Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Some photographs from A CALL TO ARMS June 14th 2009

Here's a few photos and (below) the film of the performance; expertly shot by Mark Birbeck and edited by my son Louie Young. Several months late - no excuses for that... but hopefully providing a flavour of the climax to an incredibly creative and challenging project. Our thanks go out to the community of Upnor(s), Fuse Medway Festival and Medway Council for their unflagging support, and to all the artists and students who took part, led workshops, performed, put themselves out on a limb for the sake of Art.

© Rowena Easton

A Call to Arms - finally!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

the speech that never was...

Of all the Lowers and all the Uppers in all the world –
the Upnor that is uppermost in our hearts is
UpUpUppityUpnor. Up in Arms Upnor!
A Tale of Two Upnors that is one,
a tale of one Upnor that is two;
but only one Upnor,
not Upper.

A tale of four pubs in the morning
and a blood red sky,
no community centre, no shops,
no schools, a seagulls cry,
Wake up Wake up
it’s modern times.

A sand pit and a playground bare
Both empty now, no children there
Deserted beach where was once were ice cream shops
A bus so infrequent it hardly ever stops.

And The Lady in a Box who cannot see the sea,
so what does she see?

the killing ships that fill the Medway
stream from Upnor to Afghanistan it seems.

Fleet House empty,
thinking tidy,
get off my land,
fortress Upnor,
border Upnor.
Subject to closure at any time…

St George the patron saint of
Queen Elizabeth the great
and all her majesty,
the queen is here,
will tell you stories for the small price of a beer.

The Tudor Rosy,
Kings Arms cosy,
Pier and Ship relief,
where old friends meet and sing together,
Sunday roast goes on forever.
Where folk songs reverberate in the street,
near long-gone Post Offices where nobody can meet.

And artists come to weave a red thread
through the town,
A critic burns them down…

This is Upnor,
UpUpUppity Upnor,
Up in Arms Upnor,
the pride of Upnor is here.
For here in the smell of the rivers wake
we stand and watch the fretful dawn awake,
Wake up Wake up
A Call to Arms!

We don’t need no updating...

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

The Burning of the Red Thread

This is what happened when some unknown and unseen vandals/art critics (?) decided to burn Eva's red thread wrapping of the viewing platform beside Upnor Castle. A curious act, not without its own barbed beauty, but odd nevertheless, given that a lot of the thread survived.

It's part of what has made this project so fascinating. The relatively low turnout for workshops despite numerous leaflet drops and notices to the community, although this has changed in the last week; the sometimes heated debates with members of the public on the streets; the apparent friendliness of the locals, whilst expressing a certain irritation at having to share their village with the tourists. The contradictions of Upnor, its two halves, both literally and metaphorically, have come to characterise the place for us, as artists.

And now we are in the final phase of the project, where we are creating the ceremonies and interventions that will happen on the streets on the 14th, it is time to reflect back on the last few months and try to encapsulate that experience in our performance.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

More photos from our first weekend - Sunday

A delightful afternoon having tea in the garden of the house with the best views of the River Medway at Upnor... Eva weaving her thread around the viewing platform and the view from the tower above.

More photos from our first weekend - Saturday

Ways of seeing - changing the way we view the world through simple worn and handheld devices.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

2 weeks to go...

Well, it's hard to believe after all the planning and site visits, that the project is due to start very soon. We had a great Press Launch on April 14th, where we arrived on a fishing boat to be met by local councillors, residents and the press. We engaged them with a short absurdist ceremony where we set out our plans for the project and then walked the proposed route of the final performance, for a buffet lunch at the Tudor Rose pub on the High Street. Residents seemed genuinely interested in what we are doing, as we stopped and talked to people en route; it was also very gratifying to see our local artist partners engage with the excitement of the project in the same way that we all did when this project first kicked off.

So... what is it we are actually planning to do? The short answer is that we intend to facilitate the making of a parish map - documenting the past, present and possibly even the future of the village of Upnor. What is it that residents like / dislike and wish to change about the community that they live in? One of the big issues for us has been that the village has no obvious meeting places outside of the 4 pubs. No shops, no schools and no community centre. If the community want to meet they have to get in a car and travel to Frindsbury Extra, where the Parish Council meets. Hopefully, these and many other issues will arise and be discussed during the workshop process, but this will be for the community to decide. We, as the collective, have our own agenda of things that we want to investigate and portray through performative actions on the streets. Tthe other half of the partnership, the community of residents, will have their own ideas about what and how they would like to celebrate about their village - both on the map and in the final performance.

The only givens, so far, are that we will arrive on the day of the performance at the Arethusa Jetty, we will make our way via some preselected sites in Lower Upnor to Upper Upnor (or Upnor, as the residents of Upper Upnor know it...) and declaim a new Upnor manifesto in the grounds of the castle. I am personally taking responsibility for the manifesto, but again what is finally included will be down to the residents. There will then be a post-performance reception in the castle, where all the work and documentation of the project will be on view to the public.

