Whether Eurovision is art or not is something we could debate all day long, but that didn’t stop us taking a proper look at it in situ for the first time ever. And it turns out that visiting Eurovision is actually surprisingly apt research for The Brick Box – honestly!
This year the competition was hosted in Lisbon, Portugal, somewhere we’re already familiar with. So we went along to see what it’s really like when this massive event hits town. We got chance to explore the city, as well as spending an evening inside the official arena to see some of the acts perform.
Denmark’s vikings in the arena
As a live event, the main thing we noticed is that Eurovision is an incredibly impressive team effort. There are live rehearsals with a full audience for each of the semi-finals and the final, with every camera switch, dance move and set changeover done to precision timing just as it would be when it goes out live.
We were lucky enough to get tickets to one of the semi-final rehearsal shows, and we found the events team and the technical set-up of the arena even more fascinating than the performances themselves.
For the first time in a long time, LED backdrops weren’t being used by any of the acts, so the staging had to be a little bit more imaginative than previous years. With no screens to rely on, we saw acts using lights, props, projections and augmented reality to enhance their performances.
Among our favourite effects were Estonia’s huge dress with projection mapped video all over it, Moldova’s fun use of boxes and doors, Sweden’s colourful tubular lighting rig, and Denmark’s dramatic ocean-inspired lighting and wind effects with a fake blizzard. With every country wanting to stand out visually, it was a real showcase of what can be done with both very simple and very complex staging.
Outside the arena, in the centre of town, there was a huge public square that had been entirely turned over to screening Eurovision and had been rebranded as Eurovision Village. It looked exactly like a music festival, and did have live performances and DJs between screened events, but the stage’s main use was as a screen so that audiences outdoors in the centre of Lisbon could watch the action as it was broadcast live from the arena.
Denmark’s vikings as seen at Eurovision Village (yes we like Denmark’s vikings)
Despite a lot of queuing to get into Eurovision Village, and then for the bar, and also for the toilets (only the men’s, the women’s had no queue at all), people were generally in very good spirits. There was a real sense of fun rather than competitiveness, most of the people we met weren’t rooting for their own country but for the song or performance they liked the most.
It’s a shame the UK didn’t win, simply because we’d love to have been involved with any element of the competition being hosted in this country, but there’s plenty of time yet!
We survived South By Southwest 2018 – and we made a video to show you what happened. See behind the scenes at our panel, an encounter with Sadiq Khan, our own personal highlights, and far too much cheese.
You can also hear the full panel audio here.
The countdown is on: this time next week The Brick Box Ladies will be at SXSW, untrained and on the loose. One of us has been before, two of us are first timers, we are all really excited.
Navigating such a smorgasbord of exciting things to see and do is a challenge in itself so we’ve spent our recent snow days perusing the conference programme. The Cities Summit events look right up our street with talks on everything from reimagining the civic commons to community co-design and co-creating feminist cities. Also, there are ‘recap raps’ courtesy of SaulPaul – a handy musical catch up on what you missed. Genius.
But it’s the SXSW art programme which is really intriguing. Not only will we be sharpening our elbows to get in to see Shamir and the North American premiere of Mac Richter’s ‘Sleep’ concert, an 8-hour snoozey music thing, but the immersive tech-art smash ups looks brilliant. Top of our list is to see A Colossal Wave! by Marshmallow Laser Feast…
Plunge into a sub-aquatic virtual world that reacts to your every action. Sing unique marine “voicefruits” into life. Witness an explosion of colour under VR umbrellas as the giant virtual wave crashes over you. Merging slapstick with immersive technologies, A Colossal Wave! is a mixed reality experience exploring human impact on the natural world. Taking Newton’s third law as its inspiration, A Colossal Wave! serves as a timely reminder that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Singing unique marine voicefruits in to life? WE ARE IN.
Another thing that has really piqued our interest is Floating Destiny by Wan Who. This is an interactive art installation with live performance, where the audience can experience the hybrid melding of ancient and futuristic Chinese culture by changing geometric shapes which correspond to music.
