Sunday, 15 January 2017

Film Screening: Sophie Cundale, After Picasso, God

I recently volunteered at a film screening at Spike Island, it was the screening of the most recent film by London based artist Sophie Cundale, ‘After Picasso, God’ a co-commission between Serpentine Galleries and South London Gallery.

“The film sees a woman (played by Cundale) visit a hypnotist to address an unwanted addiction. As part of her cure, objects, people and images are transformed through hypnosis; pain is brought to the surface and removed through analgesia. The title refers to the artist Dora Maar, Picasso’s lover and muse, who after the break-up of their affair, declared: "After Picasso, Only God."”

Talking with a fellow volunteer, Harriet, after the screening on the way home, I found out we both felt uncomfortable at certain points throughout the film. There is a part when Sophie, under the hypnosis of feeling no pain, slowly burns her fingers on the cigarette she is smoking. The scene made me flinch but I could not turn away, it was a powerful scene, which was happening slowly and demonstrated a feeling of torture. It is very impressive how well communicated the feelings are throughout the film.

The voice of the hypnotist was so calm and overpowering, impossible to ignore, it felt controlling and scary. The realness of the scene, and closeness of the camera, really made you feel like you were right there with Sophie, the hypnotist, and all of the characters represented. The introduction of new characters was carefully performed through small movements of the hands with the cigarette, and appliance of make up, along with a change of voice, signifying the character embodiment of Picasso, his lover, and the ‘other woman.’ Even though these characteristic changes to play each role were subtle, it worked, and it was easy to follow the story.

After the film Sophie was encouraged to speak more about her work and I am so glad she did. I liked hearing about the process she went through of forming her ideas into creations, which turned out different from her original plans as things naturally changed along the way. Cundale said everything she films is very much real, for example the woman singing on the bus, was her mum just singing on a real bus journey. The party scene was also real with friends, and a real hypnotist who is also an actor played the hypnotist.

Pointing out that this film is not the first time that pain has been a theme in her work, and it has naturally reoccurred, Sophie’s interest in the subject of pain is continuing to grow and is strongly influencing her next project.

In ‘After Picasso, God,’ Sophie was hypnotised for real as she played the role, and did not feel any pain from the cigarette burn. It’s incredible to hear how Sophie’s work is inspiring her own future project plans, and she is further investigating what happens inside the brain when the sensation of pain is blocked. This particular experience is something Cundale is beginning to explore within boxing, and how boxers fighting in the ring have so much adrenaline that they aren’t susceptible to the feeling of pain. Sophie is training to be a professional boxer and intends to compete in 2017. It is important to Sophie that she communicates the experience as truly as possible, and she feels the only way to do this as accurately as possible, is to experience it herself, and then somehow show the film in a 4x screen experience to authentically make the viewer feel like they are in the boxing ring themselves.

As a volunteer at Spike Island I wanted to volunteer at this screening because I was mainly curious as to how the title of the film ‘After Picasso, God’ and the image on the poster of messed up lipstick could be connected. The opportunity to meet a female film-maker was also something that excited me. Also, since the film industry is still predominantly made up of men (more than any other gender), I am always supportive of more women getting involved in the film making industry.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Volunteering At Spike Island

This year I met my girlfriend AJ who lives in Bristol and it has been a wonderful year of adventures exploring the city. Visiting the city every week, I looked into volunteering at Spike Island, a gallery I visited a long time ago and really liked.

Since volunteering at Spike Island I have met lots of friends, and after relocating to Bristol full-time, I have been able to become more involved with the gallery and volunteer at more events which has been fantastically fulfilling.

The volunteers and staff at Spike Island are an awesome team, and Jules; the volunteer co-ordinator is one of the best people I have ever met. Spike Island volunteers started a zine, and I wrote about my volunteer experience so far, for the second issue. I wanted to share this on my blog because it was my first ever piece of published writing. It has been amazing to meet such encouraging, creative, kind people in Bristol and I look forward to what 2017 has in store.

Spike Zine [Volunteer Experience - Cheri Donohue]

I first visited Spike Island 2 years ago on an open day, it was cool to see all of the creative work spaces at Spike. Everyone was happy to talk about their art, it was my first insight into the lovely, open, friendly, creative community at Spike Island.

After recently moving to Bristol, I wondered how to be involved with Spike Island and became a volunteer. Since volunteering I have invigilated in the gallery for 2 exhibitions, some events, and for the preview evening of the Hedwig Houben, and Roman Stetina & Mirosla Burianek exhibitions.

It was great to meet other volunteers at the briefing for Autumn exhibitions, everyone I have met at Spike has been so welcoming and I think that’s very representative of the community here. As we were guided around the gallery, Hedwig described to us our role as volunteers for the exhibition. We are encouraged to reconstruct shelves, and reposition pieces from the exhibition in different layouts to our desire, each day. It’s a very exciting role to be curating the gallery space while visitors come into the gallery, the unusual moving around of equipment or repairing any damage to the plastesine car, encourages them to ask us questions, and immediately opens up a conversation about the art.

It was insightful to see Hedwigs performance at the preview evening, seeing her interacting with her art while she read a script associated with the plastesine car was very humanising. Speaking with Hedwig afterwards, it was interesting to hear how she lost herself in her performance and finds it really amazing to see the different emotions people have towards her work. As volunteers, we were shown how to repair the plastesine surface after the performance, and to continue making repairs if needed throughout the duration of the exhibition. It’s cool to be looking after the exhibition in this way, and feels strange to be allowed to touch art.

Volunteering at Spike Island events such as Night of the Fellows, is fun and always surprising. I love hearing artists talk about the ideas behind their work, and at Night of the Fellows it’s especially inspiring to hear graduates introduce themselves, their art and discuss their plans for the future. Amy Gough, one of this years’ Graduate Fellows, showed us her short film and it was particularly amazing to hear about her process and how she got obsessed with the elements she was researching.

Volunteering at Spike, already I have had the wonderful opportunity of meeting artists and creative folk from all around the world. I always feel inspired after being at Spike for the day, I feel very lucky and I can’t believe I was originally nervous to get in touch about volunteering.