So, watch this space for furtther updates - myself and the rest of the artists will blog during the workshop process, as A Call to Arms takes to the streets.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

A Call to Arms

UPNOR - home of a famous Elizabethan Castle and a former military railway; supplier of men and explosives to the historic Chatham Dockyards. What will happen when The Neo-Futurist Collective take to the streets with placards and megaphones and invite the locals to do the same?

A Call to Arms
- a celebration of Upnor's military and industrial past, has been commissioned by Fuse Medway Festival, and will be created from a series of workshops with the people of Upnor in making and performance. The crafting of an Upnor parish map will be our call to arms, a manifesto for future action. It will also act as a score for our performance piece, fusing ceremony and story-telling on the streets of Upnor at 7 pm on Sunday June 14th.

You are invited to the Press Launch, April 14th 2009.
Assemble @ high tide, 2.45 pm Arethusa Jetty, Lower Upnor

3 pm A Grand Arrival by boat.... Four members of The Neo-Futurist Collective stumble ashore - a man in a wet suit, another one wearing a pair of giant ears, one wearing a mask of a greek god and carrying a box of light bulbs and a woman with a basket of cakes and a huge ball of red thread...
A short absurdist ceremony will follow where the Neo-Futurists announce their intent to the assembled crowd, followed by official speeches from local dignitaries. During the ceremony The Neo-Futurist Collective will unveil a blank map of the Upnors to be filled in during the project.

"We bring to you today a blank map, to celebrate Upnor and to ask the question - What is special about Upnor, what do you like, what don't you like, what do you value, what would you change? You Upnorians are the experts, we come to celebrate Upnor..."

3.20 pm Photographs and Q and A's accompanied by Neo-Futurist cakes.

3.30 pm (approx.) The Neo-Futurists will walk to Upper Upnor (about 10 mins) for further Q and A's and refreshments hosted by Kevin and Joy at The Tudor Rose on the High St. Guests can accompany us on foot, or travel by car and meet us there. Local artists including Moogie Wonderland, Peter Reeds and Jane Pitt will transform the pub with sound and installation.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Fifteen Sounds of the War on the Poor (vol.3)

Ultra-Red have published a one-minute extract of a piece that I recorded on Wall St. last Autumn as part of Conflux 08.

“Black Friday.” A binaural recording made outside the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street, the weekend of the Lehmann Brothers collapse. The dif´Čüculty of trying to read out the stock prices on the indicator mirrors the speed at which the global market moves. The voice is submerged both in the surrounding soundscape and the noise of the market itself. . . .

Saturday, 7 February 2009


Inspired by Wall Street and the crushing world market; the idea of power held by few and the abstract nature of monetary transactions in the stock market. What is the tangibility of shares? stocks? What if we had a pie instead and trade with that?
Free Money for Apple Pie created a street 'tea party' inside the gallery. We gave away lots of 'new' dollars (*) to visitors who used them to buy apple pie and tea. Their share was measured on a pie chart on the wall. Any one person could have as much money as they liked to buy as much or as little apple pie as they liked - even taking the whole pie as their share... Interestingly, no-one did.
(*) Special Neo-Futurist edition

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Remixing via the body

Notes on remixing the exhibition; Past Performance.... , Blank Gallery, November 25th 2008.
I spent a day in situ with the exhibition looking for ways to integrate and respond to the work with a moving, body based vocabulary. I was struck by several diverse ideas; that of the pioneer spirit that first established America; a memory from all the cowboy films I'd seen of shoot outs and cowboys; how they get shot down but rise up in time for the next film; Lazarus like. Cowboys themselves as icons of America, and homelessness within a city in which real estate is maximum; how do the homeless find a comfortable , safe place to sleep in that city?, and from the film in the exhibition, an image of a man searching for matches in his pocket I became fascinated by the possibility of finding that which we loose; the parts of our bodies that we loose, the bits of life that pass by unnoticed, and the question of how, through movement, through tracking into the body, we might re- find these parts; these lost matches.
The film, text and sound installation that made up the exhibition conjured an image of the place but what struck me most were presence and abscense of the people who move, like ants through it, leaving only traces on Manhattan. Manhattan, an icon of modernity; the city is like a machine ( a monster) that is far more "important" than the individual lives passing through it, transcient ghosts who hardly scratch the surface of the concrete, brick, iron city,let alone challenge it's status and hierarchy enough to produce change.
My first response was to take a stick of charcol and draw outlines of my moving body on the blank gallery walls, then to trace around images from the film; creating shadow like pictures of where the body has been. Then I created a loop of movement instructions that would structure the improvisation. These were:
Cowboy stance, turn and draw.
Cowboy dying
Finding total fluidity within the body, following the body; tracking movement.
Sleeping on a chair ( homeless)
Standing in the corner under a drawing of a Dunces cap.
The challenge I set myself was that I was to be always in the present moment and if, I drifted into repetition,sleep, or habitual movement, I would "jump cut" -in the body, to one of the next instruction points. As the performance, which lasted an hour, progressed I became immersed in a kind of "wild animal " body, one that did not obey normal (tame) body convention but found unlived moments between set movement instructions - perhaps I found the matches. I travelled in my imagination to many parts of the space, my inner body and the city, absorbing the fumes and dirt; paying homage to the monster and returning empty.