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Performance students bring Hoi Polloi to Hull City of Culture


Performance students at Leeds Beckett will showcase their original work as part of Hull City of Culture 2017.

Shannon Moss

The second year BA (Hons) Performance students will enact their work, ‘Hoi Polloi’, outside the Humber Street Gallery in Hull city centre on Friday 24 March.

The performance forms part of the ReROOTed programme, co-curated by Gillian Dyson, Senior Lecturer in Performance in Leeds Beckett’s School of Film, Music and Performing Arts, which runs from 24-26 March in Hull.

Gillian explained: “Our students have been working on a module that explores the performance of ‘self’. They have been developing solo performance characters in relation to, or response to, the current global landscape. Each student has used the idea of costume, mask, gesture and ‘presence’ as a way to explore how their identities are shaped by the actions of others. Students are playing with archetypes and personification to express their feelings about a range of subjects including gender and sexuality, war and conflict, animal welfare and ecology.

“The style of performance they are making is part of a lineage of theatre and performance that references pre-industrial folk art. Their work might look like a Dada action, a Happening or a street performance. The research project has been informed by the context of ‘the mob’. Students have looked at moments in world history where the direct action of people has challenged the establishment or changed the direction of history. They have also looked at the way that artists have responded to moments in history, from the Peterloo Massacre, the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Battle of Orgreave.”

Anyanna Dewar
Anyanna Dewar

The 16 students’ solo actions have been developed with Gillian with input from MA Performance students Yu Chen Chang, Tom Steer and Bella Murray-Nag. 

Gillian added: “Bringing MA students into the module has offered the undergraduate students additional support for their contextual research. The MA students are able to ‘sign post’ a direction of study and personal development, and bring a range of practical skills and knowledge to the module.”

ReROOTed is a programme of live and media art that celebrates the work of Hull Time Based Arts (HTBA), which supports and promotes the work of artists using video, sound, live performance and new technologies. The event, organised with support from FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, Liverpool), will reflect on the best practice and impact of artists’ work in the public domain during the height of HTBA and over the 10 years of its ROOT (Running Out of Time) Festival. Gillian, who is originally from Hull, joined HTBA in 1995 as artist in residence with the organisation and Hull School of Art. She went on to be project coordinator of the ROOT Festival between 1995 and 2001.

Gillian said: “This event and related art works impact on the cultural legacy of the city of Hull. Hull Time Based Arts was one of Europe’s leading agencies for live and new media art. Revisiting the organisation’s work not only acknowledges the impact of the organisation and artists involves but marks the necessity for artist-run initiatives in the socio economic development of a city.” 

The ReROOTed programme consists of live performance, media exhibition and installation and a display of HTBA’s archive material and ephemera. It will be based at the new Humber Street Gallery, a new contemporary art space in the Fruit Market district of Hull, in adjacent streets and shop units.

Jinhao Shi
Jinhao Shi

In addition to curating, Gillian is presenting an aspect of her practice-based research as a performance, ‘Coming Home’, on Saturday 25 March.

Gillian added: “The event offers a unique opportunity to our students, positioning them right at the centre of things. Students will not only show their work to a passing public, and invited art audience, but will have chance to take part in critical discussions around the nature of arts and culture in Europe today, networking with international artist and organisations and gaining invaluable ‘back stage’ experience of curating and managing a contemporary arts event at the brand new Humber Street Gallery.

“ReROOTed is of interest to undergraduate and postgraduate students and researchers of contemporary art, theatre and performance studies, digital media arts, curating and critical thinking. There is real opportunity to meet informally with artists and participants, to network and share ideas. The programme’s content particularly highlights issues of the archival, the cinematic, identity, gender, liveness, place, legacy, globalisation, cultural policy, and the role of the artist.”

Top image: Shannon Moss

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