Monday 2 March 2009

Hurray! Hurray! Hurray!

I visited the Sainsbury’s Centre today to have a look at the “China! China! China!” exhibition (its title is brilliant- though I can’t help but wish the next Francis Bacon retrospective would use “Bacon! Bacon! Bacon!”). The heavy leaning towards video art didn’t really appeal a great amount, and there was a strong overtone that the choice of works was limited by heavy censorship (critiques of the political systems in China were notable by their absence). The favourite piece, asides from a massive moon made out of light-bulbs, was a piece of performance art created by Qin Ga. ‘Hurray! Hurray!’ is a video capturing the artist clothed in a horses hide, chanting the exclamation over and over again. Although initially irritating, it rapidly takes on some kind weird hypnotic power. The repetition becomes a centre, a resonant prayer, or perhaps a lament. It’s reminiscent of Joseph Beuys, a primal ritual/action that pulls at old world mythology and collective history (Hurray is adapted from a Mongolian equivalent of amen apparently). Qin Ga seems to imply a defiant death cry - personally speaking I’ve always found Beuys’ work to be incredibly solitary- contrast it with that other notion of shared histories. Cheyne Stoking is a term I learnt thanks to this film, it seems curiously appropriate. I am still trying to find a way of including it in a poem of mine, more on which another time.

More to the point, the exhaustion of repetition is something I’d like to try with the poetry choir- maybe not with the word Hurray (though a sick, perverse part of me thinks that I could claim it’s a tribute to Qin Ga). The principle of taking repeated words, or musical phrases to their extreme is nothing new. In fact one could argue that it’s this shuddering constant that guides most club dj-ing, regardless of genre. Out of the poetry choir stuff, the museum piece and ‘go fly your kites’ already utilise repetition as a tool to help engage (smother) the audience- particularly ‘Go fly your kites’ which I often think of a sort of relentless yammering on the door. Anyway, I’m going to blog about this some more at a later stage- I just wanted to make a record of what ‘Hurray! Hurray!’ got me thinking about.

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