I liked the poster image with a rodent body divided by three nails: like the hand-tooled nails that were driven into Christ on the cross.
When I was in academia the correct use of brackets in referencing drove me to distraction. Who really cares whether you use a curvy bracket or a straight one? The above sentiment bears no relation to the current show apart from that, I was reminded of my feelings towards brackets, when observing the show’s title:
(u)Y(ol) and then again when it took me three goes to type it out.
In room one you are greeted by a fun photo/wordplay piece spanning the length of two walls. Single words drawn, scratched, painted otherwise made, by YOL on broken walls, paving, single bricks and then photographed. Reading the words from left to right you are rewarded, with a sardonic statement befitting of the artist, reflecting something of the wasteland of broken concrete and earth where the work was sited.
For a visitor with no prior information the show might have proved something of a barrier to comprehension. For instance if you didn’t know the details behind the audio/visual tracking switcheroo, you would be left wondering what the flickering hell was going on in Room 2. Similarly the lack of information behind both the printed soundwave and scrolling of stream of conscious that wraps around the second two rooms: words on paper hugging the walls. If you looked up at the ceiling in room 3 there was a fast-moving dizzifiying LED surprise, that said something about a house and ended with an expletive.
I was invigilating one of the days during the show’s duration in February (Red Gallery is entirely run by volunteers) , and if somebody had come in and asked what does it all mean? I’m not at all sure I’d have been able to offer up a satisfactory explanation.
I did learn from artist Lou Hazelwood that the words had come in a rush, all in one day like a waterfall of words and she had typed them out (presumably on a typewriter judging by the typeface) as she allowed her mind to wander to explore, document the unconnected trains of unconscious thought in her mind. To keep this state going, over 25 pages of differing length is quite a feat. Very soon, as you start typing, you begin to make valid connections, your thought process is controlled and ordered, as opposed to being in free fall. Being able to witness this trance-like state, might have been another way to add another dimension to the work.
The performance of this work on the closing night, witnessed by a dozen or so people was quite an achievement too. To read 25 pages of spoken word that began with the reading of text from the wall, whilst moving around through galleries without nary a stumble or slip, has to be commended. I asked Lou whether she’d rehearsed previously she said she had not, just decided to go for it in all in one go. Towards the end of Lou’s piece YOL spliced his voice in and around, her last lines and spluttered into Clenched Fist, a broken word piece he had painted on the gallery walls. Hull’s original punk poet attacks his performance with brutal and violent energy, making guttural sounds, snarling and growling the phonetics out.
The repetition of the sounds prompts the listener to look for something else, something hidden, the strength of feeling suggests there is more going on than shouty spoken word in a gallery. Moving into the middle room YOL introduces a number of metal objects that chime and clang when dropped, creating notes that may or may not form part of a musical phrase. Perhaps they are sound of the fire engine, the false alarm that was called to deal with the burnt offerings at Macdonalds? You never forget a YOL performance, it becomes something of a point of reference, from which all other spoken word performances can be mapped.
So left to my own devices, I have attempted to make sense of the (u)Y(ol) show but having listened to others on opening night, they and I would have appreciated, some more descriptions about what things were and how they related to each other. Not a convoluted artspeak heavy, jargonistic, academic, polemic rendition, just some pointers: a signpost here and there.