Gillies in the Mist

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En Route in Edinburgh

So, whilst I was in Edinburgh I took part in the site-specific walking tour of the city: En Route. The ‘show’ is the brainchild of Melbourne-based collective one step at a time like this. It goes like this. You meet in the foyer of the Traverse Theatre in a group of 2-3. Someone takes you half-way up the road, splits you up from the group, gives you a set of headphones, straps an iPod to your wrist, takes your mobile number, and tells you to cross the road, walk down a set of stairs and wait for further instructions. Orienteering, then, crossed with a treasure hunt, and with dashes of psychogeography.

What follows is a 70 minute (?) tour of Edinburgh which leads you down dark alleys, across busy roads, into a Hotel lobby, a shopping centre, and up to the top of a multistorey carpark. Instructions are received as texts on your mobile phone, from the soundtrack on your iPod, are discovered in envelopes behind garage doors and in record shops, daubed in chalk on the increasingly slick pavements.

All the time you are being shadowed, discretely, by your ‘helper’ – ie. the person who fit your iPod/headphone gear. In my case, the shadowing was less than fluid as I failed to receive the first few instructions by text, meaning that I ended up hanging around rather aimlessly. I didn’t mind this though. In fact, it was the interaction with my ‘helper’ – as well as the sense you are being watched over – that gave this experience depth of meaning. I’m pretty au fait with psychogeography/Situationism/derives &c. so all that ‘looking at the city differently’ stuff, whilst fun and important, was hardly new to me.

 

 

The sense that you are being ‘controlled’ (however benevolently) also, inevitably, leads to the temptation to rebel against that control – even in small ways. At one point I caught a glimpse of my ‘helper’ behind a wall trying to find me, a fantastic role reversal which gave me a brief moment of pride in my urban strolling.

At one point you are led into a backstreet where a hidden wall has been covered in chalk graffiti (by previous participants). You stand here for a few minutes’ contemplation, and are asked to add your own.

Sometimes, you spot other participants; your journey through the city coinciding with others’.

Edinburgh in August, you hardly stand out amongst the street artists, lost tourists, pipers and performers running to shows in full costume. Moments of recognition, though, are compelling – a passing glance with someone who’s “in” on the trick.

You are instructed, at one point, to wait in the lobby of the Balmoral Hotel, and make a phonecall to someone.

… and then into a shopping centre, to browse the cosmetics department of John Lewis.

There are some nice tricks too. In the multistorey carpark, you come to an abrupt halt, at which point you pick up the path by using a flick-book, which animates a woman towards a door.

The experience ends with wonderful views of the sea (no need for Arthur’s Seat, then), and then back down for a complimentary cup of coffee – at which point I took off my headphones, and started to interrogate the barrista about the deal the cafe has made with En Route.

Edinburgh Fringe

I’m just back from a four-day trip to Edinburgh where I saw a whopping sixteen shows, including the fantastic, surreal office farce Flesh and Blood and Fish and Fowl (pictured above).

In customary Fringe style, I am reviewing my shows using a complex star-rating system, out of five.

Flesh and Blood and Fish and Fowl (Barrow Street Theatre) – 5 yogics
I’m No Hero (Tangere Arts) – 3 yogics
Jonathan Storey, Jack Pratchard – 3 yogics
En Route – 4 yogics
The Harbour (Limbik) – 3 1/2 yogics
Daniel Kitson, It’s Always Right Now, Until It’s Later – 5 yogics
The Monks of Tashi Lhunpo, The Power of Compassion – 5 yogics
Hannah Walker, This is Just to Say – 4 yogics
Molly Naylor, Whenever I Get Blown Up I Think Of You – 3 yogics
Ross Sutherland, The Three Stigmata of Pacman – 4 1/2 yogics
Tim Clare, Death Drive – 4 yogics
Blackout (Thickskin) – 3 1/2 yogics
Operation Greenfield (Little Bulb) – 4 1/2 yogics
John-Luke Roberts Distracts You From a Murder – 4 1/2 yogics
John Robins, Nomadic Revery – 4 yogics
Invisible Dot by the Sea – 4 yogics

But I might change my mind later.

Also, I am announcing some special awards.

