P.L.A.Y, Presence and Paint at Can Ruines


Published at http://championupnorth.com/visual-arts/reviews/p-l-a-y-presence-and-paint-at-can-ruines

The Can Ruines Collective, some of whom are former students at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, are the Chapeltown-based pioneers of the growing Leeds art party movement! Way back before the summer, Champion Up North visited a previous Can Ruines party. More recently, another great event was held by fellow arty types, Gracefool Collective and Spokeswoman Collective, who joined forces both to raise money for their own creative projects and to encourage and promote creativity in the area. Local dancer and organiser Ruth McNulty also recently used the Art Party as a way to raise money for charity, which I covered in my blog last month.

I guess some might say it’s a bit grand to start calling three things a movement, but it does feel like the start of something to me. It shows that there are ways and means of making things happen if we work together and are resourceful. After all, what else are artists if not inventive? It also takes art away from white walls and black boxes, and into informal and less intimidating spaces. People who might not usually go to theatres or galleries can see some good art, either extremely cheaply, or in this case absolutely free! Everyone’s a winner. My point is, if you want to make art, just get cracking and make it happen. I like this philosophy very much.

I’ve been to Can Ruines parties before and enjoyed some good times under their roof, so I knew what to expect. What looks like an unassuming Harehills Avenue house, is filled to the rafters with art and performance. It’s a welcoming atmosphere created by this Spanish contingent and friends. They just know how to throw a party! It was a slightly different experience this time, since I was also performing a dance-poem-hybrid-experiment myself, alongside my friend Marianne Tuckman. Unfortunately, our slot was directly after performance poet Jonni Lomax, so we didn’t get to hear his set, instead catching only the odd line and the laughs of the audience through the cellar ceiling.

The first thing I caught was Akeim Buck and Otis Jones’ performance of P.L.A.Y – a ramshackle, endearing double act of improvised music, games, dance, and audience participation! The letters stand for something, but I can’t remember what… Anyway, like they said at the start, it was an experiment which could have gone completely wrong, but didn’t. Actually, the atmosphere was ideal to get audience members involved (cue “I need a wee, I need a wee…” on loop for ten minutes, which was actually a lot better than it sounds). There was even a bit of freestyle spoken word masquerading as a jazz interlude at one point. P.L.A.Y raised plenty of smiles and relaxed laughter and was an ideal start to the night.

Over the corridor, in what was described by a friend as ‘The Butoh Lady’s Room’ (she’s called Alison Grace, I later found out), was something totally different. Earlier on, I’d seen an interesting looking fella in his undies covered in some red substance, so I headed over to have a look. I was lucky enough to make it into this silent little bedroom just after the performance began. Titled The Intimacy of Bleeding, it was an intense, visceral solo performance – an exercise in total, uninterrupted presence. Despite the shouting outside the door, despite the audience’s close proximity, not one flicker of anything other than the moment intruded. What was he doing? It’s difficult to say. Performer Robert Suchy’s body twisted up and transformed over time. It was sort of like the inside was on its way out, in slow motion. If all this sounds too unfathomable please take it from me, it was both fascinating and somehow impressive.

Back down to the cellar and something else weirdly wonderful was going on. Christiane Stroubakis and an unnamed friend. A piece of meat wearing a dog collar. The dancer jiggles it towards her saying, “here boy, c’mon boy”, before BOOM! Without warning she begins to smash it into submission with an, erm, meat tenderizer (a hammer, in other words). The audience were given shots to drink, followed by shots filled with paint to douse the dancers with. One over-keen bloke mistakenly necked the paint! Blimey. Bet that was unpleasant. Throughout the performance, the two female dancers found more and more ingenious ways to get totally covered in it. I was secretly quite envious – surely everyone wants to do that? Get really messy and covered in paint or food, or both, like these two did. There was an interlude of aggressively eating broccoli, and some serious vegetable food-stuff blending. Everyone loved it, me included. It certainly made me consider my food choices yet again, but I just can’t sustain the willpower.

All in all it was, as expected, a right good do. Spain and Yorkshire will forever be united in art and parties! Like I said, they’re welcoming people and there’ll be more where that one came from, so see you at the next one.

For more info on the Can Ruines Collective click here.


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