Sunday, 1 April 2012

A Knife at the Holy Mountain

The Holy Mountain - it's one of the most bizarre and truly surreal films I've ever seen, and last night Birmingham's Fierce Festival held a party in it's honor.

A while back I'd spotted the PST club opposite the Lombard Method artists studios in Digbeth as I was scouting for a location for a music video and wondered what might go on in there. It seems last night was my opportunity to find out.

So off I went to meet Meatfeast drummer uITgs there, after surviving a train ride with a gang of fluffy-booted and face-painted ravers, and I arrived at PST alongside a few other stragglers who were looking around the empty streets for some lights and a door.

Inside met Captain Ed who was preparing for his spoken introduction to the night, wearing a powerful and holy pyramidal mask, and was pleasantly surprised to hear some very underground beats, but a little underwhelmed that the Holy Mountain theme was pretty thin on the ground.

Perhaps after seeing the film, expectations were high - just watch the trailer above and you'll see what I mean about opportunities for a memorable event - but the interior was black and the main room looked all too familiar with DJs at the back, bent over laptops and some psychedelic patterns projected on the walls. The visuals were provided by VJ Leon Trimble (AKA Chromatouch) who is still working hard in the scene and it's great to find out he'd recently had to opportunity to work with audio-visual mashup legends Coldcut.

The club was a maze of small rooms and stairs, and in the basement I bumped into artist Dave Miller as some girls were creating shapes with a mirrored video feed. Halfway into the night a flurry of hi-vis vests brought in a low, red platform over which artist Joost Nieuwenburg walked, creating circles of fire with every step. It turned out the floor was a grid of matches.

Following this, performance artist Brian Catling with a selection of rape alarms attached to a balaclava set them off, one by one, deafening those around to him. As he strode out, he parted the crowd who cowered away, fingers in their ears. A good aural counterpart to the matchman's burning feet.

It's been a while since I went to a nightclub that played music I really like and I wasn't expecting much from an art show, but I have to say I couldn't get enough of the dirty, clattering techno of Oni Ayhun (better known as one half of Swedish electronica duo The Knife). It took me back to Tresor in Berlin and in fact - despite the general lack of Holy Mountain-ness -Oni with his flowing white-shirt, black sunglasses and long dark hair (looking like the girl from The Ring) was a compelling presence.

Mixing art and clubbing is never an easy thing to do, and overall I had a good time and enjoyed the performances (though brief) and the music, but with the visual feast that is the Holy Mountain, and knowing how rich and colourful curator Harminder Judge's work has been in the past, the event fell a little short of its promises.

I'm sorry to have missed Harminder's talk on his work at the New Art Gallery in Walsall where he has been resident recently, but for a taste of what he's about, here's a clip of his Performance Modes of Al-Ikseer.

The Holy Mountain is extravagant and excessive, I guess the need to be frugal may have dampened the opportunities to really push the boat out this time.