This is Yogic Award for the Longest Journey to Get to the Venue
Invisible Dot by the Sea (the clue’s in the title)

This is Yogic Award for Most Sickeningly Talented Youngsters
Operation Greenfield

This is Yogic Award for Best Former University Tutorial Partner
John Robins

This is Yogic Award for Most Dazzlingly Ingenious Set Design
Flesh and Blood and Fish and Fowl

This is Yogic Award for Best Use of Wellington Boots
The Harbour

Athens: Day Nine

On Sunday I performed a new piece written especially for Dasein Festival. Athens Burns (which I may post up here in full at some point) was performed with a soundtrack – I had been recording snippets of audio during the week, at the protests, on the train, in the street, etc.

Oh, and this was the previous night – reading with translator Theodoros Chiotis.

Earlier in the day (Sunday) I went to a museum called Man & Tool. Cool name. I like bijou museums. Find out more here.

Here are some tools.

I also had a lovely wander around the picturesque and in parts quite dilapidated Plaka area, and then a huge lunch with Katerina, Yiannis, Ivan, Adela, Phoebe Giannisi and others. I ate some intestines. Nice.

I’d like to thank Dasein Festival organiser Christos Chryssopoulos for his energy and skills in bringing everyone together and giving us foreigners a warm Athenian welcome.

Next up, first impressions of Thessaloniki, where I am giving a workshop and reading.

Athens: Days Six, Seven, Eight

In the aftermath of Wednesday’s troubles, the organiser of Dasein Festival hastily assembled a press release to announce an event with Netalie Braun exploring the themes of Violence and Silence. The event comprised the screenings of two films, followed by a Q&A.

I would like to draw your attention especially to Netalie’s hour-long film Metamorphosis (2006), which employs Ovid’s myths in conjunction with contemporary testimony from victims of rape in Israel.

This conceit is realised with formidable skill; the familiar mythological exemplars off-set and illuminated by the modern stories. The latter are shot in super close-up, with bright white backgrounds. The effect is one of intimacy, complicity and cleansing. I’ve not been as moved by a film of this kind – at its heart a documentary, though it makes use of techniques from fiction – for some time.

You can see a trailer here.

After the screening, Netalie revealed that the film is quite controversial in Israel – its release leading to the identification (and in one case, I think, the prosecution) of perpetrators. Bleak, but inspiring.

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I visited a great little gallery / arts venue called Aboutt. It was darned hard to locate, being situated on the second floor of a relatively anonymous block of shops and offices in the Monasteraki area of town, with minimal signage. There is a buzzer to get in. It was closed. But luckily the gallery owners – Marie Alouopi and Andreas Diktyopoulos – are very nice and let me in anyway. They are the pair behind the Centre for Music Composition and Performance, and gave me a well-designed book documenting their events and projects to date. Today they were showing their first exhibition in the new venue –  Space is the Place, curated by Lo and Behold. Some excellent reimaginings of urban landscapes in photography, architectural drawings, video, installation art and even embroidery. I wish I could find an image of two drawings by ? which depict the Parthenon in traditional form, but with its columns first geometrically skewed and then folded into intricate, intestine-like tubes. Instead, here’s a screengrab from a piece of video art by Rui Toscano.

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Some other stuff I’ve done / seen.

Eaten the most amazing sweet red peppers stuffed with feta.

Visited Gazi, the old gasworks of Athens which are used for events and art exhibitions. Think East London warehouse space, but with all the equipment still intact.

Visited the beautiful and interesting Acropolis Museum with two new poet-friends, Ivan Hristov and Adela Greceanu.

Enjoyed an overpriced meal and walked around Plaka with Netalie, Ivan, Turkish poet (and engineer!) Gokcenur C and head of Literature Across Frontiers Alexandra Buchler.

Factoid: Gokcenur has met Uri Geller, when Geller was representing a Nigerian Prince in a business meeting. Why? Because he can. My friend Nathan was pleased to hear it.

Last night I drank way too much Ouzo with Ivan.

Tonight I gave my first reading (of two) – in collaboration with Theodoros Chiotis, my translator (!). The venue was full, and the poems seemed to go down well. They even laughed at some of the jokes, which is always a bonus.

Here’s a fuzzy shot of the venue, during a stand-out performance by Lina Theodorou.

Finally, let me leave you with a photograph of something I found amusing.

Over. And. Out.