross-regional exploration into multimedia’s most fun, most dark, and most exciting corners. This year it’s firmly back in Liverpool, with a lineup that’s set to put arts festivals with double its budget to shame. SevenStreets will be continuing to highlight some of our favourites over the next few weeks, and today we turn our eye to its launch party, organised by local literary and arts organisation Mercy, at the Static Gallery.
‘Hauntology’ might not mean much to most people, but over the past few years it’s crept its way into music, film and art – both underground and overground. It’s an abstract concept, first proposed by philosopher Jacques Derrida, proposing the idea that the present is both haunted by the past and the future. A kind of archaic look at the world, reinventing music and art, viewed through the prism of the YouTube generation. Or something like that.
Mercy have taken the concept and expanded it outwards to create Spectres of Spectacle – an evening of performance, installation and poetry, set to hit Static Gallery on 29th September.
Chicks On Speed’s anarchic Anat Ben David, performance artist Victoria Gray (set to do a city centre-wide walk beforehand), poet Nathan Walker and post-pop poster girl Maria Minerva are all set to contribute, amongst other goings on in the gallery throughout the evening. The centrepiece of the night is a commission by local producer Forest Swords, who’s created a recorded piece – ‘Ground Rhythms’ – especially for the festival. I sat down with him in The Egg for a quick chat about the project.
When did the commission come about?
At the beginning of summer we started talking about it. They (Mercy) originally wanted me to do a live show, but for various reasons we settled on the ‘Ground Rhythms’ idea. Nathan from Mercy, Andrew Ellis from Samizdat and I discussed it in depth for a number of weeks.
Can you tell me more about what’s happening?
I’ve made three new tracks. They’ve been loosely inspired by things that doesn’t physically exist here (Liverpool) anymore – the David Lewis Theatre, the Overhead Railway, the Sailor’s Home. They’re recorded pieces, which Andrew (Ellis) will be cutting onto X Ray film. It’s a vinyl cutting process, so the grooves are actually pressed into the film, but it’s so thin you can pretty much only get one solid play out of it before the music starts to badly degrade. So the first and only play will be during the AND launch night.
I’ve never heard of music being put on X Rays before.
I hadn’t really until we started discussing it. When certain types of music and poetry were banned in Russia people used to record their own onto X Rays, reel to reel tape, and so on with a view to other people making their own duplicates and the process repeating. It was a way of getting culture out there. So it had this sort of viral quality to it.
I suppose the installation really asks people to pay attention – to not be a passive listener.
Yeah, that kind of element is something we’ve discussed a lot (between us). To just play something once increases the… it’s a different atmosphere and a different way of consuming the music. Like, I’ve got about 2000 songs on my iPod or something. And it’s difficult sometimes to really take note of what you’re hearing most of the time when you’ve got this vast volume of tracks at your disposal.
The installation could also be seen as a comment on Liverpool’s history, perhaps?
It’s more about the idea of inhabiting places… those types of remaining energies in certain spaces I find really interesting. I visited the sites of the three subjects before I started the songs.
What do you think about the opinion that Liverpool is too obsessed with its past?
Maybe a certain generation, but I wouldn’t say people in their teens or twenties are particularly attached to its history. Musically, I just don’t care that much about what’s happened before. I hope people my age start to fight for a lot of the nice architecture here though, because some really awful decisions have been made recently. Mann Island’s completely horrific.
Are events like this something you’d like to be involved in more?
Well, so much of being a musician is still geared towards the same tired routine. You make a record, you play live shows, you go back and repeat. So to throw in a project people wouldn’t expect… I just never want to be someone who gets stuck in that rut.
Spectres of Spectacle, Thursday 29th September
Static Gallery, Roscoe Lane, Liverpool
Below: Maria Minerva – California Scheming