After a week of cultural overload, the weekend was going to be no different. Gallivanting from a 100 hour art marathon in Southwark, to a poetry marathon at the Serpentine, brought a week of art mayhem to calm close.
Friday night saw the opening of 70+ ARTISTS 100+ HOURS, part of the PLUS series of exhibitions curated by several curatorial groups. The idea for this project was good: for over 100 non stop hours, PLUS occupy an empty warehouse in Southwark, transforming it into an exhibition and meeting space showcasing the work of over 70 international artists. Open for 24 hours/day until Tuesday at 9pm. Despite the Herculian effort to show the work of many artists – I couldn’t help but feel somehow the execution just didn’t quite pay off. Unsure of the need of a 24 hour gallery, the focus of the project was unclear, amongst a mania to keep people entertained through burlesque performances and bands. However, the effort that had been put in to this show to organise over seventy artists has to be admired and the turn-out for the opening certainly adhered to this.
Disappointed I had missed the Kate McGarry opening on Saturday, I was ready by Sunday to power through the bitter cold for the Serpentine Poetry Marathon. Held in the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2009, designed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa; where for the last four years, the Serpentine have hosted a marathon of some sort over Frieze weekend, 2008’s Manifesto Marathon was a hard act to follow. Hans Ulrich Obrist – announced this week as the most powerful man of the art world – curated an exciting mix of poetry acts and readings, from dancing poems to rap.
Gerhard Rühm grabbed the audience’s attention with his sound poems and in particular, his ‘Breath Poem’. Whilst Rühm quietly breathed in to the microphone with increasing intervals, the entire audience was spellbound. Then joined by Monika Lichtenfeld, the two read in German the steps to four dances: Sprech Tanze, the Foxtrot, Viennese Walse and the Tango. Rühm and Lichtenfeld were perfectly synched and were followed by appreciative applause.
Next was Liliane Lijn's Game. In 1970 Lijn created a deck of 54 word cards and invented three games to play with them: a game of power, a game of poetry and a game of divination. With four volunteers from the audience, the game of poetry was carried out for the 15 minute slot. A collaborative poem was created with no discussion, nor negotiation, as Lijn explained, “a poem you cannot write”.
Gilbert & George were introduced enthusiastically by Hans Ulrich, as a marathon at the Serpentine was not complete without the duo. Delivering their poems dressed in their signature tweed suits and startling ties, they were witty and animated, while later Nathan Cash Davidson, rapped his way through his 15 minutes.
A fantastic way to end the Frieze week, after buzzing around London all week, poetry was a calm finish to my own art marathon. The London art scene has had its equivalent of Oxford Street’s Christmas time, with a huge influx of visitors from across the world and no doubt a fair amount of selling. Monday is going home time, with de-installation, tidy up and follow up, after today it will all seem a surreal dream. Until next year that is.