Monday, 8 September 2014

Space-Time: The Future at Wysing Arts Centre

Garageland reviewer Alicia Rodriguez visits the future (which turns out to be in rural Cambridge) and is satisfied to find that the world has been overrun by experimental female pop/rock bands.

Ravioli Me Away

Space-Time: The Future is almost like a fleeting glimpse into a micro-culture where the patriarchy no longer exists. That wound, shaped by male-dominated art events and music festivals, is transcended by a cosmic line-up of powerful women, leading us into a furious celebration.

What is so exciting about this year’s incarnation of Wysing Arts Centre’s annual music festival, curated almost flawlessly by its director Donna Lynas, is its confidence not to brand itself as a gendered event or defend its decision to feature only women. The sheer intelligence and quality of the performers is at the forefront of the festival.

On arrival at a near empty field I have half an hour to pitch my tent before the much recommended Ravioli Me Away are due to take the stage. As we approach the main gallery, their sound check sounds promising and my friend assures me that their keyboard player artist Alice Theobold is excellent. This self-proclaimed ‘…post-pop-punk, hip-funk outfit’ have the allure of three magnificent cult leaders. There is something tribal in their composition of drums and wailing vocals. Tracks such as Estrogen and Cat Call are clever and guttural. Their energy is hypnotic, a little bit terrifying, and emanates a presence that the audience want desperately to be a part of. Reminiscent of Bananarama’s pop melodies, The Shangri-las’ angst or of Gaggle’s pointy lyrics, Ravioli Me Away offer us the quintessential girl-group of Wysing’s titular and promising ‘Future’.

Still from LolCats

Elsewhere in Wysing’s onsite studios a programme of film and performance takes place throughout the day. Rachel Maclean’s LolCats is a notable example. Shot against a green screen, an extensive cast of characters all played by Maclean herself, populate lost civilisations and tourist-parks devoted to a hyperactive, saccharine form of cat-worship. The film appropriates audio from a variety of pop-culture sources, including an interview with Katy Perry and a foreign dub of Disney’s Snow White. Lipsynching, Maclean convincingly embodies each recycled sound. LolCats takes a nightmarish turn when its young female protagonist is hunted and dissected by sinister cat-clones. Catching this refreshing and coherent screening was a highlight of the festival for me.

The Amphis Stage

As if to provide another vision of a potential, ominous future, WE emerge to gentle strobes and stage smoke wearing angular monochrome uniforms with shiny black boxes on their heads. A discerning blend of absurdity and austerity, WE’s electro-surf riffs are book-ended by jazzy punch lines.

The Amphis Stage, a seductive hut on a hill built from recycled wood, features charismatic DIY punks Trash Kit in the early evening. At only just 5’ in height and stood against the very back wall, I did not once see the band themselves but danced for the first time that day to their chaotic and sensitive noises.

The Raincoats, Ana Da Silva and Gina Birch

Ana Da Silva and Gina Birch are like indie goddesses, drawing a huge crowd into the main Gallery Stage, gently feeling out the audience with knowing, experimental numbers. The Raincoats founders (who I shamefully recognised only for their famous Lola cover) are pleasurable to watch, chatting away before transitioning once more into each captivating song. Da Silva and Birch fill the room effortlessly with a very subtle energy. Tracks like Smash the Patriarchy that might seem heavy handed when played by anyone else, read like powerful manifestos.

Unfortunately, at present, we do still live in a patriarchy. Space-Time: The Future does not make a point of unnecessarily focusing on gender, but it does acknowledge the importance of these female-led spaces. Furthermore, by collating a brilliant selection of female artists and musicians, Wysing have created a natural space where it is okay to talk about feminism openly and enthusiastically. It is a very satisfying experience.

Alicia Rodriguez

Space-Time: The Future was this year's incarnation of an annual art and music festival held at Wysing Arts Centre. The festival was held on Saturday 30 August, 12 noon-12 midnight.

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