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Taking a crash course in experimental performance, postgraduate journalism student, Filiz Mehmedova, dived into Chapter’s 2018 edition of Experimentica.

Being able to see the performances of some established and emerging artists from Cardiff, the UK and internationally was an interesting experience. I was told that the purpose of the programme is to present experimental work from artists at all stages of their careers to an open, supportive and art-focused audience. And this work can provoke very varied responses, as the website ( spells out: “Experimentica can be entertaining, dangerous, confusing, life-affirming, playful, provocative, thoughtful, witty, engaging, irritating and everything in between.”

Well, yes, some of the pieces were very engaging and thoughtful, and at some I felt confused and uncomfortable. The first event I saw was Angus McLean Balbernie’s 343 m/s (you can read my review here) and that drew me completely into the performance where my senses of sound, touch and sight were all set to work together. It was touching to see Stuart Jackson, who is visually impaired, dancing so confidently in front of us and not letting a disability stop him from enjoying the music. There were about 15 of us there and the environment I was in, felt calm, enjoyable and safe.

Similarly, Jo Fong and Sonia Hughes’s Neither Here Nor There (you can read more about it here) created a safe space where I opened up and shared my personal story with a bunch of total strangers. I was sitting in Chapter’s Common Room, a nice and bright space, two of us at a table, facing the eyes of the person I just met. I was surprised how quickly the six minutes we were given passed, and also how easily someone can open up and share their most personal experiences. That said, Fong and Hughes successfully managed to create trust and comfort in an open space and make an unforgettable experience.

On the other hand, Paul Hurley’s and Shaun Caton’s Strange Newes felt uncomfortable, confusing, provocative and very loud. I did not have any initial expectations because I did not read the programme notes beforehand. Well, after the programme, I just thought “That was very intense to watch.” It’s probably because of my own personality, as when it comes to art, I like experiencing things that I will enjoy and feel comfortable with. The show was a combination of a ritual act with the interplay of colour, light and shadow.

There were random plastic dolls’ legs, arms and heads, wigs, and other bits and bobs lying around on a table. These were all the things Hurley gave birth to with the help of Caton. I’ve got quite naturally sensitive ears, so the music accompanying the piece was too loud at certain points, but luckily, we were given ear plugs as we went in. Overall, not an easy watch, but I did stay and become part of the spectacle. The last bit, the interplay with colours and shadows, was the more enjoyable part of the whole performance. Overall, the beginning of the event was not something I would have expected to see, but the second part of the performance compromised that.

As with Strange Newes, I didn’t  have any expectations for the last piece of Experimentica – Speed Glue devised by Dorian Nuskind-Oder and Simon Grenier-Poirier. The performance took the form of a rally between two professional table tennis players, we were told, and yes, it was just regular ping pong. But what was different about it, as the performance progressed, was the range of balanced and rhythmic moves the two players created. This was not your usual competitive ping pong game, it was rather about developing a friendly play-off and keeping the ball going at all times. Altogether, I found the game/performance entertaining and I was excited to see for how long they can get going without dropping the ball.

I really enjoyed with all the performances that I saw at my first Experimentica and I'm looking forward to next year’s festival, when I can start to make more critical comparisons.

Experimentica: About Time was at Chapter, Cardiff from 11-15 April, 2018


Images: Playing Up: Live Art for Kids & Adults, Dorian Nusking & Simon Grenier Poirier: Speed Glue  Experimentica 2018, Chapter, Cardiff. Photos: Warren Orchard