‘Plinth’, De La Warr Pavilion
Last night MOTH tattooed the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-On-Sea in white stripes and quivering lyre strings. This was the latest chapter in a story that started way back in November 2008 with the Cybersonica AV Lab. For one day of the week-long programme, a group of digital artists were given the freedom to explore the DLW and devise AV installations for the space. VC_Kristi and I sat on the top floor talking and watching the sea, rubbing contact mics along chairs and stairs, and scribbling in notebooks, and by the end of the day had a rough plan for was what to become Plinth.
From the programme:
Commissioned by the 9th Earl De La Warr in 1935 and designed by architects Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff, the De La Warr Pavilion was the UK‘s first public building built in the Modernist style. Pioneering in structure as it was in spirit, the purpose of this steel and concrete Pavilion was to provide accessible culture and leisure for the people of Bexhill and beyond and so regenerate the economy of the town and the surrounding area.
In 1935 when the De La Warr Pavilion was being finished, Serge Chermayeff, one of its two architects, envisaged a 10ft statue of the ancient Greek goddess Persephone for the front of the building overlooking the seafront Lido. Neither the statue or the Lido were ever made – a marble bust of Persephone was commissioned, but it was decided that this kind of classical decorative flourish was out of step with the clean, modern streamline design ideal that the Pavilion embodied, so the full statue was never built.
UP Projects, an independent public art agency has commissioned MOTH to create a site specific audio/visual performance that responds to the De la Warr pavilion. Inspired by the myth of Persephone and the story of the statue, they have developed Plinth – a video graffiti theatre trail inspired by the Modernist architecture of the De La Warr Pavilion, with music created by capturing sounds from inside the building itself as well as live audio sung by Voice Controller Kristi.
The story follows Orpheus, a musician, as he leads the spirit of his wife Eurydice from Hades, after Persephone, Queen of Hades, makes a deal with them. Eurydice can leave the Underworld and return to life by following Orpheus, but only on the condition that he doesn’t turn to look at her before they reach the surface. If he does, he will lose her forever.
The central conceit of the piece was to supply the finishing sculptural touch to the building design, the unfashionable classical flourish that was envisaged from the start. By manifesting the sculpture and the mythology digitally on the walls of the structure, through visuals inspired by the architecture and using sounds captured on the surfaces of the concrete and wood, the performance takes the role of the statue, and the Pavilion its plinth.
On the morning of the performance we also ran a workshop with local art students, demonstrating how we created the show, what we do, and giving them the opportunity to participate in a green-screen shoot and appear in the evening’s show. We had some fun creating hermaphroditic spirits trapped in the afterlife, then treated the footage in post-production so it would fit in with the rest of the film.
Thanks to Emma, Laura and Sarah from Up Projects, Rebecca, Laura and Polly from the DLW, Nathaniel and Kristi for their star turns, to Jacob and Mike for their photography and film (and fuses…), to Amy for making a podcast of the evening, and to the 90 or so people who took the journey out of Hades with us.
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