Littoral Light (more on which below), Article 10’s 2016 and 2017 contribution to the Ramsgate Festival, was so beautifully and hearteningly successful, so ‘poetic but bonkers’ in its creators’ own words, that it’s a very hard act to follow. But with Exit to Leopold Street, Article 10 are taking it literally and figuratively to new levels… by turning a multi-storey car park into ‘the Hayward Gallery without windows or an entry fee!’ as co-founder and artist Susan Fletcher puts it.
But it’s way more exciting and ambitious than that suggests… From the insistent Morse code that greets you to the silently signing choir (that’s signing, not singing); from startlingly provocative aural installation pieces to a grand finale of truly epic proportions. Created by Article 10 co-founder and pioneering sound artist Aidan Gray and composer Michael McEvoy, and set on the car park’s roofless top floor, it’s going to be spectacular; a fitting celebration of Ramsgate… The combined voices of trumpets, opera singers and the audience’s roar will sound out across Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour to be joined from the sea by ships’ foghorns in a thrilling call-and-response chorus.
And, being a car park, this is also a proper public space – and unique to its place: Ramsgate. All barriers down, it’s short stay, no private view or ‘Who are you?’ It’s no pay, just display. Big names and unknowns alike, they’re all on the same level (well sharing 4 levels) and without exception they’re kicked out after an hour and a half!
With artists turning up to park their art a few hours before the 9pm start and sent packing at 10.30pm sharp, you could call it a ‘gig gallery’ – especially since this year’s umbrella theme is ‘Sound’ and this is ‘an exhibition of sound, noise, song, bangs, claps, clonks, pings and other things’!
And it puts the concept of Freedom of Expression (the eponymous Article 10 of the Human Rights Act) right at the heart of things by once again reclaiming art for everyone from its ivory towers and white cubes.
‘We’re expecting to show work by thirty to forty artists,’ Aidan Gray explains.
‘The main criterion for taking part is simply that the work includes sound (or its significant absence) as a primary component… We’re not choosing work based on CVs, experience or which art college people attended…’
So, yes, Freedom of Expression for everyone. Nevertheless, the list of artists confirmed includes some pretty impressive names, including…
International artist Gary Perkins who once brought Winston Churchill ‘back to life’ using thermal imaging in Dover 2008, was included in ‘Material Culture’ at the Hayward Gallery, London 1997 and curated the ‘Diving for Pearls’ exhibition on the submarine HMS Onyx during his residency at Tate Gallery Liverpool in 1998. In the 1990’s along with artists such as Damien Hirst, Mark Wallinger and Rachel Whiteread, Gary Perkins was regularly included in group exhibitions representing the most exciting new work of contemporary and emerging British artists.
BAFTA-nominated British film score composer, conductor, producer and musician Simon Boswell, with Blink – an audio-visual installation of portraits extracted from news footage, looped to last forever and individually scored with their own soundtracks.
Award-winning Ramsgate-based composer and artist Emily Peasgood uses intricate sound and technology design to focus on creating a connection between people and locations that have become forgotten and unvalued, often rooted in political realities. Described as ‘magical’ (The Times), ‘evocative’ (The Telegraph), and ‘memorable’ (A-N).
Michael J McEvoy is an American musician and composer based in the UK. Best known for his jazz score to Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles, Michael has a great many film, television and pop music credits to his name – the stellar list includes work with the likes of Ian Dury, The Bee Gees, Sting and Ricky Gervais among many others. Michael has received three regional Emmy nominations and was awarded the Emmy in 2004 for Best Instrumental Music on Tennessee Yearbook narrated by Isaac Hayes.
And then there’s Duncan ‘Dunk the Trump’ Mackay, who’s played and written with Jarvis Cocker, Keith Allen and Anthony Genn, Elastica, the Brand New Heavies and is probably best known for his work with Primal Scream. And graffiti artist turned 3D visionary CHU is going literally off the wall with an installation piece that he promises (or maybe threatens) will be an assault on the senses.
Anyone who’s been to a Ramsgate Festival before will know all about Article 10. Simultaneously inspired by, and limited by, time, tide and light, their concept called Littoral Light took the the 2016 and 2017 Ramsgate Festivals by storm. Turning a tidal stretch of cliff-faced beach fleetingly into a gallery… and doing it at night just when low tide coincided with the setting of the sun, it was nothing short of a quiet revolution. ‘Poetic but bonkers’, was the affectionate phrase at the time.
They expected about fifty people in 2016. They got 1000 – and 2000 the following year… So, is Exit to Leopold Street going to be the UK’s biggest sound exhibition ever?
Aidan’s answer is characteristically understated: ‘I think the largest one so far happened in Lima Contemporary Art museum in 2016 where they had forty pieces of work. If we beat that then we might have a claim for the biggest sound exhibition – but if not the biggest, at an hour and a half we’re certainly in the running for the shortest!’
So that’s pretty much a yes, then!