Francis Alys 'The silence of Ani' 13 minute HD video installation at Cast , Helston,July 2018
This video is in black and white, more stylish and beautiful than it would have been in colour?
The setting looks deserted and wild, spacious, grasses waving in the wind. There are fragments of masonry, something like a chapel, columns, carved words, an ancient site with no visitors, or only a few young people with bird whistles, making sweet trilling noises of various kinds, approaching and coinciding, falling into a rhythm and then then silence as they are seen lying down.
Were they remembering some destruction? Were they reenacting deaths?
After a pause we see a drawing of the once large city of Ani, we read that this was a performance to imagine the place with birdsong revived, before a long past destruction. The bird whistle blowers were asked to perform until tired, when they lay down. Alys probably put forward his idea and it was selected by a Turkish committee.
I was reminded of visits I have made to ancient sites, aware of lost long dead people, of the transience of life. I was enjoying the way the filming was done, the swaying of grass, some blurred shots, the mingling of various trilling sounds, the movement before stillness.
My companion would have liked the explanatory titles at the beginning rather than having been led to speculate but I liked being aware of my reactions before the information came up. I had been expecting more current conflicts to be referenced but instead the message seemed to be a universal one of time passing, civilisations falling, cities ruined but treasured for their ability to evoke history, an idea of people everywhere as fragile, as possessing a common humanity caught in the events around them.
I saw parallels with my favourite work by Alys to date, the one where many red coated soldiers in London were choreographed to march around in formation, a gentle and fascinating amusement using the image on many tourist postcards. A performance was made that animated the place and played with notions of empire, anachronistic bear skinned chocolate soldiers, patterns and rhythms and the break up of marching in step on the bridge.
We were lucky to see the video, kindly switched on for us even though I had misread the dates and arrived after this part of Groundwork was finished.
The Cast building is an appealing old place with some desirably large studios and a pleasant light cafe. It's funded largely by arts council grants and I suspect hardly any of Helston's inhabitants drop in for coffee or even know it's there just behind the car park near the Godolphin Buiding and very near the Museum. And only 50pence to park for an hour!
I wonder how much the artists meet? Do they? Do the artists in the studios get exhibitions also?
It seems idyllic, space, refreshments and interesting international artists brought in by Theresa Gleadowe.
A place worth keeping an eye out for if you want to be one of Cornwall's art cognoscenti.