On top of this, we can’t wait to see Ellsworth Kelly’s chapel of coloured light at the Blanton gallery. The late Kelly described the piece as “an experience akin to visiting the Rothko and Matisse chapels, in Houston and Vence, France, respectively.” Oh and then there’s the UNSECO Media Arts Installations, Herve Cohen’s Live Underground, The Notorious Art Collector of Amsterdam’s The Living Museum, the Faces of Austin Community Screening… you get the picture.
We’re also bringing a bit of live art of our own in the form of these SXSW FOMO Fortune Tellers. They’ll help you to avoid the ‘fear of missing out’ by magically guiding you on your way, so if you’re at SXSW do pick one up or Tweet us to find out where you can get one.
And if you ARE at SXSW, give us a shout and let’s do some art crimes together. If you’re not, we’ll report back soon.
What role can art play in highlighting places or themes that deserve more attention? This was the first question we were asked as part of the recent Borderlight conference in Milan last week.
Eleanor and I were honoured to be invited to this gathering to share our experiences and we met some truly inspiring people with socially engage creative practices with both resonated with our work in Bradford, and also helped us grow.
For a start, check out the badass subversive work of Maria Papadimitriou, artist and academic based in Greece.
And the ambition and spaciousness of Bianco-Valente’s ‘Open Sky’ project in southern Italy.
We also loved hearing Nicholas Anastasopoulos (Urban Planner Researcher – School of Architecture of Athens – Greece) talk so eloquently about public space and the effects of the extraordinary circumstances in Greece.
Too many good chats and interesting ideas to mention really but of course huge thanks to Nicola, Gabi, Giulia, Simona and everyone for inviting us, hosting and making it happen! And high fives to Pietro’s snappy outfit (as well as his excellent words).
But back to that first question – how can art highlight places or themes that deserve more attention? Well, at The Brick Box, we use art as a prism through which to see things differently and further transformation of both spirit and place. We are an artist-led company with a socially engaged, place based practice. We are enablers and provocateurs, stimulating creative and economic growth, creating art in collaboration with others.
We create work with a pop culture aesthetic, using powerful juxtapositions and unusual locations to increase access to and participation in the arts. Through live art experiences we transform neglected spaces, bring people together and invite them to consider new possibilities.
Amongst our many adventures we have changed an abandoned department store into a surreal woodland, transformed ‘dangerous /no go’ areas into community discos, gathered people to tell stories round our Electric Fireside in back streets, loading bays and playgrounds, and fed people across London from our magical Toast Temple.
Our current projects (in development) involve exploring key elements of the history of our home city, Bradford: hidden rivers, invisible woodlands, and a tongueless wild boar. Universal themes and playful imaginative events allow us to rewrite our multiple narratives through a mass participatory arts project that will raise our collective power and give us our voice back.
We were thrilled and honoured to host the after-party for the Women of the World Festival at The Brick Box Rooms earlier this month, and we’re happy to report that the night was a huge success.
Women of the World is a celebration and discussion of women’s history, victories and issues, and Bradford is the only UK city outside London to host this collection of panels, performances and parties.
This year the festival looked into topics as diverse as hair, honour and death, and dating while disabled, as well as bringing women from Bradford and beyond together to laugh and learn.
Being a women-led organisation running a women-led venue, it seemed only natural that we pair up with the organisers of the Bradford edition of WOW to deliver a party that was run by women and open to everyone.
Poetry and tunes came together when Bradford’s Kirsty Taylor and Martha Lala collaborated on some spoken word tracks.
We also got to see dancing from Mulembas d’Africa, stand-up and storytelling from Daisy McCarthy, and get down to DJ sets from Bloody Nora, Jenny Jet and Lucy Barker.
We talked about class with Bloomin Buds Theatre, and listened to Mary and Mercy discuss what records they’d take with them if they had to spend the rest of their life on Paradise Street BD1.
Not only were we entertained, but we also got to shop and eat, with souvenir and crepe stalls inside the venue too.
Hopefully WOW Bradford will be even bigger and better next year, and we’d love to take part in it again.