Now into its third year, I am surprised to find I have never attended a single Take Me Somewhere event. However, I am definitely not surprised to learn that the festival was a response to the closure of The Arches, as a venue in Glasgow, who would host some experimental art and theatre, often with the audience being “integral” to these performances. I have certainly attended those pre-closure. 2019 sees an Afro-Futurist performance party, Brownton Abbey; a choreographic response to the collective mental health of UK residents since the Brexit vote; talking rice-cookers; witching rituals; bingeing on box sets; a trip to the Cairngorms mountain range; and an artist sitting on a giant plinth of ice on top of an altar, and these were merely a handful of events on offer at this years Take Me Somewhere. I had the pleasure of a few of these events along with the help of writer, Naomi Walmsley, which pushed me a little outside of my comfort zone (I am really not into the whole notion of audience participation). There were unique and not quite so easy to critique, but hope gave an all-rounded view of the eccentric and sporadic nature of this festival as well as it’s stimulating components.
Entering the formal surroundings of a chapel, in Glasgow University none-the-less, Amy Rosa’s art, There Is A Silence, was the most surreal of the Take Me Somewhere programme. Feeling hushed and limited by the surroundings, it was bizarre to get my head around their being a live body in a plinth of ice, in fact, 366 cylinders of ice. There was an encouragement to take the hand of Amy and regale her with stories as she remains in this plinth at the altar.
Next on the agenda was Russian performer, Ivo Dimchev’s P Project in the Tramway, a performance reliant on the audience. With a clear focus on words that begin with P and a heavy dependency on Poppers, Dimchev invited willing members of the audience to write improvised poetry on stage, in return for hard cash, culminating in bizarre music knee high in quirks, whilst also paying another audience to perform in some manner on the stage. This could range from non-professional hip-hop dancing (which had head nods to films like Napoleon Dynamite) to actual full-on male nudity and fake sex, or porn. Fitting for a night when the Eurovision was on the tip of everyone’s social media tongue, it would’ve been a very different evening had the crowd been of a more reserved nature.
Beige B*tch was the next Take Me Somewhere performance in the diary and for this I had zero expectations apart from a culturally controversial piece, which highlights racial stereotype and cliché, poking fun at these. Self-made icon Beige B*tch, played by Nima Séne, invites the audience to take their seats in the CCA with a Baileys and caramel and tune in to the latest Beige Nation TV. Star and host, BB, scrolls through the saturated reality of their all beige everything world, incorporating both anecdotal performance and spoken word into this show, which poses pointed questions about white accountability, Black Culture and what it means to belong and feel affiliated. With a strong set design and encouragement to get out your mobile phones, there was more than a strong parody of narcissism and selfie culture.
Brownton Abbey was another event celebrating BAME and LGBT culture, highlighting identity as a political element of living. With Glasgow’s Art School transformed into an eccentric, off-world temple known as Brownton Abbey, the Afro-Futurist performance party includes performance from a sonic shaman. Created by and centring queer people of colour with a space-themed Brownton Abbey features an international collective of UK based artists. Difficult to pinpoint in terms of the nature of the event, incorporating rave elements with political performance art, there is much to seek out in Brownton Abbey and sadly I could not stay until 1am to source it all.
And then Naomi Walmsley went out to 100% Pop at the Tramway, the last on our agenda of Take Me Somewhere events. Have you ever danced so hard you forgot everything about your surroundings, about the world outside, about anything other than moving with the bodies that may be beside you in one perfect moment? Once or twice for her. And she found it amazing. 100% Pop is an immersive sound experience designed to let you rave and feel that feel. Inspired by Grace Jones’ ‘The One Man Show’ the potent mix of synth, afro beat and Ms Jones herself in a sound system clash pulses heavy through the room and she was caught within it. Nora Chipaumire and fellow performers crafted an experience that is designed to fully pull you in. Even the BSL performer was grooving along. Sometimes coordinated, sometimes solo the deliberate shapes and movement invites you to be an active part of the event. All the while a mix of voices weave through the sound. Fighting to be heard at times and that feels like the point. Party and bullsh*t. Party and bullsh*t. Repeated throughout with synchronised movement asks why are you here?
As she watched bodies of audience members move with great gusto and intent in a variety of styles that absolutely concluded white people can’t dance, it was at once joyful and sad. When we dance are we performing to anyone, are we thinking about the motions and where they come from? Are we thinking about the space we are in and who has access to it? As Chipaumire repeats the revolution will not be on Netflix, on HBO. On demand in other words. Reagan and Thatcher are present in the room, reminding that all is not well and that we’re part of it.
As the performers bring us to a close a spotlight appears and an audience member slinkily invaded it. It was an amazing example of being unaware of what surrounds you in exchange for the aesthetic of pop.
So I go back to my original thoughts, Take Me Somewhere’s events are there to provoke thought, to antagonise the norm in some capacity, upturn the conventions. With a strong reliance on the willingness of the crowd to perform this festival attracts and pulls the exhibitionists out of the city. A memorable few weeks of indeed been taken somewhere, this festival is one I will definitely be keen to attend next year. Diverse and surreal in many respects, artist director, LJ Findlay-Walsh has excelled in this programme of events.