Fake rock stars, blood-letting and vaginal egg scrambling. Fierce, an annual live art festival took place in Birmingham at the end of March this year. The exciting programme of artists from across the globe was a collision of music, performance, art, talks, film and parties, held in train stations, empty buildings, dirty warehouses and art museums across the city.
Symphony of a Missing Room By Lundahl and Seitl was an unconventional guided tour of Birmingham’s Museum and Art Gallery, a one-on-one personal journey into an imaginary world of self, time and space. It was the pick of the festival for many, challenging the senses and taking the audience into another reality.
Action Hero’s ‘Front Man’ addressed the faded fantasy of the superstar. Lip-syncing, iconic dance moves, humorous frustration and beautiful acappella country singing went alongside loud electronic sounds that gradually got louder and louder as the fog of dry ice thickened. The performance came to a dramatic climax when the front man picked a physical fight with the sound man, that spilt off the stage and into the audience. It was a beautiful, poignant and comic performance that humanises our pre-conception of what it means to be a pop-star.
Human Salvage: A Night of Club Performance included cutting edge performance artists Lauren Barri Holstein, Dickie Beau, and co-curator Dominic Johnson. It was a fantastic night of spiky performances held in a former metal factory. I have to admit I am a little squeamish when it comes to blood letting live on stage so I was slightly wary of attending, but Johnson’s performance Departure was beautifully staged, touching and left you wanting more.
Drag Fabulist, Dicky Beau’s performance, in which he took on the persona of an old American woman, was equally entrancing. Beau lip-synced perfectly to a crackly old audio whilst he physically re-enacted sexual memories in positions on and around a ladder. It was powerful, heartfelt and sublimely funny.
Lauren Barri Holstein entered the stage in a wedding dress and tiara singing Mariah Carey’s ‘Hero’, she then swiftly undressed to reveal ‘Just married’ written across her back in lipstick. With the help of her assistant and a ‘rude boy’ audience member she then proceeded to insert condom covered chicken eggs into her vagina, letting them drop into a bowl below. A process repeated with at least two dozen eggs while she sang another pop song, she then pissed into the bowl and did a pregnancy test on the eggs while we waited for the results. Her assistant then poured the contents of the bowl over Holstein’s head, who was still singing. The mess continued… she slowly squirted 3 jumbo sized tomato ketchup bottles over her naked body whilst reading sexually provocative, pornographic and grotesque words into the microphone. This may all sound meaningless, pointless and gratuitous yet this piece was the most effective and heartbreaking piece of performance art I have ever seen. She ripped apart the image of woman as wife, mother, pop-star, porn-star and artist. It spoke loud and clear of a male dominated environment in which we need to re-evaluate feminism and look at the problems in the way men see women and women see themselves.
For more info on Fierce Festival, visit www.wearefierce.org