power_280Something unexpected happened at Host Gallery last Wednesday. We destroyed the laboratory for the sake of the experiment. On hand to guide us through this potentially messy business were Mark Power, whose bleak and beautiful photographs of England ran as a slideshow, and Daniel Cockrill, a poet, who delivered a live spoken word soundtrack.

For the past few years, the two friends have taken short breaks together around England in the manner of an elderly married couple from the 1950s, but with the express purpose of making a personal project about their mother country, a place which charms them and repels them by turns. They stay in cheap hotels, talk each other through the depressions borne of Skegness in winter (or summer), and quietly go about their respective practices. Some 600 images and thousands of words later, it’s starting to look like a body of work. Indeed, Destroying The Laboratory For The Sake of the Experiment will take the form of an exhibition at the Atlas Gallery in June, and it promises to be full of the unexpected: films, installations, and live poetry performances.

At Host, it was in the juxtapositions of free-floating word and image that had a surprising, sometimes even unsettling effect. It was the ‘live’ aspect of the event that exposed the infinite relation between the two media most successfully, and it became clear as the evening went on that although neither artist wishes to tether meaning to either a single photograph or a specific poem, that when a meaning does appear, like a bee alighting on a rose, it makes whoopee. 

It’s this willingness to experiment with form, and indeed to have some good old-fashioned English fun, that renders this project so appealing. Yes, the photographs show how unlovely our nation state looks with its porridge skies, plaintive logos and intrusive newbuilds, and, granted, the poems largely subscribe to a view a desperate Tory might call Broken Britain, but there was still much beauty to be found, and in the most surprising places. As Larkin knew: “It’s not the place’s fault”.

We hope to create our own platform for such exciting fusions of talent at our forthcoming Carousel nights at Host. The inaugural session is on Monday 15 March. We’re inviting people to bring along slideshows or multimedia presentations, and at the same time hoping to draw in spoken word performers and musicians to collaborate in real-time. We don’t have a template, because we don’t know of any other nights like this … so, in the very best tradition of experimentation, we’ll make it up as we go along. Do join us, even if it’s just to watch and listen.
Max Houghton

Courtesy of Mark Power/Magnum