Updated: Aug 16, 2019
Snow Q. Installation / performance - Wendy Pye & Dagmara Rudkin, Winter Solstice 2018, Regency House Brighton
Well I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived outside the infamous Regency House in Brunswick Square but the lure of a live art installation hosted on the Winter Solstice was too hard to resist. However, it had been hard to convince my other-half to go, ‘we’re not going to have to do anything weird are we? (Still reeling from the Marina Abramovic exhibition last summer) but truth was I wasn’t sure… info on the event was vague, increasing the suspense. I had a few weeks before booked a time slot. I had chosen the last slot but when we arrived it was clear it was more of a free-for-all which suited us.
'Are you for Snow Q?’ we were questioned, sheepishly nodding we were then told to go down some precarious steps into the basement, usually assigned to the servants quarters in these old town houses. Through the door, greeted with an enthusiastic smile we were issued some information and told music and other events would happen at regular intervals at different locations within the space and we should look out for them.
Looking into the gloom of the misty corridor it was like we were about to enter another world.
To the right we saw a lit up room with some cheerful faces and paper cups ready to be filled. We were told to help ourselves to refreshments and we could then make our way around unguided. So we armed ourselves with some warm mulled wine and off we went.
Shuffling around in our pair we nudged each other into a direction, navigating the narrow rumbling walls, that only added to the experience (the current basement being under renovation). The first room was dark and felt cold, it took a while to adjust our eyes to the space and understand what we were seeing, which was a large scale projected landscape, blue, black and grey, inverted and mirrored on the floor. It was breathtakingly beautiful. I’ve since learned it was an edited photo of Snowdonia, you could imagine Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen feeling quite at home in the lifeless rolling ice-cliff’s pictured. Looking through the rooms historical windows there was a looped mapped projection on the adjacent courtyard wall and you got the idea the story had been moved into a contemporary setting. The imagery suggested the artist was addressing issues on homelessness by showing visuals of a person shivering in the cold, huddled under a blanket.
It’s amazing how the mind processes new experiences, especially when you don’t know what’s next, we were almost on high alert that something might jump out at us from behind the corners. We were truly at the artists mercy but people looked comfortable and even though some imagery was bleak and brutal we heard laughing echoing from proceeding rooms.
Moving along the corridor we were confronted by an iron cage. Peering though the bars we could see a video installation. Projected onto the far wall was what looked like fluttering wings or shuddering animals, intensified by sound effects to go with each raggedy movement. It was creepy but endearing and great to see the reaction from other people viewing it for the first time. Almost like watching a horror film people would look, look away then be tempted to return introducing themselves to it bit by bit. I couldn’t remember animals in the story, it had been so long ago since I had read it but knowing these fables animals usually play significant parts. So I wondered what this was trying to convey.
It was about this time people started to emerge and we realised we were going to be treated to some live music. A violinist played a beautiful melancholic piece and the crowd listened intently. How wonderful I thought, I wondered how many times I will ever get to hear a violin being played live, not many times most likely and never again in circumstances like this. I guess that’s the real beauty in a 'happening’ such as Snow Q, your either there or your not (sorry).
The last room was dedicated to a large central installation of fabric, hoops, lampshades and trailing material, organic in formation monstrously hanging from the glass domed ceiling. Its size beckoning the crowd to honour it by lining the edges of the room and in gaining our senses we realised there was recordings of children being played from various places around the room. They seemed to be saying their wishes, I believe one child wanted a giant teapot. Placed on the table beneath the installation was a series embroidery pieces intrinsically linked to the fabric installation with string.
This exhibition wasn’t for children as much as sometimes you think old fairytales shouldn’t be, yet we appreciate these stories and the history they hold and they continue to inspire us no matter what age. There was something metamorphic about this piece, like a time capsule of childhood, yet the string signalled the change that has to happen as we grow. This seemed the end of the Snow Q journey and for me it was nice to be left in a space of more domestic origins.
The comfort of ice against a picture of home, even if it was still fairytale surreal.
To our bemusement just when we thought we had seen all there was to see a character walks into the room as if appearing from the pages of the story. Dressed in a casual black hoodie but gaining attention by his black feathered baseball cap he asserted his place amongst the crowd. Perching on a stool 'Do you speak Crow?’ He looks around, mimicking the movements of the majestic bird. Eye’s lit up, savage, jagged in motion he exclaimed 'Caw Caw! Then an even bigger 'Caw Caw!’ as if everybody wasn’t already listening. Following on was words, statements, poetry in a mish-mash of rhythms and language. Switching from Polish to English to Crow, sometimes mid-sentence. The tone in which it was given left no time for doubt, this was someone who had something to say, proclaimed in such a unshielded way as only an animal like the crow would have the bruit confidence to do. Travelling from one room to another we followed this creature and I wondered why I’d started to feel so guilty, perhaps because the tone was so accusatory as he spoke of man-made land boundaries and the effects of war. Birds naturally fly over these boundaries, you couldn’t nationalise a bird as we do to humans but the crow didn’t care what we did as an outside observer. There was an overriding feeling that the bird had gained more understanding than any of us by being so fluid, that we were the silly ones being pompous in our ability to manage the world and the birds were listening in, nonjudgemental but only in an uncaring way.
So stepping outside to take our breath we checked ourselves down. How do we feel? Well a humbled feeling of been gifted an experience and being grateful. It was truly magic and an experience that will resonate for time to come. It didn’t matter you weren’t always sure from which part of the story the artwork was extracted, perhaps that’s why it was called 'Snow Q’ you fill in the blanks yourself.
Thanks for reading. To note many community groups were involved in this exhibition, thanks to all those involved. Warm wishes,