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Fringe at the Factory, Norwich

Rupert Mallin



Imagine a huge factory, sales floor and office block left empty. What to do with it? Turn this acre of space into an exhibition, spectacle, event: this is Norwich's 'Fringe at the Factory,' which runs to October 10. The ad hoc unpaid committee organising it, tell me 2,000 attended the private view Friday (not the 1,200 I guessed in leaving early). Of course, it wasn't a private view but a spectacle.


Together with 200 'exhibiting' artists, over 100 are performing, reading or otherwise transmitting their work over the two weeks too. 


A conservatism, with a small 'c,' has generally pervaded much of the art in this region of England. Indeed, the patrons of FAF are sixties artists Colin Self and Bruce Lacey (actually, very supportive); and much of the work at the Factory is 'pictures on walls.' Yet, the plurality of the enterprise, means that 'poetry' - as text or idea - is really evident.


Trying to be relevant to this List I shall mention just a few: "Kitsch in sink" is a living installation whereby two young women live out the early 1950s in a kitchen. Since graduating from Norwich School of Art this year, Charlotte and Lynne have dedicated themselves to 'Domestikitschen.' Though using nostalgia and kitsch, their silent performance highlights the ridiculousness of our time. We enter their 1950s kitchen; and enter on the basis that we 'suspend disbelief' but we really want the nostalgia. The artists play upon a dichotomy between fake and real, a moment's fashion and holes in history. To me, this is poetry: grappling with assumptions, gasping for context.


Next, Room 49: Susan Hall's mesmeric 'water on the floor' film. As much of my work is about walking, the ground and addressing the ground, this installation in a big cupboard gripped me because it transfers the illusion of film onto the floor. Poets go walking and get a 'head full of sky,' but they seldom do the ground. Yet I bet there's not one among us on this List who didn't start off writing and marking on the ground. Hall's work takes us to the sea, where we paddle and look down to find. Her work is a flight of the pleasurable - but to see the sea on the floor reminds me of Richard Wilson's brilliant installation 'Oil' or such - crude oil spread out, which has this incredible surface and looks fathoms deep but is but an inch of depth...


Room 42: Poetry Cubicle/Howlback Hum is a wonderful live venture between poetry text and reading and music. It's like one of those Art Lab occasions where everything 'is.' So, teabag tags have haiku printed on the tag! This is zany. Fine. I worry though that here 'poetry' actually takes refuge in the book - whether a book-book or a teabag tag? It's almost like music versus poetry here: live music in no relationship to the speaker: A collision but also a division when the two could be fusion. A perfect metaphor for post-modernism perhaps?


Space 9: Lys Flowerday/Gilles Bourlet. Pure theatre installations. Very physical, mechanical, standing there as if wings of a small theatre. Yet, these structures beg words. While the structures are so solid, there is a fundamental absence. The structures are all placed on wooden feet - cobblers/shoe makers used to use. They beg movement, humanity. They occupy a large space waiting for 'us' to happen, to be.


And yes, I've a big interest in their work because I'm working with Lys & Gilles - and it's like crossing all borders and boundaries - language, movement, mime, mouth-counter-text, objects as text, sound as vision, 'The Broken' as made...



October 2004


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