Monday 8 October 2018

The Hidden Pin Up #24 - Debut at The Whitworth Art Gallery

You've been on my mind
Sister, we're two of a kind
So sister
I'm keepin' my eyes on you
I betcha think
I don't know nothin'
But singin' the blues
Oh sister, have I got news for you
I'm somethin'
I hope you think
That you're somethin' too
On 22nd September The Hidden Pin Up made its debut at The Whitworth Art Galley. This was a day myself and fellow collaborator Darren Pritchard of the House of Ghetto (HOG) had been aiming towards for a long time and it was so worth the wait!

Working with HOG dancer Lenai Russell and singer Justina Aina, our two superb performers, we'd chosen a staircase in the gallery that not only worked as a great theatrical stage but also led the way up to the Bodies Of Colour wallpaper exhibition, which tackles the racial stereotypes and representations found in design through history, and tied in so perfectly with the themes of The Hidden Pin Up.

Arriving early on the day so that we could set up I felt excited to see people already turning up for the first of the day's hourly performances.

As the first notes of Miss Celie's Blues flooded the huge open space, everyone's eyes were led to the sultry movements of Lenai on the upper floor, hidden behind the hemp fans and wearing the hemp showgirl costume I'd created. As the song took hold she told it's story of female solidarity against oppression effortlessly, making her way down the stairs while dancing with the fans, which was no mean feat. I was so impressed with how graceful and focused she was and also noticed, after seeing the rehearsals, how the presence of the audience elevated her performance further.

Once the song had ended, the second half of the performance kicked in with a house beat and almost immediately Justina's powerful vocals layered over Lenai's vogue driven assent back up the stairs. The effect was exactly what we'd hoped for with the sensuous movements that invited the eye contrasting so vividly with Justina's provocative singing/ spoken word performance, sometimes humourous sometimes accusative, using the words of stories I'd collected from women of colour and stitched onto the fans. Justina was just brilliant and took the whole piece into a new dynamic.

The piece ended with both performers reaching the upper floor and disappearing from view as the music faded out. Loads of people turned up for each performance and the applause was really gratifying as was the huge amount of feedback.

 Many people said they wanted to see more, or would be happy to watch an extended piece and I personally wasn't expecting how moved many individuals were. Various people said the piece touched them deeply and they found the work powerful. This really fuels me and makes me feel that all the research and setting up was worth it!

Accompanying the performance piece I also ran two workshops that tied in with the Bodies Of Colour exhibition and the overall theme of racial stereotypes and misrepresentation that set the day. The workshops were a chance for participants to create their own political wallpaper designs inspired by the exhibition and The Hidden Pin Up. The results were impressive and there was lots of lively chat about the topic.

In all, the day was really successful and I'm so happy that the work spoke for itself and made such an impact. One woman told me she had traveled from Glasgow to see it! It was lovely to speak to people about the work, let them get close to the fans and to share ideas and thoughts between performances.

Thanks to everyone who came on the day, and for those who couldn't make it, we had the performance filmed professionally and will be sharing it in time. Also myself and Darren are hoping to take this work further, evolve it and show it again in the future, so definitely watch this space! The Hidden Pin Up will return...