Bonny Cummins enjoys a revolution under the arches
According to 15mm Films, disability has never had its revolutionary moment: no suffrage, Stonewall or Watts Riots. Their new commissioned film, The Way Out, stages a reversal of this historical omission, imagining a world in which a violent, insurrectionary gang of 'disability terrorists' has brought the world to its knees à la Baader Meinhof/Angry Brigade.
The Way Out was introduced by David Morris, advisor to the Mayor of London at Beaconsfield in London on March 23, 2009.
According to the programme notes, under siege from the cops the gang implodes, killing time, doing drugs, making art and writing bad pop songs as the walls of their bunker loom in. The movie is a hole at the centre of this parody - the missing film about an absent revolution.
There was a slight delay to the start that added a frisson of unsettlement and/or expectation. Knowing these artists, I assumed this was part and parcel of the deconstruction of an evening focused around the missing film and the missing revolution.
The trailers were glorious and lush, accompanied by an audio description that heightened the '70s presentation. A shiny game-show voice described the delights of the grassroots revolution melting down and imploding. The sponsors were credited at each trailer. This created a pattern and rhythm which stylised the trailers into another art form.
The narrative added another dimension. It created an historical look back onto what was already an historical look back on a non-event; increasingly hilarious, as the work built.
The Way Out was filmed and shown in the darkened, bunker-like Arch Gallery under the rumbling trains, adding to its authenticity and the sense of participation. Sub-titles were also shown, which added atmosphere.
At the end of this first showing there was an interval whilst the audio description was removed and the sub-titles remained. The audience stocked up on veggie snacks and free drinks.
The filming was sharp and visually pleasing as an artist piece. The retro film was believable and enjoyable on every level - I loved it. The camera angles and intimate fly-on-the-wall filming/diary style of the revolutionaries created endearing characters - very funny depictions - in these art collaborations.
There was a slapstick, Ealing comedy feel; a '70's Lavender Hill Mob, with Williamson, the latter-day ring leader as Citizen Smith meets Che meets Guiness (Mr). The doomed plans, the disastrous claustrophobic feel of time running out, and the fallout on the way is pivotal comedic gold.
Williamson is in his element. His movements and facial expressions are a joy to watch and imbued with mirth and intention. He is pure performance artist in every pore.
Araniello, in her stunning '70s black eyeliner and complicity in the meltdown of the non-revolution, puts in a delicious performance. Harvey, a man with a hotel room looking for someone, is very funny in the out-of-context style of delivery.
The location shots could be from the film Alfie, with sky-scapes typical of the era. And the Here's Lucy animation almost stole the show. Artists Williamson, Araniello, Harvey, Raven, Robson and Ryder defied the taboo of never working with animals (that Chihuahua is a siren, and attended the premier in starry Gold Lamé) yet pulled off a coup.
Go along, see the installation, and feel the freedom - Up the Revolution!
15mm Films challenge normative perceptions of disabled people. A collective of artists working in the fields of visual, performance and video art, they are committed to innovation and take an experimental approach to collaboration. Current members of the collective are Aaron Williamson, Katherine Araniello, Laurence Harvey, Simon Raven, Juliet Robson and Philip Ryder.
Beaconsfield, 22 Newport Street, London SE11 6AY.