and Jane Pollard's new film project File under Sacred Music takes
as its starting point an infamous video that documents a live performance
by The Cramps for the patients at Napa Mental Institute, California,
on 13th June 1978. Captured on blurred and grainy black and white
film, this unique social document has been swapping hands at record
fairs and via the internet since the early eighties.
Forsyth and Pollard began by re-enacting that legendary
performance in order to film it and remake the rarely seen video
document. They consulted closely with a number of mental health
arts organisations, before inviting members from Core Arts, Sound
Minds and Mad Pride to attend the performance and filming, which
was staged on a specially constructed set in the Institute of Contemporary
Arts Theatre in London on 3rd March 2003.
To re-create the on-stage performance by The Cramps,
Forsyth and Pollard went to incredible lengths to work with musicians
who understood the full context and spirit of the project. Eventually,
a band was constructed featuring Alfonso Pinto from London-based
punk band The Parkinsons as Cramps' vocalist Lux Interior, Holly
Golightly, a legendary solo artist as well as a founder member of
Thee Headcoatees, as guitarist Poison Ivy, Bruce Brand, a key figure
in the Medway scene, as guitarist Bryan Gregory and John Gibbs from
The Wildebeests and Holly's current band as drummer Nick Knox.
The resulting footage was edited and degraded to meticulously
re-create the content, spirit and damaged aesthetic of the original
video tape the artists had purchased on eBay. To read more about
the project, visit the making
the film section.
At a time when media technology has encroached on
the live event to a point where few feel live at all, Forsyth and
Pollard's project pushes beyond any simple re-presentation of a
significant cultural moment to project an alternate testament of
reality that examines 'liveness' beyond the limitations of needing
to 'be there'. Their critique is less about then than now, reframing
contemporary culture and pulling the their own generation into sharp
focus. Forsyth and Pollard have pioneered the current art movement
exploring re-enactment as an artistic genre. Since their first live
art project The World Won't Listen in 1996, to their critically
acclaimed A Rock 'N' Roll Suicide (their seminal art event re-enacting
David Bowie's final performance as Ziggy Stardust) they have had
the timing and insight to key into contemporary society's increasing
engagement with simulation as a part of cultural expression.
File under Sacred Music marks a significant and ground-breaking
development in their practice and addresses one of the most important
questions facing all kinds of performance today: what is the status
of the 'live' and the 'real' in a culture now obsessed with simulation
and dominated by mass media and mediation?
Articles about File under Sacred Music have appeared
in numberous publications including The Guardian, The Independent
on Sunday, Art Review, i-D Magazine, Sleazenation and Mojo. The
project has been presented at various locations including the Institute
of Contemporary Arts in London, Site Gallery in Sheffield, Schaufenster
in Oslo, National Film Theatre in London, Hull Time Based Arts Gage
Festival, Royal College of Art in London and Foundation Adriano
Olivetti in Rome. For full details of all past, present and future
screenings please visit the seeing
the film section of this site, or join the mailing list
to be notified of future events by email.